Chocolate Mousse Pie
Picture it, Sicily 1922... wait... that's not right... Picture it, Brooklyn 1987, yes that's more like it. The Golden Girls would have been in their second season and The Simpsons would broadcast their first episode that year, neither fact has any relevance to anything in this post, it's just fun to point out things like that. Do you remember where you were in 1987?
David and I were living in Brooklyn, New York and we worked across the East River in Manhattan. Our apartment was on the top floor of a four-story walk up. On the ground floor was a bar. It was the type of bar with regular patrons who arrived as soon as it opened in the morning and then proceeded to stay all day. Our landlord was a regular so at least we always knew where to find him if we locked ourselves out or had a problem. Like Norm on Cheers he was always on the second stool from the end. The three floors above the bar were apartments. The building was split down the center lengthwise by the staircase so there are two apartments per floor running the depth of the building. You enter the apartment at the living room and to get to the kitchen on the opposite end you would have to trek through every other room. Living room, bedroom, bedroom, (which we used as a large closet), dining room, and then the kitchen. Each room had its entrance and exit door lined up so you could see all the way from one end to the other. I later learned this is called a shotgun apartment. There were no actual doors between any of the rooms except the bathroom, which was next to/in the kitchen. Our apartment building was on the corner of the block, which was great as it allowed for a window in every room. The apartments on the other side of the hall only had two windows, one on each end, since that side was right against the next building on the street. Being on the top floor street-side definitely had its advantages. For one, the view was great. We lived three subway stops from Manhattan so we were not too deep into the heart of Brooklyn. This meant we could still see the tall buildings of lower Manhattan peeking over the buildings across the street and we had a straight shot down Court Street to view the annual parade in honor of the neighborhoods patron saint. It was, after all, an Italian neighborhood.
Living here was different from anywhere else we had lived. Of course we decided not to bring our car, so all of our travel was on foot or by subway. More than just the transportation, the way we shopped for food was completely different as well. There was a fairly large grocery store about a mile or so away but to get there meant crossing this giant canal, walking under the Gowanus expressway, and traveling through a not so desirable part of town. All the while lugging whatever groceries you bought. Our neighborhood was made up of smaller markets and shops where every day you would go and pick up whatever you needed. This takes a bit of getting used to when you are accustomed to taking a car to a mega mart and getting everything you need in one stop (remind me someday to tell you about Carr's Quality Centers). The advantage is that after a few months you begin to get to know the shop owners. You start to feel like you are part of the community rather than just another nameless face that stands in a checkout line with a cart full of groceries.
Just one block down after exiting the subway station on the walk home was the fishmonger. If you wanted seafood for dinner you went in and asked the fish guy what was freshest that day and he would cut it for you, pack it in a bag of ice, and send you happily on your way. Leaving the fish store you turned right and walked down two blocks to Court Street. Turn left and there were three stores, one right after the other. There was small general market where you could pick up your dry and canned goods, along with fruit and milk and that kind of stuff. Next to that was a small meat market, where we got all of our meats, cheeses, deli items and things like that. The third store was a small vegetable market. The vegetable market walls were lined with baskets on shelves, each one filled with different types of vegetables. I remember this market mostly because you didn't actually select your own vegetables. When you went in you would simply tell the owner of the store you wanted three onions, or a pound of green beans, and he would go and pick out everything for you, weigh it, bag it up and collect the money. Cash only please! After visiting these places almost every day you got to know the people behind the counters. You got to know the fish guy and the veggie guy and the meat guy and they became less like merchants and more like friends. It must have been here in Brooklyn where I really learned that if you wanted a good cut of meat then you should never make an enemy out of your butcher! I am happy to say that Vinnie and I were always on good terms.
After visiting these three stores, picking exactly what you needed for dinner, you were only about a half block from home. But in that half block, was one of the best things about food. On the corner directly across from our building was a pizza place. Just a small little place, no tables, no chairs, just go in, order a slice and be on your way. I can't even begin to describe how good their pizzas were. We always got the thick Sicilian style squares whenever we went, and we went a lot. Pizza wasn't the only thing we would go in for though. Despite their fantastic slices they actually made something better: fried rice balls. As I recall they were the size of a baseball and at the very center of this ball of rice was a meat mixture that was unbelievably good, and then the whole thing was fried somehow. At least that is my recollection. One thing is for sure though... I loved, loved, loved them. I recently went online and Googled that corner to see how it has changed and I am super sad to say the pizza parlor was boarded up, but somehow the bar under our old apartment is still going strong. Priorities people, priorities.
While I would have liked to share with you how to make those delicious rice balls, I have yet to come across any recipe that is similar to what I remember. But if there are any readers from Brooklyn Heights that know what I'm talking about please let me know! And besides, this is a blog on Chocolate Mousse Pie (can't you tell?). Okay, I'll get to it...
One night David and I, along with four other people, went to a dinner at a friend’s house that lived farther out into Brooklyn. Now normally if you don't have to go deep into Brooklyn you just don't, so our expectations were that this had better be a really good dinner.
The dinner was perfect. The lively conversation was spirited and funny. The time spent with our friends priceless. Then something fantastic happened. As we sat around the table with the evening winding down, our hostess retrieved from the kitchen a chocolate mousse pie. She sliced and served each person a piece and in a matter of moments the table fell silent as everyone took their first bites. If the dinner was perfect, then how would you describe it when it gets even better with a super chocolatey dessert? Almost in unison everyone started proclaiming how delicious the pie was and, trust me, these were not just compliments from polite guests. Immediately, someone (alright, it was me!) asked for the recipe. Soon every other guest echoed my request and she proceeded to write out a copy of the recipe for each of us. The best part was, it turns out that this pie is basically a bag of chocolate chips, some eggs, some heavy cream and a cookie crumb crust. Cue Ina Garten... "How easy is that?" I still have the original recipe written on stationary from David’s old employer and even though it was a fair distance to travel that day I will always remember and never regret making that trip.
I like this pie of course because it is simple, but it is also one of those things that isn't so fancy that you worry it's not going to be good enough. This is a casual pie, This is the kind of pie that when you have it ready, you call a friend and simply say "hey if you not doing anything, I have a chocolate mousse pie and would love to share it with you and chat for a while, so come over if you want". This is the kind of pie that when your neighbor looks over the fence while you're taking pictures of it, you just cut an extra piece without hesitation and hand it to him and chat while he eats it. I tend to serve it cold, that way it is a bit firmer in texture (you may recall David is not too fond of light airy desserts) but you can let it warm up after taking it out of the fridge before you add the whipped cream garnish to the top for a lighter dessert. Occasionally we don't eat the whole pie in one sitting so I will cover the small amount that's leftover and toss it in the freezer after covering in plastic wrap. It will live in there just fine for a few days without any problem.
Now I have to administer a warning here... "now a warning?" to quote Madeline Ashton... (if you get that, bonus points will be awarded). This recipe does use raw eggs. Sorry, that's just how it is in this recipe. If that makes you uncomfortable, that doesn't mean the end is here. No, far from it. Just because I don't have the recipe for you doesn't mean it's not out there. Simply take to your favorite Internet search engine and type in "Chocolate Mousse Pie", you will be rewarded with many recipes to choose from that don't include eggs and are probably just as easy. Then come back to this site and tell me about your experience because after just a short time of writing this blog, I have come to think that one of the best things about food, might just be the conversations you have surrounding it.
This recipe is fairly straightforward, most of your work will be beating ingredients and folding them together, so a step by step won't really be necessary. I do recommend, however, printing and reading the recipe through so you know what to expect.The recipe is at the bottom of the post along with a link to download or print. Other than that, you're good to go.
Special equipment needed
9-inch Pie Plate
Stand or Electric Mixer
For the crust:
7 oz Chocolate Wafer Cookies
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
For the filling:
3 eggs, room temperature
1 12oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablepoons powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate shavings - Optional
For the crust:
Preheat oven to 375ºF with rack in the center position.
Process the chocolate wafer cookies in a food processor until finely ground.
Measure 1½ cups of the cookie crumbs into a small bowl. Reserve any remaining crumbs for another use.
Add the sugar and salt and stir to combine well.
Add the butter and use a fork to stir the mixture until evenly and well moistened.
Press the cookie crumb mixture onto the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate.
Bake the crust for 6-8 minutes, remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
For the Filling:
Separate the yolks and whites from 2 of the eggs, set aside.
In a bowl set over a pan of hot (not boiling!) water melt the chocolate chips, stirring as needed.
Remove the bowl from above the water and using a stiff whisk, or an electric mixer on low to medium speed, beat in the whole egg and the two egg yolks, one at a time, until well blended.
Beat in vanilla extract.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or with an electric mixer) beat the 2 egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.
Remove the egg whites to a separate large bowl, and clean the mixer bowl for reuse.
In the clean mixer bowl beat the heavy whipping cream on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 1½ minutes.
Transfer the whipped cream to the bowl with the egg whites and gently fold the two together, using a rubber spatula.
Take about ⅓ cup of the egg and cream mix and whisk it into the chocolate mixture to lighten.
Add the remaining egg and cream mixture to the chocolate mix and gently fold together until well blended.
Transfer filling to cooled crust.
Loosely cover the pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
When ready to serve, garnish.
For the garnish
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with an electric mixer combine the heavy whipping cream, sugar and vanilla extract.
Beat on high speed until medium to stiff peaks form, about 1 to 1½ minutes.
Spoon whipped cream as desired onto pie.
Sprinkle with chocolate shavings, if using.
Serve immediately, I mean really, why wait?
You can allow the pie to come to room temperature before adding the whipped cream topping, or serve it slightly chilled if you like a firmer texture.
In the unlikely event you have pie left over you can stash it in the freezer covered in plastic wrap.
You can use regular granulated sugar in the whipped cream garnish but powdered sugar will help prevent the cream from weeping over time, and no one likes sad cream.