Pie of my love…

I place my faith in the holy bible… the Pie bible, that is.  About six or seven years ago, I ran into a book in the library by Ken Haedrich with the most elegant – verging on zen – title of Pie.  Over the years, it has generated the appropriate level of veneration amongst my friends as it has traveled between cities and been whipped on the flimsiest pretexts: holidays, birthdays, meeting new friends…

My version is a bit tired (the spine fully broke apart last week), but still serviciable.


Tough love on this text

The best part?   This bible comes complete with pie porn: giant, full page glossy pictures – in the center, no less – of slices of pie, slipped demurely from the safety of the pan, with only a few crumbs or artful dollops of whipped cream to cover their nudity while only serving to emphasize it.  Oh yes.

My roommate, G, can never decide which pie exactly is her favorite, but there is one that is definitely in the top few, now that she’s taken a break from veganism: the Black Bottom Chiffon Pie.

This pie has been known to elicit spontaneous kissing.  It’s a nutty graham cracker crumb crust filled with a semisweet chocolate pudding, a vanilla rum chiffon layer, and plenty of fresh whipped cream, topped with chocolate shavings.  Needless to say, even though it dirties every single bowl in my tiny kitchen and literally does take hours, I don’t mind making it if it’s that appreciated.  So when G’s birthday came around again shortly after I moved back in with her, Black Bottom Chiffon was never in doubt.  Enjoy!  I do.

Oh, and please excuse the poor-quality photos: Our kitchen light burned out and I do not have a fifty thousand dollar Nikon. Well, you don’t have to excuse the pictures, but be warned that if you make fun of them, I will consider it volunteering for a fundraiser to get me a new one.

Black Bottom Chiffon Pie

Recipe from Pie by Ken Haedrich.

Crust: Nutty Graham Cracker Crust

¾  cup coarsely chopped nuts of your choice
2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
¼  teaspoon ground cinnamon
Big pinch of salt
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly butter your choice of pie pan and set aside.  I suggest a deep-dish 9 inch or even a 10 inch pie because it leaves more room for piling whipped cream on top afterwards.

Crust set up
2. Combine the nuts, brown sugar, and flour in a food processor and process in a large bowl.  Run your fingers through them, breaking up any bigger pieces the machine might have missed.  Stir in the graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon, and salt.  Add the butter and incorporate well.  Mix first with a fork, then with your hands, and rub everything together thoroughly to form evenly dampened crumbs.

I don’t have a food processor in my little apartment, so to get the crumbs, I put the crackers in a gallon size zip-top bag and smacked the living daylights out of them with our miniature rolling pin.  The food processor is better, because the finer the crumbs, the more resilient the crust.  But I ended up having to chop the nuts by hand and it still turned out delicious.


Fully baked and redolent of cinnamon!

3. Spread the crumbs   evenly and loosely in the pie pan, pressing them into the bottom and up the side.  Refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Place on the center oven rack and bake for 7 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack before filling.  For ice cream pies and other icebox pies, refrigerate the thoroughly cooled pie shell for 10 minutes before filling.

Pie Filling:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

¼ cup cold water

1 ½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch

Big pinch of salt

1 cup whole milk

1 cup light cream or half-and-half

4 large egg yolks

1 ½ tablespoons rum

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar


1 cup cold heavy or whipping cream

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 ounce semisweet chocolate

Prepare the crust and press it into the bottom and up the side of a 9 ½ inch deep dish pie pan. (Or slightly larger – this is a generous pie, and very very rich.)  Refrigerate, prebake, and let cool as directed.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Yeah... I didn't have a double boiler, either.

Yeah, I didn't have a double boiler yet.

Put the butter in the top of a double boiler over, not in, barely simmering water.  Add the chocolate chips and let melt over the heat for 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat, but let the chocolate and butter remain in the top of the double boiler.   Do not whisk or stir.

Pour the water into a small bowl.  Add the gelatin and set aside to soften.


Can you spot the single store-bought egg?

Mix ½ cup of the granulated sugar, the cornstarch, and salt in a medium-size, heavy saucepan, preferably nonstick.  Add the milk, light cream, and egg yolks.  Place over medium heat and cook, whisking often, until the mixture starts to bubble and thicken, 5 to 7 minutes.  Continue to cook, whisking virtually nonstop, for about 1 ½ minutes.  Remove from the heat and pour half of the hot custard into the chocolate mixture.  Whisk until evenly blended. Quickly pour the chocolate custard into the chilled pie shell and smooth to even the top.  Stir the gelatin, rum, and vanilla into the custard left in the pan, pour the rum custard into a large bowl and let cool for about 15 minutes.

At this point (slightly before, actually) it’s best to decide how you want your pie to look.  I’m pretty half and half (chocolate to vanilla) on the pie fillings, but I’ve made a particularly beautiful version of this one where I put only about a third of the pudding into the chocolate, so it was a very thin, dense layer of chocolate with a tall, fluffy chiffon.  It all depends on your decision between texture and visual appeal.  The more pudding in the vanilla rum custard, the less airy it is.  But the less pudding in the vanilla rum custard, the more startling the color layers are.

Thicker layer of chocolate pudding in this iteration

Thicker layer of chocolate pudding in this iteration

Egg whites

Soft peaks!

Using an electric mixer, beat the 3 reserved egg whites and cream of tartar together in a medium-size bowl until they hold soft peaks.

Start adding the remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating the white until they

Stiff Peaks

Hokusai peaks

are stiff and glossy. Fold about one-third of the beaten whites and fold until evenly blended. Scrape the rum custard over the chocolate custard, smoothing the top with a spoon.  Cover with loosely tented aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.


Now to chill!

Shortly before serving, using a chilled medium-size bowl and chilled beaters, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer until it holds soft peaks.  Add the confectioners sugar and continue to beat until stiff but not grainy.  Smooth the shipped cream evenly over the pie, then grate the chocolate on top.  Slice and serve.

I actually prefer to slice, then dollop on the whipped cream, because the pie itself keeps in the fridge for a day or two.   However, the whipped cream will break down within a few hours.  If you are slow pie eaters (I am, my roommate not so much), then it’s better to buy a can of whipped cream and nurse (savor) the pie over a few days.

Pie opened

Isn't it pretty?

Pie slice

Blurry picture of the final product. By the time I realized it was blurry, the pie was gone...


4 Responses to “Pie of my love…”

  1. 1 lookbackwithwonder February 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    In my printing of the book, it never says when or where to add the gelatin. I was making this for Thanksgiving a few years ago, and must have read the recipe 10 times trying to find it. The vanilla custard layer didn’t set at all; the whole thing was like liquid pudding. Anyways, I’m glad it was corrected & now I can try again! Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. lol

    • 2 desasdishes February 25, 2012 at 11:10 pm

      I’m so glad this was actually helpful for someone! I remember the first time I made it I had my two fillings separated and flavored and I was looking around for my spoon when I saw the gelatin sitting there on the counter and went…wait…
      I wish you the best of luck in reversing your pie jinx!

  2. 3 Sandra Horne December 24, 2012 at 4:22 am

    Thank you so much for this recipe online. I always make pies for family gatherings. I make some tried-and-true, and always a random one from the book (my pie bible!). This year the newcomer was the chocolate chiffon pie… and I was stuck on where to use the gelatin. So I googled… and was brought here. Thank you so much for saving me from certain disaster! (I wrote it into my book so I will know for next time!)

    • 4 desasdishes December 24, 2012 at 4:48 am

      Wow! I’m glad to be of help 🙂 This one is a big fave in my family, so I hope that it all set up right.

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Hey, I'm Desa. I've been bouncing between the Pacific Northwest and Sevilla, Spain in the last few years and from tiny apartment to tiny apartment. I cook mainly for one, which means some potentially boring meals, but here I'll be sharing the food that excites me. Feel free to offer suggestions, commiseration, or desires. And thanks for coming by!


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