Chocolate cream pie is a pie for chocolate lovers. Most chocolate cream pies have a pudding-like chocolate filling that is made on the stovetop and poured into a prebaked pie crust. The pies are easy to make, but are subject to a huge amount of variation. Some actually are filled with pudding, rendering them very difficult to slice and making the crusts soggy. Some are too chocolatey, while others lack a solid chocolate flavor. Many are far too sweet. For me, a chocolate cream pie should have a good, but not overwhelming, chocolate flavor, a creamy filling that is still easy to slice and a crisp, buttery crust to hold everything together. I also tend think the best chocolate cream pies are those made entirely from scratch, not from a pudding mix.
Fortunately, my Classic Chocolate Cream Pie meets all of my requirements. It has a lovely chocolate flavor that has nice custard notes and is not too sweet. It sets up just firm enough to slice cleanly and easily, but is still tender and has a silky mouthfeel. It definitely satisfies a chocolate craving, but isn’t so rich that you can’t eat a generous slice of it. I typically use low fat or whole milk when making this pie, and both give good results. I also like to use bittersweet chocolate, but both dark chocolate and semisweet will also produce good results. Like other chocolate desserts, however, use a good quality chocolate for the best flavor.
I like to top my chocolate cream pies off with whipped cream. If I’m serving the pie to a crowd, I’ll make up a big batch of lightly sweetened whipped cream and “frost” the pie generously with it, then garnish it with a sprinkle of cocoa powder or some chocolate shavings. If I’m planning to eat the pie myself, or just with a couple of family/friends, I’ll usually hold off on the whipped cream and add it slice-by-slice as I serve the pie. For the best results, be sure to prebake your crust until it is a deep golden brown and it will remain crisp even after the pie has been refrigerated, making leftover slices as good as the first. The pie will keep well for a couple of days after it is made, if you’re not going to serve the pie to a group and finish it in one sitting.
Chocolate Cream Pie
1 9-inch prebaked pie shell
2 cups milk (any kind, pref. low fat or whole)
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
approx 2-3 cups Lightly Sweetened Whipped Cream, for topping
In a medium saucepan, combine milk and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally just to dissolve the sugar. Milk will be ready just as it begins to steam.
While the milk heats, whisk together egg, egg yolks, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the cornstarch until smooth. Temper the egg mixture with the hot milk, whisking constantly while slowly drizzling the hot milk into the egg mixture.
Return the mix to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until the pudding starts to become very thick (2-4 minutes). Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute then take off the heat. Whisk in butter, vanilla and bittersweet chocolate until everything comes together and looks uniform. Pour into prepared pie crust.
Cover filling with a sheet of saran wrap to prevent a “skin” from forming. Allow pie to sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours, then refrigerate until well-chilled, about 4-6 hours.
Top generously with lightly sweetened whipped cream before serving.