Holiday baking is in full force in my kitchen. It has become a tradition to bake and decorate cut-out cookies for the holiday season while watching utterly cheesy, although delightful, holiday films. This year produced a trio of cutout flavors—classic sugar cookies, chocolate sugar cookies, and gingerbread cookies. The entire process typically takes place over three days (one to mix up the dough, another to cut-out shapes, and a third to decorate). While continuing the cookie tradition seems like such a good idea in the beginning, after six straight hours of decorating, I'm ready to toss in the pastry bag.
Yet, I persevere. The cookies are not for me. Boxed up and wrapped in ribbon, these cookies are shared with friends, family, and coworkers alike—a gift of holiday cheer.
My grandmother's holiday baking features a smattering of sprinkled, chocolate dotted, and powder sugar dusted cookies, but her standout dessert is a classic chocolate cream pie. For fifty years, the pie has made its appearance at the holidays, right after the food has been eaten and the dinner plates have been cleared. It has grown into a family favorite, beginning with my father's obsession when he was young and gradually capturing the hearts of the rest of the family. Now we argue over who gets the largest slice.
Traditions form the bedrock of holidays. Baking cookies (and eating pie) is one I hold dear. Without dusting the entire kitchen in an immovable layer of flour, the holidays would somehow feel a little less spirited.
Have a happy holiday season, dear friends.
Chocolate Cream Pie is a rich, sweet dessert to be shared. Chocolate pudding is made with whole milk and thickened with egg yolks and cornstarch. A baked pie shell is filled with the pudding and chilled to set. Just before serving, each slice is topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Use your favorite high quality chocolate for best results—the chocolate flavor is bold. This pie is a great choice to serve after dinner with friends and family.
One Year Ago: Swedish Tea Ring
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Sugar Cookies
Three Years Ago: Peppermint Marshmallows and Sugar Cookies
Four Years Ago: Almond Cardamom Rolls, Red Wine Chocolate Truffles, Gingerbread Cookies, & Candy Cane Cupcakes
Five Years Ago: Peppermint Pinwheels, Candy Cane Popcorn, & Chocolate Clementine Cupcakes
Six Years Ago: Candy Striped Meringues, Chocolate Truffles, Gingerbread Cheesecake, & Peppermint Ice Cream
Chocolate Cream Pie
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yields 9-inch pie
1/2 recipe for double crust pie dough
2 tablespoons butter
9 ounces (255 grams) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped*
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (28 grams) cornstarch
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
3 cups (700 mL) whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream, for topping
Chocolate shavings or curls, for garnish
On a lightly floured surface, roll out pie dough into a 14-inch round. Wrap dough lightly around rolling pin and transfer to a 9-inch pie pan. Gently press dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim the dough to allow a 1-inch overhang. Pinch dough between thumb and forefinger to make an edge around the rim. Refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (218 degrees C).
Line the crust with foil or parchment paper, and fill it with pie weights or dried beans to prevent the pie crust from changing shape while baking. Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and gently remove foil or parchment with the weights or beans. Return the crust to the oven for 10-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely before filling.
For chocolate filling, place the coarsely chopped chocolate and butter in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, espresso powder, salt, egg yolks, and 1 cup milk. When the mixture is uniform, whisk in the additional milk and heat over medium heat until it comes to a boil, about 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently. When the mixture reaches a boil, turn the heat to low and whisk continuously for 1-2 minutes, or until the filling is as thick as a pudding and the whisk leaves tracks when stirring. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
Pour filling over chocolate and butter and whisk until uniform. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a film from forming and chill.
To assemble, place chocolate filling in baked pie crust and smooth the top. Chill until ready to serve. Top with whipped cream and chocolate curls.
*For best results, use high quality chocolate.