Monday, September 10, 2012

If at first you don't succeed, pie, pie again

You still won't win*.

But you'll have made a damn fine pie.

Mexican Chocolate Chess Pie
My entry in this year's KCRW GoodFood pie contest, based on this recipe from Ezra Pound Cake. This time around, I used my patented Scientific Method of Pie to decide on the custard/cream category**.  After rigorous testing of several possible pies with a control group***, I felt I had a contender.  There was a momentary Fabulous Baker Girls flashback as I was trying to top my pies with whipped cream while driving, but fortunately for me and the upholstery in my car, the wait to turn left onto 6th from Fairfax was eternal, and it all worked out.   The pie has a crisp, buttery tart crust that could not be easier to make, a smooth, rich filling with the texture of an underbaked brownie and spicy notes of cinnamon and chili, and is topped with lightly flavored sweetened whipped cream.  Feel free to mail me a ribbon after you taste it.

For the crust:
1 1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
generous pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
generous pinch of espresso powder
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted
1/2 tsp. vanilla

For the filling:
1 1/3 c. sugar
3 heaping Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 heaping tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. espresso powder
generous pinch of ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
5 oz. evaporated milk
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten

For the cinnamon-cocoa whipped cream:
about 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c . heavy whipping cream
1/4 c. creme fraiche
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Get out a 9 inch springform pan.

To make the crust, combine flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and espresso powder in a mixing bowl.  Add the vanilla to your melted butter, stir, then add that to the flour mixture and mix with a spatula or wooden spoon until the dough begins to clump up.  Turn the mixture into the springform pan, and using your fingers, press to form an even layer along the bottom and about 1 inch up the sides of the pan.  Place the prepared pan in the fridge for about 30 minutes, or as long as overnight.

I tried the pie with a normal pie crusts, too, but loved the crunch of this with the smooth chocolate filling.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Bake the crust for about 15 minutes, until light golden brown.  Unlike a standard pie crust, you don't need pie weights, since it shouldn't poof up while it bakes.
While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. [Note: You can also store the baked crust overnight if you like, and make the rest of the pie the next day.]

In one bowl, whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, espresso powder and salt.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the evaporated milk and the butter.

Add liquid mixture to dry mixture, and stir well to combine.  Pour into prepared crust.  Bake 45-50 minutes.  The pie should be set on the edges and just a little jiggly in the center.  Cool completely.

I dusted my pie with cocoa sugar first, just in case there was a whipped cream crisis between my house and the museum.

To make the cinnamon cocoa whipped cream, whisk powdered sugar, cinnamon and cocoa together in a bowl until no lumps remain in the powdered sugar.  Reserve 2 Tbs. of this mixture for garnish.  In a cold mixing bowl, whip the cream and creme fraiche together until soft peaks form.  Add the remaining powdered sugar mixture and the vanilla, and beat for just a little longer. 

Spread the whipped cream evenly over the top of the cooled pie, or just dollop a generous portion on individual wedges of the pie.  Dust with the reserved cocoa sugar and serve.

Click to print this recipe!

And no matter what the judges said?

I still think my pie...ROCKED!!!

* The top winners this year? All pie pros!
  • Best in Show, Best Crust and 1st place in Fruit and Savory - Nicole Mournian, general manager of Gjelina Take Away
  • Best Cream and Best Nut - Morgan Simmons, of Pi Bake Shop
  • Robyn Poarch, of Porch Pies, also took home ribbons in two categories. And a noted cookbook author took home a ribbon, too.  Sheesh!
That's OK. I bet none of them can get a start-up financed.

** Thank god I did...the fruit category was out of control this year!
*** My office mates are engineers by training, so it was totally scientific.

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