Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Marbleized Chiffon Pie

This pie was an adventure in many ways: an adventure in patience, in dishwashing, in pie contests. It was even an adventure for my poor old cookbook, which got a bit of a bath in melted butter...

In fact, I didn't really make this pie. I was on my way home from the store to make it when I saw Julia and her friend Alice coming back as well. The picnic they had planned was cut short due to bad weather and they were at loose ends. So I suggested they bake. "Here's the recipe--go for it!"

Their first obstacle: the crumb crust. Maida has two pages of directions on making the perfect crumb crust, and while it does in fact turn out perfect, it's rather a fussy process. I had to intervene a few times and "translate" the instructions into "regular" English. The girls did an excellent job, especially since I had improvised a crust based on shortbread cookies rather than the peanut butter cookies Maida calls for--I was bringing the pie to a "nut-free" event.

Apparently the pie is based on a recipe that used to be on the big Hershey bar. "Why did they stop?" I'll tell you why: it involves custard and gelatin and egg whites and whipped cream and melted chocolate. You mess up any of those steps and your pie takes a dive.

Also, have you counted the number of bowls that involves? I didn't have that many in my tiny kitchen and had to do some improvisation.

The girls were troupers through all this, though. They scalded milk until it had "wrinkled granny skin"; they dissolved gelatin (agar-agar for the vegetarian) and took the custard's temperature and whipped egg whites and carefully melted chocolate.

And finally they carefully folded in the melted chocolate and put the pie in the fridge for the next day: the "Pies and Squres" event.

The event was sponsored by the American section of the international school the girls attend--it involved square dancing and a pie contest. Julia and I decided to attend with another mom: we both enjoy pie and we both enjoy square dancing. What could go wrong?

Well, it turned out that this event was primarily for primary school students. Julia was a good sport about it and we had some fun klutzing our way through some primitive dance moves. We also tried many delicious pies. I'm pretty sure we didn't vote for our own, and I'm pretty sure that the Oreo cheesecake won. Julia blamed it on the less sophisticated taste of the primary-schoolers. But I think this pie just isn't all that.
It is light and fluffy, and that texture is nicely offset by the crumb crust. But it's really sweet and deadly rich--I feel a bit ill just thinking about that. And the agar/gelatin didn't set up as well as I might have hoped--gelatin custard desserts (Bavarian creams) are one of the trickiest things around to get right, I believe. So while Julia and her friend probably learned some really good baking skills, I hope that the next time I send them baking, it will give them a better payoff and me fewer dishes to wash. Oh, and I want to win that pie contest next year.

Here's the recipe. If you like rich and sweet and have lots of bowls in your kitchen, this is the one for you.

Marbleized Chiffon Pie

10 oz. cookies of your choice: Maida wants you to make your own peanut butter cookies. I used shortbread. Maybe chocolate wafers or pecan sandies?
6 T. (3 oz.) butter, melted

Heat the oven to 325. Line a deep 9-inch pie plate with aluminum foil. Crush the cookies with a food processor or rolling pin and mix with the butter. Carefully press into the pan with your fingers or the bottom of a measuring cup. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven, open the oven door, and let the crust cool in the oven. Put it in the freezer until it is fully chilled. Then remove the crust with the foil, carefully peel off the foil, and put the crust back in the pan. Keep chilling until you're ready to use it.

8 oz. (good) milk chocolate
1/4 c. (2 oz) cold water
1 envelope gelatin
2/3 c. (5.3 oz.) milk
2 large eggs, separated
5 T. (2.1 oz.) sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. (8 oz.) whipping cream
Pinch salt

Melt the chocolate carefully, in the microwave (30-second intervals) or in a double boiler. Set aside to cool a bit. Soften the gelatin in the cold water. Scald the milk in a small saucepan or in the microwave. If you've scalded it in the saucepan, pour it back into the measuring cup for a bit. In a small saucepan, whisk the egg yolks with 3 T. sugar until thick and pale. Gradually add the hot milk to the egg yolks. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring and scraping with the whisk or a rubber spatula, until the custard is thickened and the temperature has reached 180 degrees. Take off the heat and add the gelatin; stir until that has melted. Then add the vanilla, pour (better: strain) the custard into a medium ("rather large") mixing bowl and set aside for a bit.
In another bowl, whip the cream until it holds a shape but isn't too stiff. In yet another bowl, with clean beaters, whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they begin to hold a shape. Gradually beat in the remaining 2 T. sugar and beat until they hold a firm shape.
OK, now you need another, very large bowl. Put ice and water in it, then set the bowl with the custard into that. Stir the custard until it cools and begins to thicken. Maida would now like you to fold half of the custard into the cream and half into the egg whites and then fold it all together. What we did was pour the custard onto the cream, poured the egg whites atop that, and then carefully folded that all together. However you do it, be careful to keep as much air in the mixture as possible. Now pour in the chocolate and give it just two or three turns: you should still see streaks. Pour that into the chilled crust. Mine all fit into the crust, but if yours doesn't, Maida recommends chilling the filling in the crust for a bit and then piling more atop. Let chill at least 3-4 hours. Spend that time washing dishes.

1 c. (8 oz.) whipping cream
2 T. sugar--powdered or regular
1/2 t. vanilla
More milk chocolate

Whip together the cream, sugar, and vanilla. Spread or pipe atop the chiffon filling. With a vegetable peeler, scrape chocolate curls on top of the cream. Serve as soon as you can, preferably after a light meal and a marathon.

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