My mom’s been visiting us for a few weeks. It’s been wonderful having her around. She cleans all the time, that’s just how she is, and she is a great cook. We trade off playing sous-chef for each other so we can learn a bit from our very different styles of cooking. However, I asked her not to bake any sweets while she was here. I am kind of a health nut, making her eat things like salads, fresh fruit, vegetarian curry, bean soup and freshly baked whole wheat bread. The horror! My wife is diabetic and I, well, I don’t need cookies or sticky buns or pies laying around, either. If they are around I will eat them. I will eat all of them. It is best to avoid the situation altogether.
But, mi madre would not be entirely thwarted on this front. She had to make at least one awful-for-me food item before she left. And she decided that thing would be Aunt Susie’s chocolate meringue pie. Confession: I helped her make that decision. I haven’t had Aunt Susie’s chocolate meringue pie since I was kid.
So, Mom called up Aunt Susie to get the recipe and then talked for an hour or more about this and that, occasionally coming back to the recipe and writing something down on a sheet of water-stained notebook paper.
Aunt Susie’s recipe calls for a shallow pie plate, which I do not have. So, we improvised. We doubled the chocolate filling part of the recipe. We ended up with some leftover chocolate pudding. I put the leftover pudding into three little cups, added a little whipped cream on top, and shared with everyone as a surprise treat. You can share your leftovers however you see fit, even if that means not sharing.
Here is Aunt Susie’s unaltered recipe as recorded by mi madre, with my aunt’s permission, of course.
Aunt Susie’s Chocolate Meringue Pie
Now, my aunt uses a Pilsbury™ refrigerated pie crust. It comes with two. You just roll it out, set it in your pie plate and follow the directions on the package to bake it. It’s just right for a shallow pie plate.
I didn’t feel like going out to the store, and as stated earlier I don’t have a shallow pie plate, but luckily my mom had a hunk of pie crust she made and put in my freezer on her last visit. And I love her pie crust. So we used that. She blind baked it beforehand and had it ready to go when we got started. I’ll post that recipe next week. It needs its own post.
1 C sugar
3 heaping Tbs flour
2½ to 3 Tbs of cocoa (Depending on how chocolatey you like it)
Pinch of salt
2 C of whole milk (Or mixed with half and half if you are feeling luxurious)
¼ C melted butter
3 egg yolks
The filling was a bit anti-intuitive for me. You don’t use a double boiler. It is not a finicky or delicate recipe. You basically throw it all into the pot together and start cooking till you get pudding. It’s kind of amazing. I was afraid we’d have chocolate scrambled eggs, but no such thing. I read somewhere that the flour keeps that from happening. Chemistry!
First things first. Preheat the oven to 400°.
Separate your eggs into two bowls. Set aside your egg whites for the meringue. Add your milk to the egg yolks and beat them together. Melt the butter and beat it into the egg and milk mixture.
In a one-quart saucepan add the sugar, flour, cocoa, and salt, all your dry ingredients, and give it a quick mix to combine.
Add just a little bit of the liquid ingredients and mix it up till you get a thick paste. This keeps you from getting clumps you’ll have to chase down and crush with your spoon the entire time you are cooking.
Once you have a nice chocolatey paste, add the rest of the liquid ingredients while stirring to combine it all.
Now for the cooking. Turn your heat up to medium and slowly stir. Keep stirring until it starts to boil. Stirring keeps the mixture from quickly reaching a boil, so this will take a bit of time. It’s a good thing.
Once it starts to boil, turn it down a bit, but keep stirring and letting it simmer for a few more minutes to make sure the flour gets cooked. You don’t want a raw flour taste in your pudding. At this point it should be thickened up nicely.
Please feel free to taste it… several times. You need to make sure it’s just right. That is your responsibility as a cook. You HAVE to taste it. Lots.
Pour the warm goodness into your pie crust. Fill it up to just below the top of your crust. If there is extra pudding, eat it accordingly.
My aunt actually just throws all this into the pot at once, turns up the heat and starts stirring. I don’t remember ever having a problem with her results. That’s just not how mi madre and I did it.
3 egg whites
3 Tbs of sugar (fine grain if you have it)
1 pinch cream of tarter.
The recipe is basically 1 Tbs sugar per egg white. If you want more meringue, feel free to add an additional egg white and another tablespoon of sugar. Save your extra egg yolk, or yolks, for making mayo, scrambled eggs, or an egg wash for some other bit of baking.
Beat your egg whites on high with a hand mixer until you reach the soft peak stage. This happens soon after the egg whites start to shine with a beautiful white gloss. I love watching this transformation. When you lift your beater out of the egg whites, the peaks on the beater will fold over like ocean waves crashing against the beaters.
Add your sugar and cream of tarter, which will knock back the meringue a bit, but don’t worry. Continue beating until you reach the stiff peak stage. Stiff peaks means when you lift the beaters out of the meringue and turn them over, the little peaks will stand up fairly strait, like snow-capped mountain peaks.
Meringue makes me feel poetic.
Scoop your meringue out onto your still warm pudding sitting in the pie crust. Make sure you seal the meringue to the edges of your pie crust. That means exactly what you think it means. Smooth the meringue out so that it is touching the top of the crust all the way around. Use the back of your spoon to even it out and make little waves. Then tap it with the back of the spoon and pull up to make picturesque little peaks.
Pop the pie in the oven, which you have preheated to 400°, for 4 to 6 minutes. Watch it carefully starting around the 4 minute mark. The top will be browning up some, but wait until the tips of your peaks turn dark brown before pulling it out.
Set on the counter to cool.
Text pictures to your aunt so she can see you didn’t screw it up.
After it’s cooled you can serve it up or put it in the fridge for later.
Thanks, Aunt Susie. It was a delicious treat.