Chocolate Chiffon Pie


Chocolate Chiffon Pie (August 6, 2016)

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
2g salt
430g whole milk
5 egg yolks
22g cornstarch
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.

Peach Galette


Peach galette with caramel sugar and just a hint of allspice.

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.

Peach Galette
1 recipe All-Butter Pie Crust
2 large, firm-ish peaches or nectarines
2 – 3 tbsp caramel sugar or brown sugar
a heavy pinch of ground allspice
2 tbsp sunflower oil or melted butter

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.

Peach galette with caramel sugar and just a hint of allspice.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.Peach galette with caramel sugar and just a hint of 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.

Almond Custard Pie


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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.