While there is nothing like a full-sized cake or pie, there is something very appealing about little desserts. They’re cute – a shrunken down version of their full-sized cousins – and can pack in a lot of flavor. Best of all, you can usually eat more than one without feeling guilty. So I’m easily tempted by miniature versions of desserts, and when I saw a picture of some miniature chocolate cream pies in a recent issue of Sunset magazine, I wanted to give them a try. A few tweaks to the original recipe and I had a whole batch of tasty, mini cream pies to enjoy!
These little pies have a great chocolate flavor to them, and a consistency that is very similar to chocolate pudding. They’re easy to handle because the filling is quite firm. In fact, it may start to firm up as you spoon it out into the mini crusts after preparing it. Don’t worry if the tops of the mini pies look a little irregular as they set. The whipped cream used to top the pies not only lightens up the chocolate, but it disguises any little imperfections in the filling. I used dark chocolate and the filling had a nice chocolate flavor that wasn’t too sweet. Use sweetened whipped cream to finish these if you like them a little sweeter, or simply substitute a semisweet or milk chocolate instead.
The crusts for these little pies are very easy to make. You’ll notice right away that, unlike many other graham cracker-type crusts, there is no butter in the recipe. Instead, the crumbs are held together with egg white. This makes for a crisper, firmer crust that is easy to take out of the mini muffin cups after baking, as well as for a crust that will hold up well to the chocolate cream filling without becoming soggy. Don’t worry if the crusts seem a bit hard after baking; just fill them up and chill them and they’ll be just right when you’re ready to eat! I added a little instant coffee powder (Starbucks Via, actually, since I really like that for baking) to my crusts to give them a hint of mocha flavor.
These mini pies can easily be made a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Add the whipped cream just before serving and give them a dusting of cocoa powder to finish them off. These are great for a crowd, and perhaps even better as a bite-sized treat to share with a loved one on a special occasion – with leftovers, of course!
Two Bite Chocolate Cream Pies
Mini Chocolate Crust
1 1/4 cups chocolate wafer crumbs
1/3 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp instant coffee or 1 packet Starbucks Via
1 large egg white
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Chocolate Cream Filling
3-oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 tbsp butter
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
2/3 cups sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
whipped cream and cocoa powder, for topping
First, make the crusts.
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease 24 miniature muffin cups.
In a food processor, combine all crust ingredients except for the egg white and vanilla, and pulse to combine. Add in egg white and vanilla and pulse until crumbs resemble coarse, wet sand.
Put 1 tbsp of crumbs into each of the greased mini muffin cups. Using your fingers, press the crumbs into a thin layer on the sides and bottom of the cup.
Bake for 11-14 minutes, until crusts are set and edges are lightly browned. Cool completely in the pan.
Once cooled, use the tip of a knife to loosen the crusts from the mini muffin cups, but keep them in the pan.
To make the filling, melt together dark chocolate and butter in a small microwave-safe bowl.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg, egg yolk, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa power, milk and vanilla extract until very smooth. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Whisk in melted chocolate and butter mixture.
Stir slowly but continuously as pudding continues to cook and thicken. When filling is thick, remove from heat and spoon it evenly into prepared mini pie shells. If there is leftover filling, you can put it in a small bowl and refrigerate it (to eat as pudding later).
Place all filled mini pies, still in the baking tray, into the fridge to set up and chill for at least 4 hours.
When ready to serve, top pies with whipped cream and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
Makes 24 mini pies.