Baking Pie Pies & Tarts

Impeccable French Silk Chocolate Pie

My favorite pie of all time – in spite of how tedious it is to make. This French silk chocolate pie is 100% worth the nuisance, but it involves a lot of time holding a hand mixer.

This French silk chocolate pie is, without a doubt, my absolute favorite pie. It’s so stinkin good. It’s also pretty annoying to make, so I tend to default to my standard (also delicious) chocolate cream pie unless I’m feeling especially fancy. But if I’ve got a special occasion that warrants some culinary nuisance? This is the pie I reach for.

So, why have I prefaced my deep adoration for this chocolate confection with the warning that it’s super annoying to make? Not to deter you. Just to make it clear that this is a labor of some love. Not totally over-the-top love – this is could technically be classified as a level two hassle (though I opted for level three below). It doesn’t require unusual ingredients or any especially elaborate multi-step processes. It just requires that you have an electric hand mixer and that you then hold the dang thing for like… 20 minutes. That’s the annoying part.

French silk pie is actually an American pie from the 1950s. It’s (traditionally) made with raw eggs, which is a bit of a no-go these days. The recipe below is adapted from America’s Test Kitchen who (quite sensibly) have you heat the eggs to an appropriate temperature before incorporating into the filling. However, in order to achieve the glorious mousse-like consistency, you have to beat a whole lot of air into said eggs both during and after cooking. Hence: the seemingly endless amount of time holding a hand mixer.

I do promise it’s worth it, though. I just don’t want anyone to walk away from this recipe feeling like I failed to prepare you for the level of nuisance. At least the crust is less hassle than other recipes!

Most of your standard French silk pies come in a pastry crust. And that’s cool, I guess. So do standard chocolate cream pies. But I’ve never really understood that trend. To me, a crumb crust is absolutely the way to go when you’ve got a cream or custard or mousse filling. For one thing, crumb crusts are way easier. For another, they tend to add more to the wonderful chocolatey goodness when you’re leaning into a chocolate pie. They also are less prone to getting soggy. Since this pie is refrigerated, a flaky pastry crust is just going to end up damp and sad in the fridge.

Anyway. I love this pie and felt it high time I finally shared it well in advance of Pie Day! (National Pie Day is January 23 for some reason or other, but I think most of us celebrate on March 14).

slice of french silk pie along with pie day half marathon medal

Ingredients are listed in the order they appear in the recipe and anything that requires prep is in bold. Ingredients are bolded in the directions when you first encounter themand the quantity required is included. Time estimates are bolded and italicized. I also include notes about any special equipment you’ll need.

Hassle Level Three  (3/4): equipment and time. This requires an electric mixer and an instant-read thermometer, and it takes a lot of time between mixing and cooling.

Required equipment: a 9 or 10-inch deep-dish pie plate, an electric mixer of some kind, an instant-read thermometer, and a food processor is ideal but not entirely necessary. 

For the crust

  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons (30g) Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1¾ cups (175g) graham cracker crumbs (roughly 10-12 cracker sheets)
  • 3 tablespoons (55 grams) packed light brown sugar (dark is okay, too)
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt

For the filling

  • 8 ounces (226g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped (dark chocolate chips will work, too)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened

Prep work: For the filling – set out 1 stick of butter into chunks and set out to soften/bring to room temperature. For the crust – in the bowl of a food processor, process the graham crackers until finely ground. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a ziplock bag and a rolling pin to crush the crackers into crumbs – just try and get them as fine as possible. You can then mix the ingredients together by hand in a large bowl.

First, make the crust:

In a small saucepan, melt the 6 tablespoons butter (you can also do this in the microwave, but it always explodes on me, so I stick to the stove top). Remove from heat and whisk in 3 tablespoons (30g) Dutch-process cocoa powder, ½ teaspoon espresso powder, and 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix until smooth.

Once you have the 1¾ cups (175g) graham cracker crumbs finely ground in the bowl of the food processor, add the 3 tablespoons (55 grams) light brown sugar and ⅛ teaspoon salt. Pulse to combine. Then, pour in the butter mixture and pulse until the crumbs are moistened throughout, resembling wet sand. 

Pour mixture into the deep-dish pie plate. Using your fingers, spread the crumbs evenly around the bottom and up the sides of the pan. I typically like to start with the sides, but that’s a personal preference. Make sure to press the brumbs firmly so that they stick to each other and the pie plate. Pay special attention to the crease between the bottom and sides to seal up any gaps and cracks.

Place the crust in the freezer and start preheating the oven to 350° F. Chill the crust for at least 10 minutes before baking (so, roughly how long it’ll take to preheat the oven).

Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool while you make the filling. [Note: I used to not bother pre-baking crumb crusts, but it really does make a difference. It heats the butter and sugar enough to create a better bond between the crumbs – so your pie slice will have more structural integrity].

Then, make the filling:

If you haven’t already, chop the 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate. Melt either on the stovetop over low heat or in the microwave in 15-30 second bursts. Stir to smooth out all the lumps and then set aside to cool.

Next, whip the 1 cup heavy cream. Either in the bowl of a stand mixer or with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whip cream to stiff peaks, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer whipped cream to small bowl and refrigerate. Clean off the beaters of the electric mixer, as you’ll need them for the next phase.

Get out a large, heatproof bowl and set over a medium saucepan filled with ½ inch barely simmering water (don’t let bowl touch water). In the bowl, combine 3 eggs, ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons water. With the electric mixer on medium speed, beat until the egg mixture is thickened and registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 8 to 12 minutes.

Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat egg mixture until fluffy and cooled to room temperature, about 8 to 10 more minutes. You can tell it’s cooled enough when the sides of the bowl are no longer warm to the touch.

Then, add the chocolate and 1 tablespoon vanilla to the egg mixture and continue to beat until incorporated. (The mixture will deflate some at this point, but don’t worry about it). Next, beat in the softened stick of butter, a few pieces at a time, until well combined. Now you can finally set the mixer aside!

 Using a silicone spatula, fold in the whipped cream until no streaks of white remain.

Scrape filling into the cooled pie crust and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours. 

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