My Grandmothers always believed if one dessert was good on a holiday table, three must be better. So in keeping with family tradition, we always make three pies. And this one checks the box for the chocolate lovers in the group. This is possibly the best chocolate cream pie I’ve ever eaten, so good it will bring tears to your eyes. With its deep chocolate custard topped with a fluffy cloud of baked meringue, it’s the stuff dreams are made of.
Different from a classic chocolate cream pie where the custard is cooked on the stovetop then poured into a baked pie shell – this chocolate custard is baked in the oven. The result is a rich, silky and divine chocolate filling.
The pie filling begins as a basic custard recipe, with cocoa, sugar, eggs, half and half plus a splash of vanilla to enhance the cocoa flavor. All the ingredients are whisked together then baked in a buttery, flaky pastry crust. Finally, it’s topped with a luscious layer of meringue, baked until golden.
Some tips and tricks …
If the edges of your piecrust begin to brown more than you’d like, cover them with a pie shield or loosely cover the top with a sheet of foil.
The recipe for this crust will two 9” piecrusts. During the holidays this is my “go to”. If you only need to make one, you can find a recipe for a single crust posted with our Caramel Apple Pie and Rustic Blueberry Tart. Refrigerate the shell for about 30 minutes to help it hold up when it hits the hot oven.
Make the meringue while the pie is baking. You want to get it on the hot pie and back into the oven. The heat from the pie helps to bake the meringue on the bottom.
Meringue can be sticky and “weep” if you make it when it’s humid. Don’t fret over this. My Grandmother baked hundreds of pies and her meringue always “weeped”. When mine does, I just assume she has popped in to say hello!
If your meringue is sticky making clean cuts can be a challenge. Simply hold a sharp knife over heat – your stovetop is a great source of heat for this. The heat helps the knife slide right through meringue.
This is simply the best chocolate pie.
Start with a flaky crust:
2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, well chilled and cut into cubes
¼-1/2 cups cold water
In a food processor, add the flour, kosher salt and sugar, pulse about 8-10 times to mix together. Toss in the butter and process for about 10-15 seconds, until the butter is the size of small peas.
Pour in ¼ cup of the cold water through the feed tube, adding up to ½ cup (but no more) a little at a time until the dough begins to come together about 30-35 seconds. (Humidity can sometimes be a factor when making pie dough, some days you will need all the water, some days not.)
Dump the dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper. Using the paper gently work the dough together, then split it into two equal portions and shape into round disks. Wrap the dough up in parchment paper and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Note: If you make the dough ahead and it’s been refrigerated more than an hour, let it set out at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes to make it easier to roll.
When you’re ready to roll out the piecrust, dust your surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll the dough into a round about 11-inches in diameter.
Gently roll the dough over the rolling pin and unroll into a 9” pie plate that has been lightly sprayed with a cooking spray. Trim leaving about an inch then fold the dough under and finish the edges. Chill until you’re ready to fill the pie shell.
Now the fabulous chocolate custard:
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons flour
3 extra-large eggs, whites and yolks separated (keep the whites for your meringue)
1 extra-large egg, whole
1-1/2 cups half and half
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder and flour. Make sure to get any lumps out of the cocoa powder – you can use the back of a spoon to break up the lumps if needed.
In a small bowl, beat the 3 eggs yolks and the 1 whole egg together until thick and light in color. You can use a whisk for this but I use a hand mixer, easier and faster!
Add the half and half along with the beaten eggs and the vanilla to the sugar and cocoa mixture, whisking until well blended.
Pour the custard mixture into the prepared pie shell and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.
Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and continue baking for another 30- 40 minutes or until the center is set and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
While the pie is baking, make the meringue:
5 egg whites
¾ teaspoon cream of tarter
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a large mixing bowl, using the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tarter on medium speed until the eggs are frothy.
Slowly add the sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time and whisk until the egg whites have stiff peaks and the sugar is dissolved. You can rub a bit of meringue between your fingers to make certain the sugar is dissolved. Add the vanilla, blending into the meringue.
When the pie is set, remove it from the oven and spread the meringue over the top of the chocolate custard, making sure you seal the meringue up against the edges of the pie crust. (This keeps the meringue from shrinking while baking.)
Finish baking at 325 degrees for about 10-12 minutes or until the meringue is golden in color.
Cool before slicing to let the custard set up.