Updated on March 13, 2015
French Silk (Chocolate) Pie
**Special today: All local people who comment on this post by 6 PM MST 3.13.15 will be entered for a chance to win this pie! You will be contacted via email to make drop-off arrangements. Friends and family at a distance, I will have to hook you up at another time.**
I have a confession to make.
Some most of you won’t understand, but I figured it was best to bring it up now before we became too attached…you know…in case you don’t want to be my friend anymore. O.k., here goes: I don’t …love chocolate. You can keep the chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream, chocolate milk, hot chocolate, truffles, and those little pointy candies with the silver wrapper and the paper sticking out of the top. I’m just not interested. Now, before you worry too much about me, I can tell you that I have not lost all sense. If you wrap just a little chocolate around a peanut butter cup or a piece of toffee or put little chips of chocolate in a soft warm cookie or wrapped in cool minty ice cream, I’m all over it, but if, for example, I am at a real restaurant–you know the kind I am talking about–the kind that DOESN’T have the menu on the wall, and I am going to get dessert… O.k., before my friends call me out on this, that would NEVER happen; that last part is total fiction. I am too cheap to buy dessert at a real restaurant. But I do almost always look at the dessert menu to get ideas and to see what’s out there. I am not the least bit moved by the pictures of the mile high chocolate cake or the mudslide brownie lounging in chocolate sauce; instead, I imagine my skinnier, richer self face planting in the caramel apple crisp with cinnamon ice cream or in the bread pudding with vanilla sauce. Mmmmm…now that would be a taste of heaven right there. So what’s up with the Chocolate Pie promised in today’s title then? Well, I have to think about the rest of the world. What kind of baker would I be if I had nothing chocolate in my repertoire? My boyfriend Terry LOVES chocolate. I don’t think we would have survived nine years if I didn’t occasionally toss some chocolate his way.
Several years ago my friend, whom I will call Emmet, or maybe it was his wife, requested that I learn how to make a good French Silk Pie because Emmet has fond memories of his mom’s chocolate pie. Oooooh. There is almost nothing that baker Christine loves more than to find a new recipe to try that will make someone happy. I went to my favorite general source for recipes (Allrecipes.com) and began reading. The thing I particularly love about this site is the reviews. Lots of other cooks, sometimes even thousands, have tried the recipe and given their review and rating of it. This can also be the most annoying thing. If you have ever looked at a recipe site with reviews on it, you know what I am talking about. So you look at the reviews, say, for chocolate pie and you find ones like this: “Well, I changed almost all of the ingredients, cut the baking time in half, and made carrot cake instead. I give the recipe two stars because it just wasn’t chocolatey enough for me.” Oy. Seriously? Well, sometimes, if you look past those kinds of reviews, you find some really valuable advice. I remember getting some good advice on the pie, so this is an adaptation of an Allrecipes recipe. Emmet gave it an emphatic stamp of approval when I first presented it to him. And now that Emmet’s mom is no longer in this world, his affection for the pie has only grown, and I feel so blessed and honored when I have the chance to bring a person and some positive memories back to someone for even a moment through my baking. More on that topic later. I have a whole “baking is love” philosophy, but I know I am already taking too long to get to today’s pie.
Now I have a second confession. If you made it with me past that first one this one will probably be no big deal. It’s actually not really a confession but more of a reiteration if you read the first paragraph of my “About Me” section. I am a nerd. Even more so than I let on in the About Me article. Do you realize that tomorrow (3.14.15) is the PI DAY OF THE CENTURY? No, that is not a typo. You know, pi, that little Greek letter we learned about in math class that stands for 3.14159265359…and expresses the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter? What better way to celebrate the PI DAY OF THE CENTURY than to eat some pie which, of course, is a circle? You are going to celebrate it, aren’t you? Wait, this gets even better. I read an article on ScientificAmerican.com with the title, “Irrational Exuberance: How Will You Celebrate the Pi Day of the Century?” Get it? Irrational. Pi is an irrational number. So you could tell your family that you are going to be totally irrational on Saturday and eat this chocolate pie circle for supper or maybe before supper. I’m sure all of the friends and family at your Pi Party will think you are hilarious and clever. I know… You’re welcome! Extra cool points if you manage to eat it at 9:26. And maybe you could also play some kind of guessing game about the circumference and diameter of the pie and then measure to see who was the closest? I’m a lot of fun at parties. 🙂 And if all this just isn’t amazing enough, the Scientific American article takes this whole thing to another level when the author mentions that Saturday is also the anniversary of Albert Einstein’s birth. Can you stand it? Now hurry up and make this pie, so you still have enough time to decorate and put on your costume.
Now can we still be friends? Just think, by my not eating a lot of chocolate, I am actually HELPING you by leaving more for you to enjoy. As a side note to entice you further (as if I haven’t already gone on long enough about this pie), I always go back to a recipe after I make it to write comments about how it turned out or if I want to change anything for next time, and this one’s comment is, “Wonderful! Rave reviews.” There are also people who have paid extraordinary amounts of money at our church’s dessert auction just to get their hands on this pie… I hope you have an irrationally exuberant Pi Day!
- 1 1/2 cups finely ground graham crackers
- 1/3 cup white sugar, scant
- 6-7 Tbsp. melted butter
For the pie: (Warning: This pie is made with raw eggs that do not get cooked. If you are concerned about this, you may want to try to find pasteurized eggs to use. I have not been able to find pasteurized eggs myself, so I have always made this with regular eggs without incident. There are some recipes out there that call for baking the pie or cooking the filling and others that use a liquid egg product that has been pasteurized. I have never tried these alternatives.)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup margarine, room temperature (I always use Blue Bonnet)
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar, scant
- 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate baking squares, melted and cooled
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 4 large eggs that have been set out in advance to warm to room temperature
For the whip cream topping: (Shortcut: Use Cool Whip or another pre-made whipped topping instead of making your own.)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 tsp. light corn syrup to stabilize the cream (optional)
- Chocolate shavings from a chocolate bar or chocolate syrup for garnish (optional)
- Melt your chocolate in a double boiler (or use a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of lightly simmering water) or in the microwave in short increments at lowered power. Set aside to thoroughly cool but not begin to harden.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Make your graham cracker crust: Melt the butter in the microwave in a small/medium bowl and then combine with graham cracker crumbs and sugar until thoroughly mixed. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch pie pan. Bake at 375 for 7-8 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
- Make your filling.
- Cream butter and margarine thoroughly in a large mixing bowl in your stand mixer if you have one (use the paddle attachment) or with a hand mixer. (This is the main recipe that first inspired me to get a stand mixer because of the tremendous amount of mixing going on in this recipe. I have made it many times with only a hand mixer, and it worked great.)
- Gradually beat in the sugar until light colored and well blended. Beat in the melted and cooled chocolate and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, for five minutes on medium for EACH egg. Scrape down the bowl between eggs. Do not skimp on this part. I actually set the timer for five minutes for each egg. See why the stand mixer comes in handy? Again, though, I have also stood there with a hand mixer, and it worked just fine. As you beat in each egg, you will see the color and texture of the filling get lighter. At the end it will be similar to chocolate pudding in consistency.
- Pour the filling into your prepared and cooled pie crust, spread it evenly, and then chill for at least two hours to firm up the filling. Pie can be eaten as is, or you can top it with whipped cream as described in step 8.
- (If you have had trouble making fresh whipped cream before, try chilling your bowl, whisk, and measuring cup in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes before making it.) Top the pie with pre-made whipped topping or make fresh whipped topping by beating the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla on low with the whisk attachment until combined. Scrape down the sides if needed to get the powdered sugar covered. Turn the mixer up to medium or high until stiff peaks form but the cream is still creamy and fluffy looking. Do not overbeat, or your cream will begin to separate and curdle. If you want to help your whip cream hold its shape and last longer, you can add a teaspoon of light corn syrup to the mixture when it is at the soft peak stage and then continue as described above.
- Add cream to the top of the pie. You can either spread it on to look creamy and fluffy or you can pipe on stars, rosettes, or other designs with a piping bag.
- (Optional) Garnish with chocolate shavings. Shave a room temperature chocolate bar by peeling along the edge of it with a potato peeler and sprinkle the shavings over the top of the pie.
Source: Adapted from Allrecipes.com