Friday, December 01, 2006

Triple Chocolate Cream Pie

This recipe originated from Cooks Illustrated. I hope they don't mind me posting this recipe, but if you are chocoholics like we are, they will want to get it out to the entire civilized world. I claim absolutely NO creativity here. This pie will give you a buzz like you've never had before. There's a few back-and-forth steps in making it, and it can be a little confusing. When you taste the final result, however, you'll never remember all the steps. It is wonderful as a stand alone dessert, and especially good with a demitasse of espresso.

Two kinds of chocolate and Oreo cookies are used to produce a pie with rich chocolate flavor, and an easy-to-slice crust. We wanted a super rich and decadent creamy pie, with a well-balanced chocolate flavor somewhere between a milkshake and a melted candy bar, and a delicious, easy-to-slice crust.

A combination of semisweet and unsweetened chocolate produced the ultimate rounded, intense chocolate flavor. The custard texture depends upon carefully pouring the egg yolk mixture into simmering half-and-half, then whisking in cold butter.

Pulverized Oreos (regular or the double chocolate ones) and a bit of melted butter afford the tastiest, most tender, sliceable crumb crust.

Chocolate Cream PieFor the best chocolate flavor and texture, I recommend either Callebaut semisweet and unsweetened chocolates, Hershey's Special Dark and Hershey's unsweetened chocolates, or Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate and Bakers unsweetened chocolate. Do not combine the yolks and sugar in advance of making the filling--the sugar will begin to denature the yolks, and the finished cream will be pitted. Makes a 9-inch pie.

Chocolate Cookie Crumb Crust

16 - 18 Oreo cookies (with filling), broken into rough pieces, about 2 1/2 cups
2 TBS butter , melted and cooled

Chocolate Cream Filling

2 1/2 cups half-and-half
pinch table salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 TBS cornstarch
6 Large egg yolks at room temperature, (protein strands attached to yolk) removed
6 tablespoons butter (cold), cut into 6 pieces
6 ounces semisweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate finely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Cream Topping

1 1/2 cups heavy cream (cold)
1/4 Cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

(For an added dimension, add 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon. It REALLY enhances the chocolate)

1. For the Crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. In bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, process cookies with 15 one-second pulses, then let machine run until crumbs are uniformly fine, about 15 seconds. (Alternatively, place cookies in large zipper-lock plastic bag and crush with rolling pin.) Transfer the crumbs to a medium bowl, drizzle with butter, and use fingers or a wooden spoon to combine until butter is evenly distributed.

2. Pour crumbs into 9-inch pie plate. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie plate. Refrigerate lined pie plate 20 minutes or more to firm crumbs, then bake until crumbs are fragrant and set, about 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack while preparing filling.

3. For the Filling: Bring half-and-half, salt, and about 3 tablespoons sugar to simmer in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally with wooden spoon to dissolve sugar. Stir together remaining sugar and cornstarch in small bowl, then sprinkle over yolks and whisk, scraping down sides of bowl, if necessary, until mixture is glossy and sugar has begun to dissolve, about 1 minute. Whisk yolks thoroughly in medium bowl until slightly thickened, about 30 seconds. When half-and-half reaches full simmer, drizzle about 1/2 cup hot half-and-half over yolks, whisking constantly to temper; then whisk egg yolk mixture into simmering half-and-half (mixture should thicken in about 30 seconds). Return to simmer, whisking constantly, until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on the surface and mixture is thickened and glossy, about 15 seconds longer.

4. Remove to a cool burner. Whisk in butter until incorporated; add chocolates and whisk until melted, scraping pan bottom to fully incorporate. Stir in vanilla, then immediately pour filling into baked and cooled crust. Press plastic wrap directly on surface of filling and refrigerate pie until filling is cold and firm, about 3 hours. (The plastic wrap will stick at first, but then release once solidified.)

5. Just before serving, beat cream, sugar, Cinnamon, and vanilla in bowl of standing mixer on low speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium; continue beating until beaters leave a trail, about 30 seconds more. Increase speed to high; continue beating until cream is smooth, thick, and nearly doubled in volume and forms soft peaks, about 20 seconds. Spread or pipe whipped cream over chilled pie filling.

NOTE: If you are not confident in getting a stiff whipped cream, dissolve a tsp. of gelatin and 3 TBS water. Place on low heat until completely dissolved. Drizzle the gelatin/water mixture in the whipped cream just before you feel the peaks are stiff enough; continue beating until well-incorporated. Refrigerate immediately. Spread the whipped cream once it has set up.