Chocolate Meringue Pie

This dessert is a Texas thing.  And in my childhood, it always graced the dessert table at Thanksgiving.  Consistently one of my favorites, this is a basic pie crust containing a thick, luscious chocolate custard, much like French silk pie, but the topping is whipped, sweetened egg whites, much like you would see topping a lemon pie.  It’s a wonderful pie that I think you should definitely consider adding to your Thanksgiving spread, even if you’re not from Texas.

Until getting married, I didn’t realize this pie was a Texas thing.  I thought it was universally American and that everyone had sampled it.  But no, Matt informed me that it’s weird to top chocolate cream with meringue, and that whipped cream would be a more normal and appropriate topping.  I informed him that it’s delicious this way.  He didn’t believe me, so I made him one a couple years ago, and luckily, he is now convinced.

I want to discuss this pie crust.  This was, by far, the most ornery pie crust I have ever worked with.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s incredibly tasty; but good lord it had an attitude!  The most unusual thing about it is that is involves no butter, shortening, or lard.  The fat is a combination of vegetable oil and milk.  Sounds strange, and I suppose it is.  But I wasn’t about to write it off, I’ll try anything once.

First of all, it came together so easily, which was beautiful.  I rolled it out between two pieces of parchment paper as instructed.  That was fine.  But then the pie crust basically flipped me the bird when I tried to transfer it from the cutting board to the pie plate.  It tore, it stuck to my fingers, it stuck to the rolling pin and it just all around refused to cooperate.  I rerolled it and attempted transfer two more times before getting the hint.

My stubborn delightfully perseverant streak refused to run out to the store for a store-bought pie crust.  Come hell or high water, I was going to make this one work.  I’m happy to report that I did, though not in the way intended by the recipe.  I placed little chunks of the pie dough in the pie plate and used a combination of my hands and the bottom of a drinking glass to coax it into a normal looking crust.  Then I baked it as instructed.

I should note though, that I had to use all the dough for this, instead of being able to save half the dough for another use, as the recipe instructs.  So I simply erred on the higher side of each given cooking time, and it turned out fine.  I’ll write the recipe as written, because obviously it is humanly feasible to roll and transfer the pie crust like a normal person.  It just didn’t happen to work for me.  And if it doesn’t work for you either, then feel free to use my slap-happy method.  I don’t think your guests will know the difference.

Source: adapted from The Homesick Texan Cookbook, by Lisa Fain

Ingredients:

PIE CRUST:
2 cups flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup whole milk

PIE:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
5 tbs flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt
4 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs unsalted butter
2 egg whites
Pinch of kosher salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
4 tbs granulated sugar

Directions:

PIE CRUST:
In a bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Add to the dry ingredients the oil and milk. Stir until well combined.
Halve the dough into two balls. This is supposed to make two crusts, so you can freeze one for later use if need be. However, see my post above before you stick anything in the freezer.
Take two pieces of parchment paper and place the ball of dough in between. Roll it out to an 11″ circle. Lift the top sheet of paper off, then flip the dough into the 9″ pie pan*, lifting the paper off the dough. Press until smooth and trim the edges, using a fork or your finger to crimp for decoration.

PIE:
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Poke holes in the unbaked pie crust with a fork and bake it for 15 to 20 minutes or until it’s lightly browned. You can weight it with beans or pie weights but I found it unnecessary.
Meanwhile, mix together the 3/4 cup sugar, flour, salt, cocoa, egg yolks, and milk with a whisk. Cook in a pot on medium heat while occasionally stirring until it bubbles and thickens, 7 to 10 minutes. If it starts to become lumpy just beat out the lumps as best you can. Note that it will not get any thicker in the oven, so make sure it’s to your desired thickness at this step.
Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter.
Make the meringue: beat the egg whites with the salt and cream of tartar until smooth, light and fluffy; they should have soft peaks, like whipped cream. I use my hand mixer for quick work of beating egg whites. Fold the 4 tbs sugar into the meringue with a spatula.
Pour the chocolate custard into the baked pie shell and top with the beaten egg whites. Bake until the peaks on the meringue are lightly browned, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Let cool to room temperature before serving.

*It doesn’t say to do so in the recipe, but I always grease my pie plates before baking.

8 responses to “Chocolate Meringue Pie

  1. Chocolate pies were only occasional on our Thanksgiving dessert table, but I’d vote for them every time — especially the one in your photo! (Buttermilk was our ‘Southern’ standard.)

    • Texan New Yorker

      Ooohhh, I need to make buttermilk pie! That is my bro-in-law’s favorite. We had that one a lot too, but usually in the summer, not at Thanksgiving.

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