This pie wasn’t supposed to happen. For my third pie in the pie cook-through, I had selected Grasshopper Pie, as much for the chance to use up some of the marshmallow fluff left over from Rocky Road Pie as for my desire to eat mint chocolate pie. But when I decided to take a break from making the chocolate cookies for the chocolate cookie crust that Grasshopper Pie happens to share with Rocky Road Pie and go get some of the ingredients I needed (my butter really needed to soften, guys, I’ll be straight with you, so it was a crucial time for a walk), I hit a roadblock. You see, Grasshopper Pie gets its mint chocolate flavor from a few tablespoons each of creme de cacao and creme de menthe, and neither of those could be had for love or money in less than 750 ml quantities (so, basically, the size of a wine bottle). I don’t make cocktails at home, which meant that I was looking at spending something like $28 for four fucking tablespoons of liqueur.
So I went home and returned to the pie cookbook. I’d already committed to the chocolate cookie crust, and although (let’s be real for a sec) you could in reality pair any pie with a chocolate cookie crust and do absolutely no harm to it – possibly even improve it, in some cases – I like to realize a cook’s vision on my first run-through of a recipe. So I looked through the book for the center of the Venn diagram containing “has a chocolate cookie crust” and “doesn’t require me to buy more ingredients” and found it in Mocha Black-Bottom Pie.
Kave tells us that black-bottom pie is “an icon of Southern baking, and refers to pies with a bottom layer of very dark, barely sweetened chocolate topped by layers of light, chiffon-like custard.” A cursory internet recipe search says basically the same thing. And that is, in fact, what this is: a chocolate bottom layer, a very light layer made by mixing coffee custard and meringue, and a topping of whipped cream. Here are my uncollected thoughts about Mocha Black-Bottom Pie.
* Rather than the chocolate layer being a ganache, as with Rocky Road Pie, it’s a chocolate custard, which I think is much nicer than ganache. (For those of you who didn’t follow the links, a ganache is made from pouring hot cream over chocolate and mixing until the chocolate is melted. A custard refers to a mixture of eggs and milk.)
* This pie was fussy as hell to make and used most of the clean dishes in my kitchen. First you mix water and unflavored gelatin and set aside. Then you beat egg yolks in another bowl and set aside. Then you mix cornstarch and milk in yet another bowl and set aside. Then you heat the rest of your milk. The whole recipe is like this. It took me a lot of hours and ended with me needing to relax after the activity I did for relaxation.
* The chocolate cookie crust is a work in progress, you guys. Unlike last time, I did not use too many cookies. This time I only used too much butter and baked it for too long. The cookbook calls for ten minutes, but there was still visible butter at that point, so I went longer, after which I could both still see butter as well as my crust slumping all over the place. The problem was too much butter – the recipe calls for 5 – 8 tablespoons and I went right to 8. Next time I will start with 5 and work my way up. Like last time, it did not want to cut after it had chilled through, but with some force I was able to make clean slices.
* The recipe has you make a batch of custard which you then split into two parts, turning one part into chocolate custard and the second into coffee custard (to which you then add meringue). I was alarmed to see how little was left for the coffee custard, but my alarm was misplaced. Mixing the meringue into the coffee custard creates a substantial amount of filling.
* I made several meringue-related errors and I am not enough of a meringue connoisseur to know how much any of this matters. First, I did not add the sugar until the meringue had already reached the stiff peak stage, and since I didn’t want to overbeat it, I only let it mix the sugar for a few seconds. Secondly, I did not fold the meringue into the coffee custard but instead poured the custard into the stand mixer and let it all combine that way. This did not seem to make a difference to the final product, which was very sturdy (gelatin is magic, you guys!), but it’s worth noting.
* Finally, as with Rocky Road Pie, we have The Case of the Disappearing Chocolate Layer on our hands. When I filled the pie shell with chocolate custard there seemed to be plenty, but when serving and eating the pie, it was dwarfed by the quantity of coffee meringue. I’m not sure how to explain this. I think next time I might double the custard recipe and make double the chocolate custard but the same amount of meringue and see how it works out.
I give Mocha Black-Bottom Pie a solid A. It’s hard for the taste of a pie to live up to the fussiness of this recipe, but my partner and I both really enjoyed this over multiple days. It keeps good too!
Because of the extent to which I intend to blog about this cookbook, I will not be publishing the recipes. However, if a particular pie speaks to you, let me know and I’ll be happy to send the recipe along privately.