My husband’s paternal grandmother was a kitchen legend. I never got to meet Poppies, but have gotten to know a little bit about her through the stories and recipes that the family talk about. She, like many of her generation, cooked from their head and not from recipes. A pinch of this, a little of that and cook until it “looks right”. One of her most famous recipes was a Chocolate Meringue Pie. Both my husband and mother-in-law tried to get her to show them/tell them the recipe so that they could make it too but all that they ended up with was some faint memories and differing recipes written down. When she passed, so did the pie.
After hearing countless stories and seeing the nostalgic look that the hubs would get in his eye whenever he talked about it, I decided to take on the challenge of replicating the famed recipe. In my typical fashion I asked a bunch of questions about it; what was the flavor, consistency, how thick were the layers, how sweet, how chocolatey etc.? When we went to the land of Texas to visit my husband’s family, his mom, sister and I did a recipe sharing session and got to talking about the elusive recipe. Momma Sue showed me the 2 differing versions of the recipe that she had gotten from Poppies at different times and his sis did some Pinteresting. She found a recipe that looked like it would turn out close to what she remembered it being and sent it to me. Armed with info and a recipe to use as a basic outline, I returned to Idahome and went into my laboratory (a.k.a.my kitchen).
Naturally I started from the bottom up with the crust. I had very little to go off on for the crust, so I turned to my favorite Cook’s Illustrated recipe. This crust recipe is different from any other pie crust recipe because it uses vodka as part of the liquid. The reason being is that it adds moisture so that the dough is flexible enough to work with but the alcohol evaporates as it bakes leaving an unbelievably flaky crust I felt pretty good about that part so I moved on.
The filling is a homemade chocolate pudding topped with a meringue. The first round I followed the Pinterest recipe to the T (a rarity for me). Hubby said that it tasted almost identical. Score! Round one and I was already close-how often does that happen?! The only issues with it, was that the filling didn’t set up very thick and there wasn’t enough meringue topping. To solve the problem I upped the thickening agents slightly and increased the amount of eggs used.
I volunteered to make the pie for a Wilmot game night and it wasn’t until after I had opened my mouth that I got nervous about making Poppies pie for the family; it’s like offering to bring fried butter to Paula Dean’s family picnic!!! When it came time for dessert I tried to act calm as I sliced up and served the pie. Then came the first bites. I watched as Poppies youngest son took a bite, savored it for awhile, took another bite and look thoughtful. All I could think was ‘Oh no, he doesn’t think that it’s anywhere as good as his mom’s and is just trying to come up woth the words to tell me…”. He started nodding his head and then told me that that was it and at that moment I knew that the tradition would live on.
Heirloom Chocolate Pie
2 cups unbleached all-purpose Flour
1 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Sugar
8 Tbl cold Butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
5 Tbl chilled solid Vegetable Shortening, cut into 4 pieces
3 Tbl vodka, cold
3 Tbl cold water
- Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses.
- Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage-cheese curds, and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade.
- Add remaining flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
- Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
- Roll out pie dough and line 9″ pie plate. Flute edges and place in freezer for 15-30 min.
- While the raw crust is chilling, preheat oven to 400.
- Remove dough from freezer; line and weight crust and bake for 10-12 minutes or until starting to set up.
- Remove lining and weights, prick with fork, and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes or until golden brown (you may need to shield edges so that they don’t over brown).
- Remove from oven and set aside.
4 tablespoons Cornstarch
3 tablespoons Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
2 cup + 1/4 cup Sugar (separated)
3 cups Milk
1 cup 1/2 & 1/2
5 Eggs (separated)
4 tbsp Butter
1 Tbl Vanilla
1 tsp Almond Extract
- While the crust is baking, you can start the filling. In a large, heavy bottomed sauce pot, combine Cornstarch, Flour, Salt, Cocoa Powder, 1 cup Sugar, Milk, 1/2 &1/2 and egg yolks.
- Place over medium heat, and cook until it starts to thicken, stirring constantly
- Once it thickens, remove from heat and add in the butter and vanilla-whisk until smooth.
- Pour the pudding mixture into the baked pie crust.
5 Egg Whites (reserves from above)
1/4 C. Sugar
Pinch of Baking Powder (to stabilize the meringue)
- Place Egg Whites in large, glass mixing bowl. Beat on high until soft peaks begin to form
- Gently sprinkle in the Sugar and Baking Powder and beat until stiff peaks form.
- Spread over hot pie filling.
- Return pie to oven and bake until meringue is golden brown, 8-10 minutes )watch closely.
- Allow pie to cool at room temperature for 15 minutes and then place into refrigerator and chill 4 hours or overnight.