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Nora Ephrons Chocolate Cream Pie

I know, it’s pretty early in the year to be diving back into a chocolate cream pie. If you’re off chocolate and pie for awhile, tuck this recipe away – it’s worth keeping in your repertoire. But I’m of the belief that life calls for chocolate cream pie, even at times when you’re trying to lose weight, and maybe especially then – a small piece on occasion helps keep me sane. Besides, what better way to start the year than with a brand-new cookbook?

One Big Table: A Portrait of American Cooking by Molly O’Neill is my kind of cookbook – as much a peek into the daily dining habits of Americans as it is wealth of recipes. It’s the result of Molly’s journey across the U.S.— she traveled over 500,000 miles, during which she conducted over 5,000 oral history—style interviews and consumed many calories—all in an effort to discover why we eat what we eat. What a concept. It’s a beautiful, massive tome, and we’re giving a copy away.

The book contains 600 recipes from the nation’s best home cooks, farmers, fishermen, pit-masters and chefs. A former New York Times food writer and author, Molly O’Neill does a wonderful job of weaving together personal stories and anecdotes, detailing personal connections people have with their food and the history behind it. It’s perfect for those who love to curl up in bed with a good cookbook.

For your chance to win a copy – leave a comment here. Let us know what you love to make at home, or about a restaurant in your area you think the world should know about. We’ll do a random draw next Friday, January 14th, at 12 noon EST. Good luck!

This chocolate cream pie is from One Big Table: A Portrait of American Cooking, the recipe itself contributed by Nora Ephron. The book also contains a recipe for Claudia’s Better than Store-Bought Graham Cracker Crust – but you could make your own using any basic recipe. Here’s a tip: don’t do like I did, and pour the filling into the crust while it’s hot, rather than be patient and wait for it to cool first. If it cools in the crust, it will crack on top. (Nothing a little extra whipped cream can’t disguise…)

Nora Ephron’s Chocolate Cream Pie

Nora Ephron was famous for her chocolate cream pie long before she wrote and directed the film Julie & Julia. Delving into the life of the country’s most beloved French chef did not dilute the director’s appreciation of simple American pleasures. “This is an amazingly easy pie,” she said, “just as easy as making chocolate pudding from a package. My variation, which is brilliant, if I do say so myself, is putting pulverized English toffee on top of the crust before pouring in the filling. It gives you sort of a Heath Bar crunch chocolate cream pie.”

1 graham cracker crust
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups milk
4 ounces best-quality unsweetened chocolate, broken into small pieces
4 large egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, plus ¼ teaspoon more for the whipped cream
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup pulverized English toffee or Heath Bars
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Shaved chocolate, for garnish

• Line a 9-inch pie plate with the graham cracker crust. Bake according to the directions in the recipe. In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt.
• Bring the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the chocolate, and let melt. Whisk in the sugar mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it starts to thicken.
• Remove from the heat. So the yolks don’t curdle, add a spoonful of the hot melted chocolate mixture to them and whisk, then another spoonful and whisk. Then pour all the yolks into the pan and whisk furiously. Return to the heat and stir for 30 to 60 seconds, until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and continue stirring for a minute to dissipate the heat.
• Stir in the vanilla and butter. Cover with waxed paper and cool to room temperature.
• When the filling has cooled, cover the bottom of the cooled pie shell with the pulverized toffee, add the filling, and chill for at least 1 hour.
• Just before serving, whip the heavy cream, ¼ teaspoon vanilla, and confectioners’ sugar to soft peaks. Cover the pie with the cream, sprinkle the shaved chocolate atop, and serve.

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