Been turning this chocolate pie over in my mind for the past couple weeks, triggered by a want to bake you something for your birthday and by a strong pie craving. I was after a specific texture – a ‘Joe chocolate texture’ – thick, velvety chocolate mousse in the centre, surrounded by a very dense, almost brownie like chocolate mud cake exterior, all topped off by a shiny sugar crust. I wanted it in a chocolate pastry case too. Here’s how I went about my choc pie quest: I looked at cheesecake, brownie and chess pie recipes, custard and mouse recipes and had a long look at that chocolate mud cake you were obsessed with when we were young. The calculator even came out to get the ratios right.
And here it is. In all its pie glory. Between a chocolate mousse, a thick chocolate pudding and a chocolate cheesecake; the centre has an unexpected delicateness to it, left untouched it holds its own weight – and it is weighty – but relaxes and melts on impact from a fork or hands eager for pie. This centre is encased by the densest chocolate mud cake you’ve ever eaten, which is all wrapped in a bitter, sweet and flaky chocolate pastry case. These layers of texture form in the oven, the only trick is knowing when to pull it from the heat. It goes in a viscous chocolate mixture and comes out puffed up, seemingly liquid under a firm set glassy sugar crust. The pie exhales as it cools and sets satisfyingly firm.
Before the pie, or baked into it, are my thoughts about usefullness, of which I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. People really do need to feel useful. Hold that thought in your head, and you’ll start to see it everywhere. Getting a job is a great example of being useful, it’s a given that, unless there’s a specific reason you can’t work, you need to get a job, so that you can provide, do, or fix things for other people. Obviously, getting a job is important for keeping everything, like the economy (lol out of my depth here), going, but the resulting feeling of use provided by having a job to do is bound up, sometimes messily, with a notion, my notion, of self. I’m talking about things like self-worth, being needed, having a direction. As I write this, I remember we had a conversation similar to what I’m tentitivly scratching at here in a piazza in Naples this summer.
I wasn’t aware that the need to be useful was quite so strong a part of me, until I got the job I’m in now. I feel fulfilled after working, and I notice that same fulfilment in friends who are similarly at a post student moment of their life. The need to be useful skates close to a deeper, more private notion of self, called purpose. ‘I work, I am useful. I have a purpose, I am needed’ is beautifully simple mantra that signals a warm feeling of being at the right place, in the right time, doing the right thing. And we all love to be right; it forms part of the fabric of bubble wrap we are ‘fragile, handle with care’ taped in.
Thinking back on that convo in Naples, I remember we feel something similar. Only, our expectations of the work we do in our life surpass ‘usefulness’ – it seems we shoot for exceptional. This way, no one, even ourselves, can question our sense of self, our worth, that we are needed, or that we have direction.
If you’re not Joe and reading this observation as a big congratulation to the two of us for being really great, (we are, but) you’re missing my point, and I’m sorry about that. I hope this makes things clearer: my version of finding purpose, my usefulness – and everyone has their own way – was born out of circumstances that stretched my child self’s capacity of usefulness beyond what I could give. And for Joe, repeatedly felt the brunt, a harsh brunt, of supposedly not being usefull enough. I’m treading cearfully here so as not to write something I would later rather not be publiclly accessable, but you could say, the way me and Joe grew up left us feeling we had something to prove, something to fight against.
The ease with which the feeling of lacking purpose, of not being useful, finds me at the moment, is really quite impressive. There’s no failure in this, although it can feel like that, because if framed in the context of starting to work after finishing uni, it makes a lot of sense. It is becoming clear to me that we’re all making up our purpose, all the time.
My feeling of lacking in purpose becomes a bit spikey when met with that large part of me left over from when I was young that had to do a lot of fighting to prove my usefulness, or fighgint to prove, perhaps to myself, that everything was ok. I wonder if it’s similar for you Joe, might not be, maybe I should ask you lol.
We don’t have anything to prove, Joe. We are, it seems, incredibly useful, very needed, and have purpose, most of the time, for example, I purposefully went to Lidl after work to get cream cheese so I could bake you this pie. And it’s a peng pie !!!
Note On Oven Time – This pie has quite a long bake, don’t wait for it to firm up before pulling it from the oven. It won’t. This is essentially a brownie recipe combined with key elements of a cheesecake, cream, cream cheese and a low flour to batter ratio. Just like a brownie and a cheesecake, you don’t want them to bake until firm, you want them to bake and then set in the fridge. It will need at least 4 hours in the fridge before it set enough to slice, a safe bet is to let it sit in the fridge overnight before slicing. Store the pie in the fridge, covered well for up to 4 days.
For the Pastry
- 155g plain flour
- 30g cocoa powder
- 30g sugar
- 100g butter – cubed and cold
- 1 egg yolk – keep the egg white to brush the interiro of the pie shell during blind baking
- 2.5 – 3 table spoons cold water
For the Pie Filling
- 80g butter
- 170g dark chocolate – roughly chopped
- 120g cream cheese – at room temperature
- 3 medium eggs + 1 egg yolk
- 370g caster sugar
- 80g double cream
- 35g plain flour
- 35g cocoa powder
- pinch of salt
Start by making the pastry. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the cold cubed butter, rubbing the butter into the flour mixture with fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs with some larger, slightly bigger than pea size chunks of floury butter. Add the egg yolk – reserving the egg white for blind baking – followed by 2.5 tablespoons of water. Bring the crumbly mixture together into a tight ball by squeezing with your hands. If the mixture is too crumbly to hold a ball, add the extra half a tablespoon of water. Press the ball into a thick disk shape and wrap in cling film. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 mins, and up to 24 hours.
Pre heat the oven to 180 / 160 fan. Thoroughly grease a deep 8inch pie dish or shallow cake tin including the rim of the dish – if you use a springform or loose bottom cake tin, like I did, you can lift the whole pie out of the tin before cutting, it looks cool, no other reason. Dust the tin or dish with cocoa powder if you’re worried about it sticking.
Remove the pastry from the fridge. Using a rolling pin, roll it out to a rough circle about 1/4 of an inch thick. Line your prepared tin with the pastry, making sure there are no cracks in the pastry, and it is flush with the edges of the tin. There will be some overhanging pastry, squash these bits together to rest on top of the rim of the dish – forming a thick pastry crust around the pie as it bakes. Prick the base with a fork, cover with greaseproof paper, weigh it down with baking beads or uncooked rice and blind bake the pie crust for 15 mins.
Take it out the oven, remove the weighted greaseproof to expose the pastry case, brush the interior liberally with the reserved egg white – this will act as a barrier between the pastry and the liquid filling. Return to the oven for a further 3 minutes. Once out the oven, allow to cool while you make the filling.
When you are ready to make the filling make sure the oven is on at 180 / 160 fan. Melt the butter and chopped chocolate together over a bain-marie, stirring occasionally. Once melted, take off the heat and set the mixture aside.
Using a whisk, loosen up the cream cheese in a large bowl so it becomes smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking vigorously in between each addition to combine – you don’t want to whisk air into the mixture, you just want to ensure there are not lumps. Now stir in the egg yolk, followed by the sugar and double cream.
Pour in the melted chocolate and stir again. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and give the batter a final mix, until no dry patches of flour are visible. Pour the mixture into the pastry case and bake for 1 hour and 10 mins. The pie will be puffed up and when gently shaken the middle will have a liquid wabble beneath the set crust. Allow to cool in the cake tin or pie dish at room temp before setting the pie in the fridge for at least 4 hours, and preferably overnight.
If you are using a cake tin, it is easiest to remove the tin once the pie has been chilled. To get a nice cut of the pie, run a large knife under just boiled water, wipe the knife and cut into the pie, repeat for each slice. The pie will keep for up to 4 days, in the fridge and covered well.
Enjoy the pie Joe xx