One day I’m going to tackle chocolate chess pie, because every time I see one I think: that looks like a brownie in a pie shell. And then I think, I want to eat that. So I made us a brownie in a pie shell!
The term ‘brownie pie’ isn’t new but its early applications were quite different than the ones we’ve been seeing for the past ten years. Early versions of it are pretty simple: a brownie batter baked in a pie pan sans any crust, like this one from 2001. Later that year a brownie pie shows up with a pate sucree crust and then with a graham crust in the LA times. The crossover seems to happen a few years later with a Southern dessert called Tar Heel Pie (NC specifically is called the Tar Heel state because of it’s vast pine forests), which is, by most accounts, a brownie baked into a traditional pie crust. ATK describes classic Tar Heel Pie as “deeply fudgy, not overly sweet”. Cooking Classy publishes a Tar Heel Pie recipe in ’14, but said it was more aptly described as brownie pie. Soon after, recipes under the name ‘brownie pie’ with a brownie filling and pie crust start appearing en masse.
My first go was just to drop this emergency brownie recipe into my pie shell but it a. Wasn’t enough, didn’t quite bake up (it was like brownie goo! I mean, delicious but difficult to serve) so I went in with my baker’s mind and altered a few ingredients: using brown sugar to add more flavor and richness, and adding a bit more flour to hold it up, etc.
The pie, it turns out, is a chocolate lover’s dream. Especially if you are the kind of chocolate lover that also loves eating pie crust, especially when it’s buttery and so flaky it crumbles like phyllo. Lily told me it was the best pie I’d ever made, that very unexpected and very high praise from her ;p
Let’s do it.
Butter: unsalted butter lets you control how much salt will go into the filling. If using salted butter, use halve the amount of salt listed in the recipe.
Sugars: a mix of brown (light or dark) and fine granulated sugar.
Eggs: three large whole eggs. If you remember, bring them to room temperature before you start making the filling.
Salt: fine sea salt. If using table salt, halve the amount.
Vanilla: pure vanilla extract.
Cocoa: dutch process cocoa. If you’re using natural, the flavor won’t be as rich (the brownie will also be lighter in color).
Flour: all purpose flour, measure with a scale or fluff the flour then shake it over the measuring cup and level the cup.
Chocolate: semi-sweet or dark chocolate (50-70% cocoa solids).
We need to parbake or blind bake the crust because underneath the weight of the brownie batter it won’t be able to bake fully. You’ll end up with a doughy (soggy!) bottom crust.
To blind bake the crust, once it’s shaped and chilled we’ll line it with aluminum foil and fill the pie with pie weights. I tend to use dried black beans and/or chickpeas as pie weights – you can use them up to 5-6 times before they overcook. Bake it for about a half an hour then remove the foil (and beans/weights) dock it with a fork, and then you can do the second bake, this time with the filling.
While the crust is par-baking, we’ll make the filling.
Melt the butter, not fully but enough that you can easily stir it.
Add the sugars to the mix and heat the butter again. I do about 60 seconds in the microwave.
Using a mixer or a whisk beat the butter and sugar; at first it will be separated but as you beat it will come together and look shiny and thick:
Heat the sugar again, just for 30 seconds. Then, add the cocoa to the hot sugar butter mixture it will be liquid at first but as you beat it it will thicken and look ‘gritty’:
Add the eggs, and beat for at least 3-5 minutes.
Fold in the flour and the finely chopped chocolate:
Once the crust has finished it’s first bake, dock it with a fork (this is to prevent the crust from bubbling) and then p our in the filling.
Bake the pie until puffy in the center. Once it puffs up you can take it out and you’ll have a slightly fudgyier pie (not as firm) or you can leave it another 5-7 minutes so it will be more like a traditional brownie texture.
We can make vanilla whipped cream or chocolate! The chocolate whipped cream reminds me of a chocolate soft serve =) Make it stabilized by making it in a food processor and it will sit, perfectly shaped for a day or more on the pie in the fridge.
2 cups heavy whipping cream
50g or ¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
25g or ¼ cup dutch process cocoa (skip if making vanilla whipped cream)
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process on high for a couple of minutes, until the mix is thick and creamy. Spread over the cooled pie.
You can also do this by hand with a whisk (and some patience and arm muscle) or with a hand mixer although it won’t be stabilized.
A meringue (which you can toast with a kitchen torch for a brownie s’mores pie flavor)
Ice cream: vanilla, chocolate or any flavor you like with a brownie.
To make the chocolate shards pictured in the pie with the vanilla whipped cream (and brown butter crust): set 50g chopped dark or semi-sweet chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Warm it for 60 seconds in the microwave then stir until smooth. Spread it in an even layer on a sheet of parchment paper in the shape of a 5×5 inch square. Give it a few minutes to start setting then roll up the parchment paper like you would a scroll. Set in the fridge for 10 minutes, until solid. When you open the scroll, the chocolate will come out in shards. Put them on the pie right away.
The pie without a whipped cream topping (or meringue!~) can be kept at room temperature. If you need to make it days ahead of time I’d put it in an airtight container and freeze it to preserve flavor, thaw it fully before serving (a few hours at room temp). The fridge can work too but it’s not ideal as the crust takes on a ‘fridge’ flavor.
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