Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Black-Bottom Pie recipe

I first learned to make this pie when I was around twelve. It met with great reviews from my folks (especially my mom), so I kept on making it ever since (because I am all about the positive reinforcement from my parents). I’ve fiddled with the recipe a bit through the years – this is the most current version.

Up front I have to tell you this: This pie is a solid four hour commitment from start to finish. Most of that time isn’t hands-on (praise be), but figure that into your plans if you’re making if for a special occasion with a ‘must be on the table by’ time.

You’ll need:

1 9” baked pie crust
1/4 cup water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or pieces (IOW, you can use semi-sweet baking chocolate and beat the dickens out of it with your rolling pin – good for taking out your irritations against the world with the “no, no, just making a pie, honey!” excuse for all the violence)
2-3 tablespoons rum (the darker the chocolate you use, the more rum you’ll probably want…the ‘light’ topping can be overbalanced rather easily by robust chocolate)
1/4 cup sugar
Chocolate Garnishes, if you’re up for it

Make room in the fridge for your biggest heat-resistant bowl. (You’ll thank me later.)

When you’re separating your eggs, remember that while it’s OK to have a little white with your yolks, you want not a single drop of yolk in your whites. You’ll be making meringue with them later, and even one drop of yolk can leave you wondering why it won’t make those nice, stiff peaks the instructions swear you should be getting about now.

Pour the water into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin lightly over it and set that aside, too – it needs 2-3 minutes to soften up.

Put your chocolate bits into a small, heat-proof bowl.

Combine the 1/2 cup of sugar and cornstarch in a good heavy medium-sized saucepan. You’re going to make a custard here, so what you’re looking for is a pan that will conduct heat evenly and smoothly. I like to use a whisk for this, because I’m going to be using it again in the next step anyway.

In a bowl, gently but thoroughly whisk your milk and egg yolks until smooth. Try not to get too enthusiastic, those bubbles can be problematic sometimes.

Gradually stir (whisk) into the sugar mixture in the saucepan, then set it on medium heat – no cheating and cranking it up to Super Blast to try to make it set faster!! Continue stirring until your arm falls off, or the mixture thickens at last and comes to a full boil. Brave the napalm splatters for one full minute, stirring bravely and constantly in spite of the searing danger.

Now, here comes the tricky part: Dip out one cup of that boiling liquid death and ladle it over your chocolate pieces. Hey, cooking isn’t for the faint of heart! (I use one of those long-handled measuring cups, usually either a half or a third cup.)

Whew. That’s done. OK! So now, add your softened gelatin to the custard still in the pot. Stir constantly over medium heat (hmm…why does that sound so familiar…?) for about a minute, until the gelatin is fully dissolved. Pour this into the biggest heat resistant bowl you’ve got, and stir in your rum. NOW, if you’ve got a moral aversion to rum why on EARTH are you reading MY blog of all sacrilegious things?!, or a sensitivity to it, or will be serving this to someone who does (and note that this is going in when the cooking part is all done, so there will be no “oh, it all cooks off during the boil, ha ha!” excuses on this deal), by all means substitute 1/2 teaspoon rum extract…or leave it out entirely, and substitute about 1/2 teaspoon or so of Just Vanilla Thanks All The Same.

Set this into your fridge (See? Aren’t you glad I warned you?) until the gelatin mixture begins to mound when you drop it from a spoon – this takes anywhere from fifteen years to life 45 minutes to an hour. You can attempt to speed things along by putting it in the freezer, but if you do watch it and do nothing else because it will go from liquid to solid super-suddenly on you. You’re going to be folding meringue into this, so you don’t want to need power tools to stir it.

If you get distracted and come back to find it has fully set, don’t despair. Just warm it over low heat on the stove, stirring constantly until it’s smooth again. It will set much faster the second time, so be on your toes!

While it’s cooling its heels, stir together the chocolate and custard. TA DA! It’s like magic, isn’t it?! Spread this into the bottom of the pie crust – if you’re planning to make the chocolate a surprise, make sure it stays right in the middle and doesn’t sneak up the sides much…that way when you cut into it, your guests will be all like, “OH MY GOODNESS, THERE’S CHOCOLATE IN THERE?!” and you can be all, “Oh, yes, because I am ever-so clever that way!” and act like you do this sort of thing every day.

When the gelatin part begins to set, start whipping those egg whites. Beat them with your mixer until they form soft peaks, then gradually beat in that other 1/4 cup of sugar and continue beating until you’ve got stiff peaks. (Pause to allow mind to climb out of gutter.)

Fold the meringue into the gelatin mixture. You want it fully incorporated, but you also want it to retain that fluffy-light texture. Screw your patience to the sticking point and keep at it, tenderly and gently folding the two together until you’ve got that luscious topping together.

Then spread it on top of the dark chocolate part on the bottom there.

Now refrigerate it for at least two hours.

Yes, you have to. Otherwise that top filling just won’t be right. Go on. Put it in the fridge. Oh, don’t be such a big baby! You can survive two crummy hours, geesh…!

NOW. You can leave it as-is (which is what I usually do – I kind of like the “surprise!” factor when the chocolate is discovered), or you can put a dusting of cocoa powder over the top, or you can grate some semisweet chocolate over it, or you can get fancy with a peeler and peel yourself some chocolate curls (let the chocolate bar warm up just a bit, then smoothly draw your peeler across the top).

If you want to do the leaves…well, they’re fun. I used rose leaves from my backyard, washed and thoroughly dried. Next, I melted some 58% semisweet chocolate in a small bowl. I used a small spoon to ladle the melted chocolate onto the leaf, then used a wee little rubber spatula (awwww, it’s so cuuuuute!) to spread it evenly across the back of the leaf, to a depth of not less than 1/16” – there’s a temptation to make it uber-thin because you totally want to drink the leftover chocolate, and how much will there be if you actually do what you’re told on the whole ‘how much chocolate to spread’ thing? the leaves themselves are thin and you don’t want “chunky” leaves and all like that, but if they’re too thin they’ll just shatter when you try to get them off the leaf.

I found it was important to make sure the chocolate covered the back, but did not go over the sides of the leaf – whenever it did, the thing became highly unstable when it was time to peel the leaf off. And then it broke in half, and then I had to just eat it. So don’t let the chocolate go over the edges of the ones you intend to actually use on the pie, is what I’m getting at here…otherwise, heck, overlap away! “Oh darn the luck, yet another of these has broken while I was peeling it! Oh well, can’t let it go to waste…”

Once you’ve got the chocolate spread to your satisfaction, set them on a plate and set it in the fridge for at least fifteen minutes. For best results, peel one leaf at a time and leave the others in the fridge while you work – they warm up fast, and when they’re warm they don’t peel off, they melt off.

In your hand. And then you’ll be licking your hand because hello, chocolate, and somebody will walk in while you’re doing this and give you A Look that clearly states they think an Intervention may be called for here, and while you’re trying to explain that it was just the leaves they’re going to get more and more concerned and wonder if there’s a deeper problem than just the cocoa bean habit and it takes quite a while to convince people that it was all just a big misunderstanding when things start heading down that road, believe-you-me.

1 comment:

17th stitch said...

Wow! Thank you for sharing the recipe - looks awesome, but intimidating - and my hat is off to you for even attempting such a creation. And then for entering it in a contest.