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    Entries in homemade is best (63)

    Tuesday
    May032016

    Chocolate Cream Pie Done Right

    Recently, I was having a serious craving for chocolate cream pie. Easy enough, right? Just drop into the nearest diner and pick up a slice. Yeah, not so much. After much googling and wracking of my brain, I eventually decided I would have to make my own. I couldn’t find a place locally that I could be sure wouldn’t disappoint. Since I’d never made a chocolate cream pie before, I needed to do some research. Off to Pinterest and Google, then. For some reason, every recipe I looked at had either cocoa or chocolate. When given the opportunity to use both, why on earth would you pass it up?? I mean, we’re making CHOCOLATE cream pie, after all. Now chocolaty pudding pie, or chocolate-ish custard pie. Well, I went all in, and boy did it pay off.

    Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • 1 pie crust
    • 1 cup sugar
    • ¼ cup cornstarch
    • ¼ cup cocoa
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 4 large egg yolks
    • 3 cups whole milk
    • 4 ounces dark chocolate
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla 

    Before you get started on the filling, you’ll need a pie crust. I used a frozen one form Trader Joes, and it was fantastic. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making your own, I highly recommend theirs. Either way, the crust needs to be blind baked until it’s nicely golden and then cooled completely. Once that’s done, go ahead and chop your chocolate. Once again, I turned to Trader Joes for that. I love their pound plus bars.

    Put that aside, and into a medium sized saucepan, sift the cornstarch and cocoa.

    Stir that together with the sugar and salt.

    Separate 4 eggs, placing the yolks in bowl. Give them a quick whisk.

    Here’s another place where I parted company from all the recipes I found. Even my own recipes, in the past, have always said to heat the milk and then temper the yolks before adding them to the mixture. At some point, my brain said, “if you’re going to bring it to a boil once the eggs are in anyway, why not just add them in the beginning?” It seemed like sound enough logic to me, so I did it, and it worked beautifully. So, go ahead and add the egg yolks to the milk and whisk that thoroughly.

    Pour that mixture over the dry ingredients. Stir everything together and turn the heat to medium.

    At first, it’s going to be a bit messy, but don’t worry.

    As it warms up, it will sort itself out. Just keep whisking and stirring. I like to alternate between a whisk and a silicone spatula.

    Continue stirring until it reaches a boil and becomes nice and thick, then turn off the heat.

    Add the chopped chocolate and stir until it’s completely melted and incorporated.

    Next, add the butter and vanilla. And yes, more stirring.

    Now, just to be safe, pour the pudding through a mesh strainer. This will ensure that you have no lumps (cornstarch, cocoa, curdled egg, whatever). It’s quite thick, so you’ll have to stir it to get it through the strainer.

    And don’t forget to scrape everything off of the underside. There’s lots of deliciousness stuck there.

    Now, pour the finished pudding into the prepared pie crust and level it out on top.

    Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Allow it to cool, and then refrigerate it for at least 3 or 4 hours. Overnight would be even better.

    When the pie is nice and cold, whip some cream. 

    • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
    • ¼ cup powdered sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla 

    Whip until it’s nice and stiff. Although, be careful not to go too far. I’ve never actually had it happen, but apparently it will turn to butter at some point.

    I piped the whipped cream onto my pie, but you can just spread it if you’d prefer.

    Now, to make it pretty, top it with some finely grated chocolate. Just warm the chocolate slightly between your hands, and grate it on the finest side of a box grater. How gorgeous is that?

    This pie is creamy, chocolaty, and delicious. Hubby said it was the best pie he’s ever tried. That’s a huge compliment, because he’s not a big fan of sweet things, and he’s also not shy about telling me what he really thinks of my cooking. I will definitely be making this pie again.

    What food do you have to make yourself if you want it done right? 

    Monday
    Nov092015

    Vanilla Sugar - The Season's Sweetest Gift

    I’ve made flavored sugar a few times in the past. There was lime sugar, orange sugar, and grapefruit sugar. I’ve also mentioned vanilla sugar a time or two, like in my vanilla bean bread pudding, but I’ve never posted an actual recipe for it. This year, however, I’ve decided to give it as a holiday gift to all of my friends and family. (Shhh, don’t tell them. It’s a surprise.) Not only is it a fantastic thing to make just to have on hand in your own house, but it really is a wonderful homemade gift. It needs time to age, though, so you’ll want to get started soon.

    Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • Organic sugar
    • Vanilla beans 

    Yep, that’s it. Just two ingredients. That’s why it’s more important than ever that they’re really high quality. You really do want to use organic sugar for this. As for the vanilla beans, personally, I think you can’t beat Penzeys Mexican Vanilla Beans. (Have I mentioned that Penzeys opened a store like 5 minutes from my house?!)

    So first of all, you need to decide how much vanilla sugar you’re going to make. I needed to make 27 bottles. Each of my bottles holds 3 cups, so my mixer can handle doing 4 at a time. I recommend using 3-4 cups of sugar per vanilla bean. These 24 ounce jars are perfect. For me, that meant each batch was 12 cups of sugar and 4 vanilla beans. Measure your sugar into the bowl of your mixer and set it aside.

    Next, slice each vanilla bean down the middle, leaving it intact for about an inch at one end.

    Then, open up each half and carefully slide the back side of your knife along the length of the pod, scraping out the tiny seeds from within.

    Look at that gorgeousness. I think these little seeds are far more deserving of the moniker ‘black gold’ than any caviar.

    Drop the seeds into your sugar.

    Then, with your paddle attachment, mix on low speed for about 5 minutes or so. The vanilla should be nicely broken up and dispersed throughout. If you don’t have a stand mixer, this is going to be a bit more work. You could do it in a bowl with a whisk and elbow grease, or you could put it into a larger container with a lid and shake, shake, shake. Either way, you’re looking at quite a workout if you’re doing more than one or two jars.

    Place a (now empty) vanilla bean into each jar.

    You’re going to want to use a wide mouth funnel. If you’re using wide mouth jars, I highly recommend this one. It fits perfectly. Ones that fit regular mouth jars are a bit easier to come by.

    Pour the vanilla sugar into the jars.

    You want to fill them quite full because they’ll settle a bit as they sit.

    And there you have it, homemade, and seriously amazing vanilla sugar. (Your whole kitchen will smell like vanilla for hours to come.)

    Just pop on a lid and put it somewhere safe for at least a month. The longer the better, really. Aren’t they pretty? Vanilla sugar is a great gift for just about anyone. It’s fantastic for sweetening coffee or tea, or you can use it in place of regular sugar in any recipe.

    Now, if you were to buy vanilla sugar (if you can even find it) it will just be regular sugar that has had vanilla bean pieces sitting in it. Sure, it will taste slightly like vanilla, but the aroma won’t overwhelm you when you remove the lid, and it won’t have all these beautiful vanilla seeds dancing through it.

    What is your favorite homemade gift to give or receive?