zondag 26 december 2010

PIE FINALIST #3: Chocolate Amaretto Crunch Pie

The third pie in the Cool Whip gift basket contest seemed to be the most promising of the bunch. It’s the recipe that my friends and I gravitated to most: LynnB’s Chocolate Amaretto Crunch Pie. Made with chocolate, Amaretto, Amaretti cookies, and almonds, it looked to be the decadent and sophisticated pie that I knew I would love; the sort of thing I could recommend to Ina Garten or Martha Stewart (because I clearly will have that opportunity) without feeling a twinge of embarrassment.

However, just because something piques my interest doesn’t mean that it’ll actually turn out well. See the Chocolate Chili Meringue Pie disaster. Surely this recipe would fare better though. Nothing is ever a sure thing though…


I start with the crust, which calls for ground up Amaretti cookies. These aren’t easy to find in LA, and I must actually drive all the way to Santa Monica to pick up a bag from Bay Cities Deli. I’m not complaining though. They have the best sandwiches ever, and basically, this was just an excuse to fetch their signature sub, The Godmother. But I digress.


I grind the delicious cookies into this fine powder, which also appears to be delicious.


Into the food processor goes the ground up Amaretti cookies, some almond pieces, sugar, flour, and salt.


A few pulses later, and we’re well on our way to a pie crust.


We mustn’t forget the stick of butter, which transforms this ground mixture into a dark crust batter.


The recipe calls for a tart pan, but since I don’t have one of those, I just line a glass pie dish instead.


While the crust bakes, I melt twelve ounces of chocolate.


And while the chocolate melts, I beat some egg whites. Just call me the multi-tasker.


Fifteen minutes later, I pull the crust out of the oven and am shocked to see that the sides have all slid down into the dish. This has made the crush extra thick, and therefore, it has not cooked through. Argh. I refuse to have a second piesaster.


With a spatula, I attempt to press the crust back up along the sides. Hopefully this will work.


I put the crust in for a few more minutes. In the meantime, I tend to my melted chocolate.


Aaand back to the crust. Some of it stayed on the edges, but most of it fell down again. I decide to just let it be.


Next I add egg yolks to the chocolate. The mixture seizes up, but the recipe warns me this might happen. I’m not scared.


I add three tablespoons of Amaretto to the mixture, and it loosens up again. Once it’s workable, I fold the egg whites into the chocolate.


Now I must make whipped cream. I’ve never actually done this before, and I’m a little excited. In the bowl I have sugar, cream, and vanilla extract. Commence whippage.


At first I’m concerned that my whipped cream might not come together, and then I become concerned that I might overwhip it and destroy it. I am officially scared, but in the end, it turns out decently.


Next I fold a cup of the whipped cream into the mixture. I save the rest as a topping for later (sorry Cool Whip!).


And now it’s time to assemble.


Voila. It’s… rustic. Into the fridge it goes for six hours.

The result: rich, tasty, complex. Very delicious. And the chocolate filling tasted like a giant truffle. However, the pie was flawed. The crust was really great — full of almond and amaretto flavors — but it proved to be entirely too thick and stiff. If this were Top Chef, it would have been the moment when Tom would look up from his dessert and say “You need a buzz saw to get through this,” at which point Padma would cover her mouth and laugh as Gail would say something academic and articulate about the tragic nature of the crust undermining the rest of the pie. It was near impossible to get through the crust with a fork and knife, and I found the easiest way to take in the pie was to simply hold the slice like a pizza.

The real question is whether or not the crust issues stem from flaws in the recipe or user error. I followed the directions to a tee, but maybe if I’d used a tart pan, I wouldn’t have had the same crust density issues, perhaps brought on by the edges sliding back into the basin. It’s hard to say. Don’t get me wrong — this is certainly a pie worth making — but tread carefully with that crust…

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