Friday, November 2, 2012
Rustic Chocolate Pie
This "pie" is built upon a very buttery pastry. It's rolled out into a thin free-form base like a galette and it's very delicate and flaky. The filling is a billow of meringue folded into melted chocolate and nuts. Once baked, it's not dense like a truffle or brownie nor soft and airy like a mousse. It's gooey and rich without being too heavy. So it's a very offbeat sort of pie. In fact, it's not really a pie so much as a very simple but interesting composition of pastry, chocolate and nuts that's incredibly easy to compose and super delicious to consume. And it's fun to set it on your table and slice into it randomly and watch the crumbs fly.
I'm sure you can find an occasion to celebrate the wonders of good chocolate sometime soon. This is a grand treat sure to elicit sighs of pure pleasure and good cheer.
- The dough can be made ahead and stored in your refrigerator for 2 - 3 days. Any longer and it begins to oxidize and discolor.
- I know a lot of people really fear working with pastry doughs. Handling dough can be trying if you don't have any practice. But just remember a few important tips: 1) Keep the butter and water very cold. As you mix, work quickly to make sure the butter doesn't warm up and get soft. Once the dough is mixed, chill it to relax the gluten, firm up the butter and allow the flour to absorb the moisture. 2) It may seem counterintuitive, but once the dough has been thoroughly chilled, you need to set it out and let it rest for a few minutes at room temperature to warm up enough to roll it out without a lot of resistance and cracking. So chill it thoroughly but then let it sit at room temperature to take the chill off. 3) Keep your work surface and the surface of the dough lightly floured as you roll it out. You don't want it to stick at all. After each roll, lift the dough to make sure it isn't sticking. Handle it gently and continue to dust with flour. This is important because I think this is where people begin to get discouraged. If the dough is sticking, it raises the possibility of tearing, which is very, very frustrating. So lift it often and keep it lightly dusted with flour. Once you've rolled it out to the desired shape and size, dust off any excess flour. I use a 3" wide paint brush with soft bristles. 4) If at any time the dough starts to get too soft, don't hesitate to return it to the refrigerator for a few minutes. It's important that it remain firm enough to handle without the butter getting warm and softening. 5) For ease of handling, I always roll out doughs on parchment paper. It makes it easier to form the pastry and then simply slide it onto a baking sheet without having to lift the dough and risk stretching, tearing or misshaping. Once you've made a few doughs with these tips in mind, you'll find your own zone with tarts, pies and galettes. It just takes some practice to get the feel for the right temperatures and a light touch.
- There's a good ratio of butter in this dough but oddly it doesn't take on much browning at all even though it's pre-baked at 400 degrees. The temperature gets lowered to 350 degrees once the filling is added but it only bakes for 10 additional minutes.
- I used a mix of 4 oz of semisweet chocolate and 2 oz of bittersweet. Alice Medrich suggests either bittersweet or semisweet but also says the chocolate you choose shouldn't exceed 62%.
- Egg whites are 1 oz each so if you have a stash, weigh out 2 oz.
- Nuts are definitely important for texture and flavor.
- Bake for just 10 minutes so the interior is gooey. The surface should look dry and a bit shiny and may look slightly cracked in places but still have a soft interior.
- The recipe suggests 3 tablespoons of toasted pine nuts and chocolate shavings as optional garnishes. I just used a portion of the same nuts I folded into the filling.
Rustic Chocolate Pie
adapted from Alice Medrich for Better Homes & Garden
Makes 10 servings
3/4 C flour
1/4 t salt
2 1/2 oz (5 T) cold butter
1 1/2 T - 2 T cold water [I used 2 T]
6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
2 egg whites at room temperature
1/8 t cream of tartar
1/4 C sugar
1/8 t salt
1/2 t vanilla
3/4 C chopped pecans or walnuts
For the crust, toss together the flour and salt. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and add to the flour, tossing to coat the butter thoroughly. With a pastry blender or your fingers, incorporate the butter into the flour until you have some larger pieces the size of pine nuts and smaller pieces that resemble coarse bread crumbs. Don't let the butter get too soft or blend completely into the flour. Drizzle the cold water over the flour mixture. Toss and mix just until moist enough to hold together when pressed. Turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Gather and consolidate the dough into a flat disc. Wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes or up to 3 days.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Unwrap the pastry dough and place on a floured piece of parchment or work surface. Let it sit for a few minutes at room temperature until pliable enough to roll without cracking. Roll the dough out to a 14" x 9" oval about an 1/8" thick. Brush off excess flour. If you didn't roll it out on parchment, fold the dough in half to transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Unfold the dough and loosely roll up the edges to form a rimmed crust without pinching or pressing too firmly.
Bake 10 - 12 minutes or until you see some browning. The crust edge will still be a little raw inside. Place on a wire rack.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
For the filling, chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl on top of a pan of barely simmering shallow water, making sure the bottom of the bowl isn't touching the water. Stir until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and set aside.
Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until opaque and soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and salt. Beat until the whites form stiff peaks that are not dry, adding the vanilla in the last few seconds. Fold the whipped egg whites into the melted chocolate until it is nearly blended. Add the nuts and fold until there are no streaks.
Dollop the filling onto the baked crust and spread evenly to the edges. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Garnish the top with extra nuts and serve warm or cool.