Pie Revival

Chocolate French Silk Pie & Butterscotch Pecan Meringue Pie

November 12, 2017

Making pie crusts is such a soothing thing. A quieting, settling-in ritual that centers you in one place and time as you sift the flour, sugar and salt, cut in the butter, gently pinch the butter bits into even tinier bits with your fingertips and stir in just a bit of cold cream. I thoroughly enjoy the process—and you may too. So try handmaking your crusts this time, instead of buying pre-made! The results are worthy of these dreamy, vintage fillings.

The first—a chocolatey French Silk, is a classic, piled high with whipped cream and chocolate curls on top, and then frozen ‘til service. The recipe is a reboot of a favorite from long-gone Major Petrie’s Wagon Wheel Playhouse in Warsaw, IN, which had a restaurant at the top of the hill, and shut down in 1970.

The second is a 1950’s butterscotch meringue I reworked from a community cookbook of indeterminate provenance when reader Gloria N. wrote in search of a 1950s butterscotch pie “so rich it tickled the back of my throat.” I suspect this pie might also hail from Indiana, since it resembles that old-time Hoosier favorite, sugar cream pie, but with the addition of egg yolks in the filling, and whites in the fluffy meringue topping. This pie, to my taste, is especially good with toasted, chopped pecans adding crunch and contrast to the buttery-smooth filling.  But if you prefer smooth-on-smooth, leave the nuts out.

Chocolate French Silk Pie & Butterscotch Pecan Meringue Pie
Serves 12
Chocolatey French Silk, piled high with whipped cream, and, a decadent butterscotch meringue, with toasted pecans in the filling
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Ingredients
  1. For two nine-inch crusts
  2. 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  3. 3 teaspoons sugar
  4. ½ teaspoons salt
  5. 1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter
  6. 3 to 5 tablespoons cold cream
For fillings
  1. Butterscotch Meringue Pie
  2. 1 stick butter
  3. 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  6. 1/2 cup cream
  7. 4 eggs, separated (yolks in one bowl for the filling; whites in another for the meringue)
  8. 1 1/2 cups very cold milk
  9. 3 tablespoons corn starch
  10. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  11. 1 cup toasted and chopped pecans (optional—but they add a nice crunch and textural counterpoint to the smooth butterscotch)
  12. 1/2 cup sugar for the meringue
  13. Chocolate French Silk Pie
  14. 1 cup butter
  15. 1 1/2 cups sugar
  16. 4 ounces (4 squares) high quality unsweetened baking chocolate
  17. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  18. 4 eggs (use pasteurized for safety)
  19. 2 cups heavy whipping cream, for topping
  20. ½ cup sugar, for sweetening the whipped cream
  21. chocolate curls, or shavings for garnish
Make crusts
  1. Sift the flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter, or two knives, cut in the butter until it looks like a bowl full of flour-covered peas. Then, using cool fingertips, lightly pinch and break up the pea-sized bits of butter into smaller pieces until the mixture looks like wet sand. Add a few tablespoons of the cold cream and stir with a fork. Pick up a handful of the mixture and squeeze: if it holds together, you’ve added enough liquid. If not, add just a bit more.
  2. At this point, the dough will still be pretty crumbly, and not sticky at all. Spread your work surface with two sheets of plastic wrap, each about two feet wide, overlapped at the seam to make one big square. Scoop the-still-crumbly dough out of the mixing bowl and onto the plastic and then pull the edges of the wrap up and squeeze the mass into a ball. Then, keeping the dough in the plastic, flatten the ball into a disk about 8 inches across. Cut the disk in half. Spread the table with two more sheets of fresh plastic, reshape one of the disk halves into a flat circle, center it on the plastic, cover it with two more sheets of plastic and roll the dough out to about a 9-inch circular sheet. Repeat that procedure with the remaining dough, (i.e. sheets of plastic, dough circle, plastic on top, roll-out.) Finally, place both flattened, plastic-wrap-encased dough sheets on a large platter and refrigerate them for one hour.
Bake Crusts
  1. Preheat oven to 425. Place oven rack at the center position. Remove pie crusts from refrigerator. Roll each out to a circumference two inches larger than your two, deep-dish 9 inch baking dishes. Fit each pie crust into a pie dish, easing the dough into the bottom of each dish to ensure there are no air pockets. Fold and crimp the top edge of each pie shell. Prick the bottom of each shell with a fork all the way around. Fit a piece of parchment paper into each pie shell; fill each shell with 4 cups of dried beans, or pie weights.
  2. Place crust-lined pie plates into the oven; bake for 8 to 10 minutes until the crust is lightly golden.
  3. Remove pie shells from the oven. Remove the parchment and weights from each pie dish. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Place the pie shells back in the oven and continue baking an additional 5 minutes. Remove finished pie shells from the oven; cool on a rack.
  4. Make Butterscotch Meringue Pie Filling
  5. Melt butter in medium-sized heavy skillet over medium low heat. Sift the flour with the salt and whisk into the melted butter in the pan. Continue cooking and whisking for two minutes. Add sugar, breaking up and whisking into the mixture. Whisk in the cream and continue to stir over medium low heat for five minutes, until mixture is bubbly and caramel like. Remove the pan from heat and set aside momentarily.
  6. In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with ½ cup of the cold milk. Set aside.
  7. In another small bowl, stir cornstarch with ¼ cup of the remaining milk until smooth.
  8. Whisk ½ cup of the filling mixture from the pan into the milky egg to temper the egg.
  9. Return the filling skillet to the cooktop over low heat; whisk in the remaining ¾ cup cold milk and quickly also whisk in the tempered egg yolk mixture and the cornstarch/milk mixture.
  10. Continue to whisk the filling over low heat about 10 to 15 minutes until quite thick. Stir in the vanilla until well incorporated. Add the (optional) chopped toasted pecans.
  11. Cool. Spread the filling into the baked pie shell.
  12. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  13. Whip egg whites until they hold a soft peak. Whip sugar in gradually. Pile meringue over filling. Bake at 400 degrees for a scant 4 to 5 minutes until meringue is delicately browned.
  14. Remove pie from oven. Cool on a rack. Place in refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight. The filling needs at least four hours to properly set up before slicing and serving.
  15. Make Chocolate Silk Pie Filling
  16. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter with the sugar on high speed until light and fluffy.
  17. Melt chocolate in microwave at 50% power.
  18. Blend the melted chocolate with the vanilla—it will clump up into a paste. Beat this into the butter and sugar mixture.
  19. Add eggs, one at a time, beating a full 5 minutes after each addition. Note: This is important—whipping the eggs a long time aerates the filling giving it the light, smooth texture you want.
  20. Fold the mixture into the baked pie shell and chill the pie. Once cool, whip the cream with the sugar. Spread the whipped cream over the pie.
  21. Garnish with chocolate curls or shavings. Freeze pie until ready to serve.
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