As someone whose life revolves so much around food, I’m lucky to have friends with a shared enthusiasm for the art of cooking (and eating!). Log into my Facebook newsfeed on any given day and you’ll find a hunger-inducing catalog of recipe shares and food photos. When my friend, Elsie, posted a picture on New Year’s Eve of a Chocolate Stout Cream Pie with Irish Cream Whipped Cream that she made, my mind instantly skipped ahead to St. Patrick’s Day on the blog. For this recipe, I infused my favorite homemade chocolate pie filling with dry stout, and, following Elsie’s lead, spiked the traditional whipped cream topping. The stout’s roasted aromas complement the chocolate well without taking over, for a festive, grownup twist on a classic. Thanks for the great idea, Elsie, it’s a winner!
Making chocolate cream pie filling from scratch is a process that’s well worth the effort in terms of both flavor and texture. Compared to boxed “cook-and-fill” mixes, there are just a few more prep steps involved to measure the ingredients and chop the chocolate. Beyond that, the cooking process is similar. Basically, you’re going to make a batch of homemade chocolate (or, as here, chocolate stout) pudding on the stove, strain it for the silkiest texture, and mix it with chocolate and a bit of butter while it’s still hot. Then, just pour the cooled pudding into a blind-baked pie shell and chill. The end result is incomparably decadent!
The stout in this pie is subtle, but its cocoa and coffee undertones enhance the flavor of the dark chocolate (similar to the trick of adding powdered espresso to chocolate recipes). We like the pie best with a stout that is dry, but not too bitter. Our North East favorite for both drinking and cooking these days is Cadillac Mountain (Bar Harbor/Atlantic Brewing in Maine), but the more widely-distributed Murphy’s would also be good here (if I’m not mistaken, this is what Elsie used). Of course, if you’re not a stout fan and wanted to turn this into a more traditional chocolate cream pie, you could certainly omit it and increase the milk to a full 2 cups.
In a recipe with so few main ingredients, quality is key. For the most delectable results, use a good quality chocolate (I used Scharffen Berger here). While I often use “bittersweet” (70% cacao) in cream pies, we found it a little too assertive when paired with the stout. Switching to the “dark chocolate semisweet” bar (62% cacao) gave the pie a nicely-balanced flavor that was sweet, but not cloyingly so. Since the bittersweet/semisweet distinction varies by brand (others, for example, term their 60% cacao “bittersweet”), try to look for a chocolate that is in the 50-60% cacao range.
I’m not the most patient person in the world when it comes to keeping my fork out of chocolate desserts sitting in the refrigerator, but for the most sliceable pie, you really want to give this 6-8 hours chill time before serving. Not that the pie will taste any less delicious with a shorter rest period, but unless you want to eat it in a bowl with a spoon (no judgment, no shame!), the filling needs adequate time to set. To avoid weeping, it’s best to whip the spiked cream and top the pie just before serving, but if you need to increase its longevity, the gelatin stabilization tip has always worked well for me. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
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