November 27, 2011

chocolate custard and rum chiffon pie, aka black bottom pie

See this pie? We were all really sad when this pie was through. It was the star of our Thanksgiving dinner. 

It has a crisp-textured graham cracker crust, a bottom layer of thick chocolate custard, a middle layer of rum custard lightened with egg whites, and a topping of billowy whipped cream and shaved chocolate. This is good, good stuff. Not too sweet, lots of contrasting textures, and rich without being overly so. Someone groaned, I think, after the first bite. I love when that happens.

My only advice is to make this pie for people you really, really like ... or else you might find yourself begrudging your dinner guests when they polish off two slices and eye a third. I wouldn't know, since I invite strictly delightful people to dinner, but people ought to know. 

And here is what it looks like if you make it in a springform pan, which makes serving a bit easier: 

Chocolate custard and rum chiffon pie
adapted from Ken Haedrich  
serves 10

This recipe came to me via my friend Jyoti, via her friend Ariel. The recipe comes from a book called Pie by Ken Haedrich and it is his adaptation of an old James Beard recipe. I made a couple of small changes -- the whipped cream topping isn't sweetened, I omitted cinnamon from the crust, I added weight measurements for the dry ingredients, and instead of light cream I use a combination of whole milk and heavy cream -- but the bones of the recipe are pretty great. And it isn't hard to execute as long as you are organized, read the instructions carefully before tackling the recipe, and recognize the difference between soft and stiff peaks when whipping egg whites. For the latter, check out this visual guide for help. 

Note that the pie needs to be refrigerated at least 4 hours before serving. About the ingredients, I used Guittard 72% bittersweet chocolate and the rum we used was an aged rum from Flor de Cana.

For the graham cracker crust:  
8 3/4 ounces (1 3/4 cups) graham cracker crumbs (optional: replace 4 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs with 4 tablespoons pecans, toasted and processed into fine crumbs)
0.9 ounces (2 tablespoons, firmly packed) brown sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
4.5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into small chunks (3/4 cup)
1/4 cup cold water
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
5 1/4 ounces sugar (3/4 cup)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks (2 ounces)
2 tablespoons aged rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg whites, at room temperature (3 3/4 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

For the whipped topping:
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 ounce semisweet chocolate 

To prepare the crust:
If using pecans, toast in a skillet on the stove until warm and fragrant. Let cool completely, then pulverize into fine crumbs using a food processor. Preheat oven to 350 and lightly butter a pie pan or springform pan (prettier). Combine graham cracker crumbs, pecans, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Stir to combine. Add melted butter, and use your fingers to evenly distribute throughout the crumbs. Add to pie pan or, better option, springform pan. Press crumbs evenly to the bottom and all the way up the sides. Refrigerate 10 minutes. Bake 7 minutes and let cool on a rack.

To prepare the filling:
1. In a heavy-bottomed, small, completely dry pot, combine 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 4 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate chunks. Over low heat, allow to melt completely. Remove the pot from the heat and set aside, without whisking or stirring. (You can also complete this step in a double boiler, or by heating in short spurts in a microwave.)

2. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons dry gelatin to a small bowl, then add 1/4 cup cold water. Stir and set aside.

3. In a medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch, and ¼ teaspoon sea salt. Add 1 ½ cups whole milk, ½ cup heavy cream, and the 4 egg yolks. Set to medium heat and cook, stirring continuously, until mixture begins to thicken and bubble. (This took about 5-7 minutes over medium heat on my stove, but you'll definitely want to stay and watch because it happens all of a sudden.) Once the mixture thickens, continue to cook, still stirring continuously, 1 ½ minutes longer. Remove from heat and immediately pour about half of this hot custard mixture into the chocolate/butter mixture. Setting aside the hot custard, whisk the chocolate mixture to blend evenly and immediately pour the chocolate custard into the bottom of the graham cracker crust. Smooth to form an even layer.

4. Pour the remaining hot custard into a large mixing bowl and add 1 ½ tablespoons rum, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and the gelatin mixture. Set aside to cool, about 15 minutes. It should look like this: 


5. When the rum custard mixture has cooled, add the 3 egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer, along with ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar. (Note: be sure that there isn't even a speck of egg yolk in your egg whites, or they won't whip properly.) Whip egg whites to soft peaks. Add 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and whip to combine. Repeat with remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, adding them one at a time and whipping to combine until the whites are stiff and glossy. 


6. Fold about ⅓ of the whipped whites into the rum custard until evenly combined. Add the remaining egg whites and fold the custard again to evenly incorporate the whites. Scrape this mixture over the chocolate layer in the crust and smooth the top with a spatula. Cover with a loose tent of aluminum foil and refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.


7. Just before serving, whip 1 cup cold cream until billowy and airy. Scrape over the top of the rum custard layer. Grate chocolate shavings over the top, using a vegetable peeler and a room temperature hunk of chocolate. (Cold chocolate will create chocolate dust, not shavings. If your chocolate is cold, try heating in a microwave for 8 second spurts.) 


Amy said...

This looks and sounds delicious. I might need a few weeks (days?) before I can bring myself to buy more butter and whipping cream, but when I do it will be to make this pie. :)

Liz in DC said...

I would have bet money that you would post something virtuous like salad or vegetable soup after Thanksgiving. I'm glad you didn't! Question, though -- the egg whites aren't cooked? Does that mean it's not safe to serve to pregnant ladies?

Alex said...

This looks awesome! However, I don't have any reason to keep dark rum on hand -- what else would you recommend? or could it just be omitted? Thanks.

Lauren said...

Excuse me while I drool.

Kim said...

Amy - We went through an obscene amount of butter this weekend too.

Liz - Right, the egg whites are not cooked. You might be able to get away with using a pasteurized egg white product instead, but I'm not sure.

Alex - What do you have? I don't know that I'd omit the alcohol entirely. Brandy could work. Maybe bourbon (as long as it wasn't too peppery) or a blended whisky (as long as it isn't peaty or smoky). Or you could go in a different direction and try something like Cointreau. Either way, definitely report back.

Kim said...

And Lauren, drooling is encouraged at our house. We aren't very civilized over here :)

Charlotte said...

Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking calls for "rum or coffee" in several cake recipes. Maybe that would work? Or a coffee or chocolate liqueur, if the commenter had that?

Kim said...

Charlotte - excellent idea.

Mae said...

I made this and it turned out superb. All the things you said -- it is delicious and, for a dessert made with graham cracker crumbs, pretty elegant! Two critiques: I noticed the whipped cream got a little watery after two days in the fridge. (There are only 2 of us and it's taking awhile to finish.) Next time I will add the whipped cream to each serving. Also 1 1/2 tb rum makes for a very subtle rum flavor, so I'd use more. Otherwise, like I said, superb. Thanks for posting the recipe.

Mae said...

Forgot to mention - I bought a mini rum bottles at the liquor store for $3. I think it's enough rum for two pies and cost less than the Graham cracker crumbs!!

Amy said...

Finally made this. Our guests RAVED. It was so, so, so good. I wouldn't change a thing next time.

Anonymous said...

I eat 26 of these pies every day because they are soooooo good. They are also really healthy

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