For the last few years I’ve been visiting you in February. I know what you’re thinking, Chicago. Why in the world would anyone visit you during this time of year?
I am fully aware that I am likely to encounter door-jamming snow drifts, frost-bitten cheeks, and as my son called it several times during the course of our visit — “very dirty snow.”
And I’m usually okay with this. Because in addition to it being the cheapest time of year to travel, it also means that I can fly with the convenience of empty seats galore. And with a spirited 2 1/2 year old, that means something.
But this time, Chicago, you did me in. Two full weeks of horrible, horrible weather. Not even the occasional sun brought relief to the miserable fierceness we encountered from you. Maybe it’s because I’m no longer tough enough to handle the midwest winters. Or maybe it’s because it really was that bad. Point is, I’m officially moving my annual trip to another month. Or moving my mother to Florida.
Weather aside, I loved being home. I loved sitting indoors with my mother, sipping tea and watching Oscar-nominated flicks. I loved snuggling up in bed with my son in the evenings, and waking up in the morning to him excitedly announcing “Look! Snow! Can we build a snowman mama?!?”
I loved the way you forced us to stay put and eat, drink and be merry. And occasionally swear about the weather.
So joke’s on you, Chicago. Because family bonds trump bad weather any time of the year. Especially when it means I get to use my time trapped indoors to perfect my chocolate pie recipe.
Oh chocolate. How we love thee. I’ve been working on this recipe for a while now. I’ve had the filling sorted for ages, but I wanted to experiment with a few different types of crusts. I’ve used two that work pretty darn well with this recipe (truth be told the filling is so rich that the store-bought crust will work just fine too).
The first crust recipe takes a bit of time to make, as with any traditional pie crust it needs time to chill in the fridge.
The crust is darkened by coffee and cocoa powder, and is slightly more cake-like thanks to the use of egg yolks. This is a great recipe if you want to use a spring form pan. It certainly looks beautiful once you are done with it.
But for those extreme chocolate lovers who are also a bit strapped for time, I highly recommend you go with a very simple cookie crust recipe. Crushed chocolate wafers and butter is all it takes to make this crust. It needs no chilling, no pre baking. The only catch being that it sets better in a traditional pie dish than a spring form pan. So this may not be the recipe of choice for those wanting the rustic look.
Anyhow, once you’ve decided what pie crust you want and have it ready for the filling, it’s time to get out your wooden spoon out (the one you’ll eventually lick the leftover chocolate off of…) and begin.
Start out by heating cream and milk in a pan on medium-low heat. The very second it comes to a simmer turn the heat off, remove the pan, and dump in about 400 grams (about 14 ounces) of dark chocolate containing at least 70 percent cocoa.
Begin mixing the chocolate immediately, continuously stirring until the mixture is smooth. Add sugar and salt, give it another few mixes, then add two already-beaten eggs. Pour the mixture into whatever pie crust you are using, and into the oven it goes (325F/160C) for 15 to 20 minutes. Take the pie out the second you see the smallest of cracks on the edge of the pie. That means it’s done.
Don’t worry if the centre is a bit wobbly. It’ll calm down. Let it set for a few hours, or pop it in the fridge for fast setting once it has cooled enough.
And there you have it. A rich, smooth, beautiful chocolate pie. It keeps for days by the way. So when you are stuck indoors in Chicago as we were, you can eat it piece by piece, day by day.
Makes the worst of days all the more enjoyable. And that Chicago, makes your lousy weather all the more worth it.
- 200 grams plain flour
- 60 grams icing sugar, sieved
- 70 grams cocoa powder, sieved
- 110 grams cold butter, chopped
- 3 egg yolks at room temperature
- 1-1.5 tbsp cold coffee
- 30 chocolate wafers, processed into about 1.5 cups
- 5 tablespoons butters, melted and cooled
- 14 ounces (400 grams) dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa.
- 1.5 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 eggs at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
For chocolate pastry #1 (the harder version)
- Mix flour, icing sugar and cocoa in a food processor. Add butter, process until mixture looks like fine crumbs. Add egg yolks and coffee and process. Bring pastry together into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
- Preheat oven to 180C. Roll pastry on a lightly floured surface (use cocoa powder to flour) and line a 24cm-diameter, 10cm-deep buttered and floured spring-form tin. Blind bake until pastry is almost cooked (8-10 minutes).
OR for chocolate cookie crust recipe (the easy version)
- Process cookies until finely ground (you should wind up with about 1.5 cups). Transfer to a mixing bowl, add butter and stir until crumbs are moistened. Press mixture evenly into a 9-inch pie plate. Pack tightly so crust is compact.
For chocolate filling
- Heat the cream and milk in a pot over a medium-low flame just until it simmers slightly around the edges. Beat the eggs while you are waiting.
- Remove from heat, add the chopped chocolate and stir continuously until melted and smooth.
- Add sugar and salt, give it another good mix, then add beaten eggs, stir until well blended and pour immediately into pie shell.
- Bake at 325F/160C for 15 to 20 minutes until the surface is glossy. Take the pie out immediately if you see any bubbles or cracks on the surface (they will begin forming at the edges first) – that means it is over baking.
- Cool before cutting (after pie is cooled set in fridge for one hour if needed).
- Serve with vanilla ice cream and a small pinch of sea salt on the top.