Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Celebration Chocolate Cream Pie

It must be said that in this household, at least, December hasn't been a particularly celebratory month. The 5K on December 5 may have been the high point. A few days after that, I trekked down to Baystate hospital and had a PICC line put into my left arm--it's a very thin tube that's threaded through a vein in my upper arm up to my chest. Through this, I've been able to give myself the IV antibiotics I was prescribed for Lyme, once it was apparent that the oral antibiotics wouldn't be enough. The 45 minutes or so that it takes to do the infusion is fine--it's the other 23 hours and 15 minutes every day that I've had the tube in my arm that I mind. It's been 2 1/2 weeks now, and I no longer spend my waking hours thinking, "oh my god, there's a thing in my arm." But I am still frustrated by the limitations--I'm not supposed to lift anything heavier than 5 pounds with my left arm or do any repetitive motion, which makes exercising a challenge. (So, basically, I haven't run since the 5K.) Plus, I can't get the dressing wet, so I have to shower wearing a plastic sleeve. I do realize that there are people who live with PICC lines for much longer than 3 weeks, and really, I admire their fortitude. Mostly what it's showed me is that I'm a very bad patient. It turns out that I'm not, actually, particularly stoic.

But the good news is that I'm down to my last few days of medicine. December 31 is day 21, and I am looking forward to starting 2010 IV free. (I was very disappointed when I realized that I would have to break my trend of starting new decades in India--in 1989, I spent New Year's Eve in Delhi (at the Delhi branch of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, of all places), and in 1999, I was in lovely, lovely Goa. This year's New Year's highlight is going to be showering without any plastic on me, but so be it.)

But enough about PICC lines and Lyme and crankiness. This post is supposed to be about pie. Next week, perhaps, I'll post some nice healthy soup recipes, figuring that everyone will be feeling abstemious after the excess of the holidays. But before you become abstemious, I'd recommend making this pie. A last hurrah of excess, if you will.

Before I got involved with Alex, I had never given much thought to chocolate cream pie. But for reasons I'm still not sure about, it began appearing on holiday menus a few years ago. A couple of times, I assisted in the pie making. And this year, I took it on myself, twice, for Thanksgiving and Christmas both. The main virtues of this particular pie are that it's easy to make and delicious to eat. But even better, it must be made in advance, which is a fine quality in a pie during holidays when oven time is at a premium. (And even then, the crust only needs to bake for 15 minutes, and that's it.) Basically, you make a pie crust, you make a thick chocolate pudding, and then you combine them. Voila.

A couple of notes. The original recipe calls for chocolate wafers for the crust. It's good that way, but it's equally good with ginger cookies. I've discovered that Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Snaps make a fine crust.

I melt the chocolate the same way I now melt butter if at all possible--I put it in a stainless steel mixing bowl and stick it in the oven when it's pre-heating. Once, recently, this didn't work--the chocolate never really melted for reasons I never figured out--but usually it works just fine. Just make sure the chocolate is broken up into little pieces ahead of time.

The one tricky moment occurs when you're making the custard. You stir and stir and stir, and all of a sudden it thickens up, and then you have to take the custard off the stove immediately lest the eggs cook too much. (It's slightly nervewracking but not nearly as nervewracking as my first experience with a candy thermometer, making caramel for the caramel corn Molly recently wrote about in Orangette.) After that, you swirl it through a strainer to get any lumps and bumps out, then mix it with the chocolate. Then you chill it in the bowl for a few hours and then in the pie crust, overnight, if you like.

The pie is rich and silky and decadent and especially good with whipped cream. And while the regal Lino (also known as Rigolini), pictured at the top, could resist the luscious piece of pie placed right next to him so temptingly, it's unlikely that Loofa, his fatter, fluffier sister, could do the same. And nor, for that matter, could I.

Yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings
Active Time: 45 min
Total Time: 8 hr (includes cooling and chilling)

For crust
1 1/3 cups chocolate wafer crumbs (from about 26 cookies such as Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers) (Can substitute ginger cookies as well)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

For filling
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
3 cups whole milk
5 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), melted
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

For topping
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar

Make crust:

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Stir together crumbs, butter, and sugar and press on bottom and up side of a 9-inch pie plate (1-quart capacity). Bake until crisp, about 15 minutes, and cool on a rack.

Make filling:

Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and yolks in a 3-quart heavy saucepan until combined well, then add milk in a stream, whisking. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking, 1 minute (filling will be thick).

Force filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, then whisk in chocolates, butter, and vanilla. Cover surface of filling with a buttered round of wax paper and cool completely, about 2 hours.

Spoon filling into crust and chill pie, loosely covered, at least 6 hours.

Make topping:

Just before serving, beat cream with sugar in a bowl using an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks, then spoon on top of pie.

Cooks' note:
Pie (without topping) can be chilled up to 1 day.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Mmm, that looks nice. I was thinking of pots de creme for New Years... same general decadent idea. Here's to the new decade IV-free, and happy 20-10!