Theobroma cacao

While growing up my family would all have Sunday dinner with my grandparents in a little Ohio town called La Rue. Grandma would make these amazing pastries. When in season she’d make fresh (homegrown) blackberry pie which, to this day, I still have cravings for during Summer.

The motivation for this recipe adventure?

I just finished a book by Tom Piazza titled “Why New Orleans Matters” which speaks to a peoples way of life and gifts it has provided to the world. He speaks about hospitality, openness and a culture of gratitude. All that amidst a level of poverty that he cites is hard to understand unless you witness it. “One submits to the multifarious flow of chance and felicity, of music and motion,” he states at one point. Piazza rolls into Katrina abruptly after beautifully summarizing what must have been many years and countless nights out with friends and neighbors. The books tenor changes to one of heart break and resolve to endure. I’ve met more than a handful of these displaced folks who now live in the Dallas area. New lives in hand and beaming a little love of where they are from like Piazza said they would.

What does any of this have to do with Raspberries?

It’s taken a few years but I’ve begun to find pieces of home in Dallas and the South West. The people, culture and tempo are all things that have worn on me with enough time and patience to provide me gifts of new traditions. I thought it was time to try a chocolate pie at long last.

Theobroma cacao. Anne Willan in my beloved “La Varenne Pratique” opens her chapter on chocolate with a reference with its Greek term; meaning “food of the gods.” I always equated this recipe with Southern cooking but it turns out I may have been wrong. One reference cites that she believes it has roots in the Great Depression era, having been on the menu at the Hershey Hotel in PA.

Many years later and geo coordinates apart I am reminded of the table where I learned to converse with adults. The smells and flavors, and above all, absolute content when grandma would bring the raspberry pie to the dinner table. I suppose it was an attempt to blend a new and an old tradition. For both of which I am grateful.

Chocolate Cream Pie; Source

For crust
1 1/3 cups chocolate wafer crumbs (from about 26 cookies such as Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

For filling
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
3 cups whole milk
5 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), melted
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla

For topping
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar

Make crust
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Stir together crumbs, butter, and sugar and press on bottom and up side of a 9-inch pie plate (1-quart capacity). Bake until crisp, about 15 minutes, and cool on a rack.

Make filling
Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and yolks in a 3-quart heavy saucepan until combined well, then add milk in a stream, whisking. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking, 1 minute (filling will be thick).
Force filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, then whisk in chocolates, butter, and vanilla. Cover surface of filling with a buttered round of wax paper and cool completely, about 2 hours.
Spoon filling into crust and chill pie, loosely covered, at least 6 hours.

Make topping
Just before serving, beat cream with sugar in a bowl using an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks, then spoon on top of pie.

Pie (without topping) should be chilled up to 1 day.

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