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It takes years of practice to get it right

August 9, 2011

You can’t make my mom’s chocolate pie.
Go ahead...try. The recipe is below. But you can’t do it.
One of my earliest memories in the kitchen is stirring the chocolate pudding in a double boiler. It was hot and I had to be very careful. I was probably around 8 when I first had this honor. I remember standing in a chair to reach the pans. The pudding requires constant stirring for thickness and to get out any lumps that may develop.
I would stir the chocolate pudding while mom whipped the egg white for a light, fluffy meringue. I hated meringue, but was completely outvoted. I could take the meringue off my piece, the family decided.
As a teenager, I wasn’t so impressed with this chore. I understand why my mom passed it off. But the “suffering” was worth it.
This recipe makes two chocolate pies. I think my dad instituted the rule that if one chocolate pie leaves the house for an event, another chocolate pie must remain in the household for us to “taste test” to make sure it is okay for public consumption.
Over the years, all of our friends have loved my mom’s chocolate pie and have the audacity to ask if mom would be making chocolate pie for dessert when they would come over.
She never used a cookbook, it was always “a little this, a little that,” so I was shocked when she said the recipe could be found in the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.
There are a few recipes I have never bothered to learn because, well, why should I when mom can do that so much better? Beyond the chocolate pie, she makes excellent biscuits and chicken dressing. And while I have written down the ingredients and watched her make all of these recipes for years, there is something missing. I can do the exact same thing and the results are completely different.
I have decided that many women have certain recipes they can make in their sleep. And since they have been making these dishes most of their lives, your first attempt, or twentieth attempt, will not necessarily go well. It will not taste the same, or in some cases look the same.
My mom’s chocolate pie is lightly sweet and the chocolate is not overbearing. The meringue is thick and fluffy with little peaks and it browns just right in the oven.
Let’s just say, all of my attempts have not been successful. I keep trying, but the first time I took my sad attempt to my parent’s house, the group revolted. My mom will just have that job from now on. Everyone decided there is no reason my mom could not make chocolate pie for every family gathering and not bother me with that chore. I will never do that again.
Try it if you like, but I am thinking this dish requires about 30 to 40 years of perfecting the recipe to get this right.

My Mom’s Chocolate Pie Recipe
Or Chocolate Cream Pie from the Better Homes and Garden Cookbook

1 baked pastry shell (mom typically makes hers from scratch, but has discovered the wonder of Pillsbury prepared pie crusts that can be rolled out — makes pie production go faster, for sure)
4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar (mom doesn’t use this much)
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 1/2 cups milk (can use half-and-half or light cream)
1 tablespoon of butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons of cocoa
* Prepare baked pastry shell. Separate egg yolks from whites; set whites aside for meringue. For filling, in a medium saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Gradually stir in milk. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly; reduce heat. Cook and stir for two minutes more. Remove from heat. Slightly beat egg yolks with a rotary beater or a fork. Gradually stir about 1 cup of the hop filling into yolks. Add egg yolk mixture to filling in saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil then reduce heat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Keep filling warm while preparing meringue.
* Pour warm filling into baked pastry shell.
Meringue
3 eggs whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
6 tablespoons sugar
* Allow egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. In large mixing bowl, combine egg whites, vanilla and cream of tarter. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for about a minute or until soft peaks form.
* Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high speed about four minutes more or until mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks and sugar dissolves.
* Immediately spread meringue over hot pie filling, carefully sealing to edge of pastry to prevent shrinkage.
* Bake in a 325 degree over for 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for an hour. My family likes to eat this pie hot, so we have never allowed cooling 3 to 6 hours before serving, but that’s what Better Homes and Gardens suggests.
It is also fantastic for breakfast the next morning...super cold from storing in the refrigerator.

Gwen Sisson is the Lifestyles Editor for Starkville Daily News. Contact her at sdnlife@bellsouth.net.

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