My chocolate chiffon pie is the condition to which all chocolate pies aspire. Chocolate velvet upon buttery brown snap crowned by a firmament of vanilla clouds. One could do worse than to be reincarnated as this pie.
Its inspiration is the French Silk Pie as conceived by the iconic Baker’s Square chain of restaurants. More than a few years of my childhood, it replaced birthday cake at my party. Which isn’t to say this is a taste-alike. The original is toe-curlingly sweet whereas mine is practically restrained in the sugar department.
Don’t spare the expense of best quality cream, chocolate, and butter here. These affordable luxuries make a huge difference in the final product. And you certainly deserve it.
This recipe makes a 9-inch pie, enough for eight generous portions.
Chocolate Chiffon Pie
1 recipe All-Butter Pie Crust
70g white sugar
430g whole milk
5 egg yolks
12g vanilla extract
115g semisweet chocolate chips
200g heavy cream
20g vanilla sugar*
400g heavy cream
Blind-bake and completely cool pie crust in a 9-inch pan.
Weigh white sugar, salt, and milk into a saucepan. Whisk egg yolks in a separate bowl until lightened. Add cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
Heat milk mixture over medium until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and, while whisking eggs constantly, ladle in about half a cup of the hot milk. Whisking the milk as you do so, add the eggs back into the saucepan and return to medium heat.
Continue whisking constantly with special attention paid to the bottom and edges of the pan to prevent scorching. Cook for a full minute, whisking all along, after the mixture returns to a boil. It should read at least 180º on a thermometer. It will be frighteningly thick. Don’t worry, you did it right.
Immediately pour the pudding into a clean bowl and all the chocolate chips and vanilla. Whisk until the chips are completely melted and smooth. Cover the pudding with plastic wrap pressed right onto its surface and then place the bowl into an ice bath. Park it all in the fridge. Stir every ten minutes and chill to 60º.
Whip 200g of heavy cream to stiff peaks. Stir a third of the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate pudding until completely combined. Gently fold in the remaining whipped cream. Pour the finished chiffon into the blind-baked pie shell, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least six hours.
Add the vanilla sugar to the 400g of heavy cream and beat to firm peaks. You can spoon and smooth it upon the chilled pie or pipe it on with a #22 star tip. Whatever’s clever. Keeps in the fridge for three days but is at its best the day it’s made.
* To make vanilla sugar, split a vanilla pod and scrape out the beans into 600-ish grams of white sugar. Blitz in the food processor for one minute then pour into a sealable container with the spent vanilla pod. Or buy it on Amazon with overnight shipping. Patience is cheaper, though.
It’s no wonder the ancient Chinese fetishized peaches. In both form and texture, they are sensual to the point of being fruit porn. An electric bite of sweet, tart perfume and impossible juiciness that has the power to transport you to the outer reaches of ecstasy.
You won’t be surprised to learn that I anxiously await that first Sunday of the summer when the gals from Tenerelli Orchards will appear at the Hollywood Farmers Market. Theirs are the best peaches, plums, and nectarines this side of the Mississippi so far as I’m concerned.
My peach galette* is an homage to the Tenerelli’s fruit and uses only the barest amount of sugar, allowing the peaches to shine in all their summer splendor. You’ll be amazed at the sheer depth of flavor that can be extracted from fruits baked in this manner. You’ll also be amazed at how little work goes into such a memorable dessert.
* Galette is a fancy word for a flat pie.
This recipe yields dessert for four to six on its own, eight if accompanied by ice cream.
Preheat oven to 425º and set a rack in the middle position.
If using peaches, peel them like an apple using a very sharp paring knife. Nectarines can be baked with the skins on. Slice each fruit into sixteen wedges.
Roll dough out to 13-inches and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush lightly with sunflower oil or melted butter.
Leaving an inch border all around, sprinkle some of the sugar lightly over the entire round of dough. Use the rest of the sugar to create a perimeter as shown.
Lay peach wedges in concentric circles, starting from the outside with the tips of the wedges just within the perimeter of sugar. Lightly brush the peaches with sunflower oil or melted butter and then sprinkle over the allspice.
Fold edges like a stop sign, with the crease right at the sugar perimeter. Place in the oven immediately and bake for 40 minutes or until the bottom is golden brown and center bubbling. If the edges are dark but the center still not bubbling after 40 minutes, lower oven to 375º to finish baking.
Cool for five minutes on a wire rack before cutting and serving.
Poundcake is the little black dress of desserts. Enjoyed for its splendid simplicity or made part of a larger ensemble, it is always an effortless star. My poundcake light as air and twice as tasty. Cinnamon brings an exotic perfume to the classic, and European style (Plugra or Kerrygold) butter is worth the splurge when you want to impress.
I cannot help but admire a deceptively simple cake whose name enshrines an entire recipe in one word. The pound in poundcake is a reference to how much of each of the main ingredients (eggs, flour, butter, and sugar) are required. It’s another way of saying, “a cake of equal parts eggs, flour, butter, and sugar.”
That sounds a lot like a ratio. And you know I love a good ratio in the kitchen! See the one that underlies this recipe here.
This recipe yields one 10-inch Bundt or two 4-cup loaves.
Brown Sugar Poundcake
336g cake flour
18g baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional but highly recommended)
336g unsalted butter, room temperature
336g brown sugar
6 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 325º and set the rack in the middle position. Lightly grease your pan(s) with butter.
Weigh all the dry ingredients and butter into the work bowl of a stand mixer. With the cake paddle attachment, mix on low until the butter is completely incorporated and the mixture resembles damp sand.
Beat eggs and vanilla together in a bowl and then add to flour mixture. Beat on #2 for a minute. Stop mixer and scrape down the edges of the bowl with a silicon spatula. Beat on #4 for 30 seconds and then scrape the bowl down again. Beat on #4 for a minute.
Scrape batter into pan and smooth with spatula. Rap the pan on the counter three or four times to dislodge any air bubbles and then place in oven.
Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes. Turn poundcake out and cool, still on the rack, for at least an hour before cutting.
I’m a huge fan of custard in all of its forms, no less so than in pies and tarts. Each lightly sweet, eggy, jiggly bite of my almond custard comes with the snapping crunch of buttery, flaky crust. Their marriage is divine.
It was a surplus of almond milk that brought this riff on the custard tart to life. Normally I would use half-and-half in such a creation. Arguably this dairy alternative yields a relatively healthier dessert. The almond milk also gives the final custard a consistency not unlike trembleque – much more wiggle than the classic made with cream.
It’s worth noting that this custard follows perfectly the ratio you can find in my Kitchen Grimoire.
This recipe yields one 9-inch pie.
Almond Custard Pie
All-Butter Pie Crust
4 large eggs
112g brown sugar
1/4 ts salt
224g plain, unsweetened almond milk
1/2 ts almond extract
1/2 ts vanilla
Prepare All-Butter Pie Crust. Roll and blind bake (detailed instructions below) crust. It’s important that the custard be ready to go the second the crust is finished blind baking. Also, the egg you reserve in the next step is what you’ll use to glaze the crust, so get it ready pronto!
To start the custard, beat eggs in a medium bowl until pale yellow. Scoop out about a tablespoon of beaten egg into a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Add the rest of the ingredients to the remaining eggs and whisk to combine. As soon as the egg glaze is set on the crust, pour the custard mixture into the shell and return to oven. Immediately reduce oven to 325º and bake for 50 minutes. Pie is done when center jiggles like Jell-o or reads 175º on an instant-read thermometer.
Cool completely on a rack. If it won’t be consumed within four hours of baking, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to three days.
To Blind Bake Crust
Rather watch than read? Try the video demo!
Before beginning, make sure the dough has rested in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Wrap a clean tea towel, or other lintless towel, around a cutting board that’s at least 13-inches square. Lightly dust it with flour. Unwrap the rested dough, place it in the center of the towel, and dust it lightly on each side with flour.
Gently slap the dough with the rolling pin to flatten it into a disc about 8-inches around. Dust the top of the disc with flour, turn it over, and dust it again. Apply moderate pressure and roll from the center of the dough up and then from the center down. Turn the dough 90º clockwise and repeat. Every time you complete a full circle (four turns), run your hand under the disk to make sure it’s not sticking. Every two complete rotations, flip the dough over. Continue until you have a 13-inch circle. Trim to a 13-inch circle using a very sharp knife or straight razor blade.
If it sticks a bit, and it will, dust lightly with flour, flip, and dust lightly with flour again. Should the dough become too soft, place in the freezer for five minutes to firm it up.
Fold finished dough circle in half, then gently lift and place into tart or pie pan. Unfold the dough to completely cover the pan and center it. The dough must now be settled into the pan so that it’s not stretched in any spots. Stretched dough will shrink in baking and ruin your afternoon. To avoid it, gently run your fingers under the edge of the dough and allow it to settle completely into the pan. You want to see a tiny bit of sag where the dough comes into the bottom of the pan.
With your fingers, gently press the dough into the sides of the pan. Fold the overhanging dough, you should have a bit less than an inch, under itself and press firmly to seal the edge. Don’t worry about forming the border now. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425º and place a foil-lined cookie sheet on the middle rack.
Remove dough from fridge, and remove plastic wrap. Quickly work the border into a semblance of evenness by pinching with your thumb and index finger. If you have a lipless pie pan (usually glass), as you’re evening the border, squish it down a bit so that no more than 1/4-inch is above the rim of the pan. With a fork, poke holes about 1/2-inch apart all over the bottom and side of the crust.
Gently mold a piece of aluminum foil into the bottom of the crust, pushing it carefully but completely into the sides. Be certain not to fold down the edges of the foil or they will make a mess of your border. Fill the foil evenly with rice or beans, immediately place on waiting cookie sheet, and bake for 25 minutes.
Remove crust from oven. Gently pull foil from a portion of the edge and check to see if the crust has set. If it looks dry almost to the bottom, you’re good. Otherwise, return to the oven for ten more minutes. An easy way to tell if the pastry is done is to pull the foil back enough to expose a bit of the bottom at this point. Sides that look mostly like the bottom does aren’t done! The whole point of this exercise is to keep the crust from slipping into the pan, rendering itself useless, or shrinking like a wool sock in a hot dryer. Your patience will be rewarded. Finally, if at any point the exposed edge of the crust looks like it’s burning, lower the oven by 25º.
When the sides of the crust are dry and set, gather the corners of the foil and lift it out, beans/rice and all. Rest the foil on a heat-proof plate to cool. Poke only the bottom of the crust once more with a fork and return to the oven to finish baking. This will take about 15 additional minutes. The crust is done when the entire bottom is deep, golden brown on the inside of the pan. This is critical. The deep, golden brown means the crust is fully cooked. It will not cook further when it gets filled with custard because physics. A crust insufficiently baked now will be a staggering disappointment later.
You’re almost done!
With a pastry or sauce brush, spread the beaten egg reserved when the custard was made onto the inside bottom and sides of the crust. Bake for five additional minutes.
As a kid, I used to sneak the packets of Swiss-Miss cocoa mix into my room and furtively eat their contents, dry, like an addict. That flavor is incomparable bliss on the tongue.
Somewhat less-than-blissful is ice cream making. Either you roll the food poisoning dice and hope they don’t come up salmonella with raw eggs or you cook and cool a custard. Me, I prefer to sidestep the debate entirely with the no-cook, eggless ice cream. (A double scoop of love to Ben & Jerry, whose eponymous cookbook turned me onto this technique.)
If you have the tub of your ice cream maker waiting at all times in the freezer (of course you do!) this recipe can be churning in about 20 minutes.
Recipe yields about 1 quart of churned ice cream.
Eggless Cocoa Ice Cream
50g cocoa powder
100g boiling water
275g sweetened, condensed milk
460g heavy cream*
1 ts vanilla
a shot of domestic whisky or dark rum
Weigh cocoa powder and salt into a heat-proof bowl and pour in boiling water. Stir to make a smooth paste and set aside to cool for about 20 minutes.
While you wait, weigh remaining ingredients into a bowl, preferably one with a spout. Whisk to combine. Scoop cooled cocoa into milk and whisk until fully combined.
Churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions and cure for at least four hours in an airtight container before serving.
*Up to two thirds of the heavy cream can be substituted with half-and-half or pure coconut milk.
Your food processor has no higher calling than making pie crust. Pair this magical kitchen machine with a digital scale, and you may unlock the secret to the easiest, most butter-shatteringly perfect pie crust you will ever taste.
This recipe demonstrates the first cooking ratio I ever mastered in a most satisfying way. You can hop down that rabbit hole in my Kitchen Grimoire later, though. Right now you have pie dough to make.
This recipe is super simple. Just four ingredients. Like all super simple recipes, the complexity is in the details. Mind the finer points of instruction for best results. I promise the extra little bits of effort are worth it.
Yield: dough for a 13-inch round (enough to cover a 9-inch pie pan)
All-Butter Pie Crust
225g a/p flour
150g cold, unsalted butter
75g cold water
* Would you rather see how it’s done? Watch the video demo!
Chill a small plate, small bowl, and food processor work bowl and blade for fifteen minutes in the fridge before starting.
Cut butter into 1/4-inch cubes and weigh onto chilled plate; return both to fridge. Weigh cold water into chilled small bowl; return to fridge. Weigh flour and salt directly into food processor’s work bowl.
Pulse flour and salt together for one second (I literally just say, “one hippopotamus”).
Breaking up large chunks, add butter to the flour. Pulse three times, one second each. Using a fork (food processor blades will cut your fingers to little shreds before you know it!) sift through the flour a bit to see what size most of the butter chunks have become. If they’re somewhere between black and kidney bean size, you’re good. If not, pulse for another second and check again. If the butter has completely disappeared, congratulations, you’re making crackers! (Start again.)
Add the water all at once and pulse in three more one-second bursts. You’re looking for the texture of small bread crumbs. Pulse one or two more times if the dough has lots of big, wet chunks or visibly dry flour at the bottom or sides of work bowl. You DO NOT want to pulse until the dough forms a ball. If this happen, you have made shortbread. (Start again, butter’s cheap.)
Lay a clean tea towel flat on the counter and pour the contents of the work bowl out onto it. Grabbing the towel from underneath so that your hands never directly touch the dough, push the crumbs together into a ball. It will crack and crumble at first, but keep going! Still with your hands on the opposite side of the towel, gently press the dough ball in at the sides. Alternating sides, continue to press on the dough until it looks smooth and doesn’t crack at the edges. If, at any time, it begins to stick, lightly dust the dough and towel with flour.
Finally, form the dough back into a flat disc, about 6-inch across. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least twenty minutes. If it’s a hot day, make that an hour.
To roll dough, use any pin you like. I’m partial to the tapered French rolling pins myself, but it’s really down to personal preference. Lightly flour* the cloth you used to shape the dough ball earlier and lay it on a flat counter or cutting board. Turn out the dough disc and flour it lightly on both sides. Roll from the center up to the edge and then again from the center down to the bottom. Give the disc a quarter-circle turn and repeat. Check under the dough every full turn to make sure it’s not sticking, and lightly flour as-needed.
* You should be sprinkling on no more than a pinch of flour at a time. Just a dusting, really. Rub it gently to distribute. Every gram of flour that gets added to the dough after it leaves the food processor will make it tougher, so use as little as possible.
My dark chocolate sauce is really just a loose ganache, but I’m told by my husband that’s a super unappetizing description. Nevertheless, there you are. With all of the milk and cream, this sauce truly deserves to be called velvety.
I love it on my Caramel Belgian Waffles, but I’m sure you’ll find a million uses for it without a single hint from me. But if I was going to give you a hint, it would involve a slice of warm bread pudding and a scoop of rum ice cream.
This really isn’t the sort of sauce that takes to reheating, but if you must, do it very gently over the lowest flame (stirring constantly!) until just smooth.
This recipe yields about a cup of sauce.
Dark Chocolate Sauce
113g semisweet chocolate chips (I’m partial to Ghiradelli 60% dark)
a heavy pinch of salt
6g cocoa powder, sifted
58g heavy cream
61g whole milk
14g unsalted butter
Into a medium, heat-proof bowl, weigh chocolate chips, salt, cocoa powder, and sugar.
In a small saucepan, heat cream and milk until barely simmering, stirring constantly. The sugars in the milk want to stick to the bottom of the pan, so a heat-proof silicon spatula is your best friend here.
Immediately pour the hot cream into the bowl and whisk for ten seconds. Allow to stand for a minute and then whisk until smooth. Add butter, rum, vanilla, and whisk to combine.
Have I ever told you the revelatory tale of the Impromptu Golden Yogurt Cupcakes? It’s the reason the baking ratios in my Kitchen Grimoire are worth trying for yourself. Plus, you get cake. Since when was that not incentive enough to try something new?
|• 300g flour for 2x 9” round
• 1.5% salt
• 6.5% baking powder
At this point you may be wondering what the fuck you’re looking at. It’s not a recipe. There are no instructions. How perfectly useless!
So no, there aren’t any instructions. Working from ratios with baking assumes you already know how to assemble these things. But this is, in fact, a recipe. It’s just expressed in a way that dispenses with the clunky system of cups, spoons, and bushels that we’ve all grown to love. When you work with ratios, you work solely by weight. As in with a scale.
Before you get to the complaining about this being so awkward, consider the tare button on a scale. You weigh in an ingredient, press it, the scale zeroes, and you weigh in the next ingredient. If that’s somehow harder than getting out a minimum of eight separate volume measures, you’re doing it wrong.
But I digress.
You’re going to use a scale, and you won’t even bother bitching about it because you will realize how awesome this is the second you start doing it and suddenly won’t be able to stop talking about how it changed your life. Or maybe that’s just me.
Anyhow, this is so a recipe because baking is chemistry. Cakes, cookies, breads, etc. all rely on ingredients being in specific proportion to each other. Doesn’t matter the quantities so long as they’re always in the same ratio. But it does matter the way you measure. Thus the scale.
So let’s decode this sucker as it would be baked for the two 9-inch rounds given as the reference weight. Right there, we have a starting point. 300 grams of flour. A little bit of math now goes a long way.
In the recipe, cake flour’s proportion is 1. And we’re using 300 grams of cake flour. Which is now to say that 1 part = 300 grams as we work out how much of the rest of the ingredients are required. This makes the sugar easy, being 1 part, it’s also 300 grams. 180 grams of unsalted butter (300 x 0.6), 240 grams of milk (300 x 0.8) and 120 grams (300 x 0.4) of egg.
Don’t panic! Look over here, and you’ll see that you’re looking at twoish eggs.
The salt and leavener are calculated as a percentage of your flour. And in this case, you need 4.5 grams of salt (300 x 0.015) and and 19.5 grams of baking powder (300 x 0.0165).
But all of that, that’s for two 9-inch rounds. I just want some cupcakes to use up the leftover egg yolks from these cookies!
Oh, but we’re almost there.
So we have three egg yolks, weighing in at 60 grams. Instead of working from the flour to get what one part is, work from the eggs. Divide 60 by the egg’s proportion in the ratio, 0.4, to get 150. So instead of 1 part = 300 grams as before, now 1 part = 150 grams. The rest works like it did before. 150 grams of cake flour (1 x 150 grams), 150 grams of sugar (1 x 150 grams), 90 grams of unsalted butter (0.6 x 150 grams), and 120 grams of milk (0.8 x 150 grams) are what you’ll need to make a cake from three egg yolks.
And didn’t I say something about Golden Yogurt? The golden comes from the egg yolks. Notice that the ratio calls for eggs. You get wiggle room in there and can use whatever part of the egg you have left over, though if it’s whites, you’re better off with Angel Food Cake. And it should go without saying that I used yogurt rather than milk. Because why not? The extra acid made the cake super tender and tangy. This yielded about 10 cupcakes, by the by.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re hooked. Check out the ratios in my Kitchen Grimoire and go wild!