i was raised mostly by my grandparents, so I had the privilege of getting to watch her prepare for holidays. There was something special about them – magical, even. Nanny had special things she’d only make for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so it made it even more special. There were three main things she would always make: red velvet cake with sweet coconut frosting, jam cake, and chocolate pie.
My father and mother divorced when I was a wee tot, but he raved about my grandmother’s chocolate pies for all of my life – even today. When he found out that my mother had given me the recipe he was quite ecstatic. This is still a work in progress for me to perfect the pies; after all, I’ve baked like four of them compared to my grandmother’s 100 billion over the years. Hopefully I’ll one day have a daughter to pass this along to in order to keep the recipes going down our family line, but until then I want to share it with all of you.
Nanny’s Chocolate Pie
1 pie crust (not the graham cracker kind. You can either make your own, get the refrigerated crusts or get the frozen ones already in tins)
The Pie Filling:
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups milk
5 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 c cocoa
3 egg yolks, beaten (will use whites in meringue)
1 tsp vanilla
3 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
First things first: heat the oven to 350 and prick the pie crust all over with a fork. Bake it for about ten minutes, or until it’s golden. Ignore the lopsidedness of one side. It fell after I threw it in there and I didn’t notice in time.
Grab a large saucepan. Add the sugar, milk, cornstarch and cocoa. Put the heat on medium and whisk fairly constantly. When the mixture starts to warm, add in the eggs. Continue to stir with the whisk, making sure the bottom stays scraped well, until the mixture thickens. It should take 20-30 minutes for it to fully cook.
When it’s done remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the mixture into the cooked shell. It should look something like this. Then eat any remaining filling from the pot (making sure you don’t burn your tongue). That was always my job as a child. Still rewarding as an adult.
Now it’s time to make the meringue. In a bowl put the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar together. Beat on high til the cows come home.
It’s going to take a good long while to beat this into submission. The mixture should stiffen and form peaks as you mix it. That’s when you know it’s ready. It should resemble something like this:
Now’s a good time to preheat your oven to 350. At this point it’s time to pile the meringue onto the pie. I used a silicone spatula for this and it’s going to be a tough job. You want to get it all the way to the edge and sort of pile it up as you go, and there might be some spreading involved. If you get some of the chocolate into the meringue it’s okay. I forgot to take a pic until after I already set it in the oven, but you get the drift:
You bake it until the meringue is browned. This pie could have stayed in a bit longer and in hindsight it probably should have. It still tasted delicious though! A few notes: It’s best to let this pie cool – even in the fridge for a day or so would be awesome. It could be runny if you cut into it immediately but don’t despair. It should be fine the next day. This is definitely a pie that likes to sit.
Next time, I prepare my Nanny’s jam cake. This is my favorite dessert in the history of desserts and I’ve almost eaten a whole square one this holiday season by myself. Jesus take the wheel.