Saturday, February 13, 2010

For your valentine: Fabulous French Silk Pie

2/3/10 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

One of my very favorite chocolate desserts is French Silk Pie. Although the pie supposedly dates back to the 1600s in France, it was introduced to cooks in the U.S. during the 1951 Pillsbury Bake-Off contest. There, Betty Cooper, from Kensington, MD garnered raves and a first place prize of $1000 for her recipe that raises chocolate pie from ordinary to gourmet.

Distilled to its essence, French Silk Pie is a velvety chocolate mousse covered in whipped cream. This unbelievably rich concoction of whipping cream, sugar, eggs, butter, and melted chocolate is one of a very few desserts when eating just a sliver of it will satisfy my sweet tooth. Most men can eat a couple of slivers.

I was still in junior high when Cooper won her prize and it wasn’t until the late 1970s that my friend Lillian brought a French Silk Pie to one of our frequent potluck dinners. She had gotten the recipe from So. Calif. Edison Co. (In those days, utility companies had test kitchens!) It quickly became her signature dish at future potlucks!

Today there are probably as many recipes for this famous pie as there are pie makers. I have seen recipes claiming that the only true French Silk Pie is peppermint flavored and served in a graham cracker crust. Although I have never a peppermint mousse style pie, it does sound tasty.

All of the original recipes for the pies were no-bake. They were easy to put together. All you had to do was melt the chocolate; beat the butter and sugar until fluffy and beat in the remaining ingredients, including raw eggs. And therein lies a problem.

Today, the USDA suggests that we not eat raw eggs due to the possibility of salmonella (SE) contamination. That puts a number of family favorites on shaky ground, including the famous Caesar salad. Those particularly at risk of an SE infection are infants, young children, older adults, pregnant women and people with a compromised immune system.

So, Pillsbury suggests on their website that we use pasteurized eggs or a fat-free egg product in uncooked egg dishes to eliminate food safety concerns. Pasteurized eggs would be my preference because I have not had good results using commercial egg substitutes.

There are a couple of things you can do to be sure this pie is fluffy. First, remember that chocolate can be tricky to melt. So go ahead and spring for the pre-melted. It’s much easier than melting the chocolate hunks, your product will not be grainy and the packets have a long shelf life. The extra cost is worth a substandard pie. Also, be sure and beat the ingredients for the amount of time suggested. Don’t skimp and think that beating for one minute will suffice when the recipe calls for two or three minutes until “fluffy.” Allot the extra time needed.

Today’s first Silk Chocolate Pie recipe is the original contest winner and calls for dark, unsweetened chocolate. The second recipe is a little more complex and calls for semi-sweet chocolate with an added layer of pecans and caramel. The resulting product is sinfully rich. In fact, I’m tempted to tell you to forget the caramel sauce. Or at least reduce the amount to 1/2 cup. Anyway, let your conscience be your guide but if you use it all, don’t say I didn’t tell you so. Enjoy!

French Silk Chocolate Pie
Pillsbury 1951 Bake-Off winner Betty Cooper

1 Pie Crust, baked and cooled
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, cut into pieces
1 cup butter, softened (not margarine)
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 pasteurized eggs or 1 cup egg substitute

1/2 cup sweetened whipped cream
Chocolate curls, if desired

In 1-quart saucepan, melt chocolate over low heat; cool. In small bowl with electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar until light and fluffy Beat in cooled chocolate and vanilla until well blended.

Add eggs one at a time, beating on high speed two min. after each addition; beat until mixture is smooth and fluffy. Pour into pie shell. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate curls. Cover and refrigerate any remaining pie.

Caramel French Silk Pie
Ladies’ Home Journal

1 (9-inch) baked pastry shell
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces (6 oz)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons crème de cacao (or whipping cream)
1 (12-1/4 oz) caramel ice cream topping (1 cup)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans or almonds

Chocolate curls, if desired
Whipped cream

In a medium heavy saucepan, combine 1 cup whipping cream, chocolate pieces, sugar and butter. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted, about 10 min. Remove from heat. Gradually stir half of the hot mixture into beaten egg yolks. Return egg mixture to chocolate mixture in saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is slightly thickened and starts to bubble, about 5 min. Remove from heat. (Mixture may appear to separate. Stir in crème de cacao.

Place saucepan in a bowl of ice cubes and cold water. Stir occasionally until mixture stiffens and becomes hard to stir, about 20 min. Transfer chocolate mixture to a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 min.

Spread caramel ice cream topping in bottom of pastry shell. Sprinkle with pecans. Spread chocolate mixture in pastry shell. Cover and chill 5-24 hours.

Garnish pie with chocolate curls and serve with whipped cream. Makes 8-10 servings.

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