“Oh, you’re the caramel Americano with whip girl,” the barista said to me with a wink as he wrote my request onto the red cup. “One of my co-workers has a crush on you.” My face turned the color of the cup, and then I must have floated out of Starbucks, clapping my feet in twitterpation. What!? Crush-material? Bedraggled, haggard bookworm me!? Of course, I’m happily married. But as years pass without relent, a woman begins to wonder when exactly her transformation into a pumpkin will come to pass. The moment when you go from being one category of woman to, well, another. I did have a major pumpkin moment early on—when, at 22, one of my high school students asked if my husband was my son.
But today, a total stranger handed me the emotional equivalent of a glass slipper, and by God it still fits.
Thank you, Starbucks angel, for thwarting my pumpkinhood a little further down the road.
Chocolate Angel Pie
Adapted from Cook’s Country
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tbsp cornstarch
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
5 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
9 oz milk chocolate, chopped (I used milk chocolate chips)
3 egg yolks
1 ½ tbsp. sugar
½ cup half and half
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ cup heavy cream, chilled
WHIPPED CREAM TOPPING
1 ½ cups heavy cream
2 tbsp strained confectioners sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Cocoa powder for dusting the top
CHOCOLATE FILLING (make this first because it has to chill for three hours)
Microwave the chocolate on medium heat for 2-4 minutes and stir until completely melted and smooth. Set aside, uncovered, briefly.
Place the egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and salt and stir with a wire whisk to mix well (they should be thoroughly mixed but not beaten until airy). Bring the half and half to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour the half and half into the egg yolk mixture, stirring, then return it all to the saucepan and continue to stir on medium heat for a minute until it has slightly thickened. Then gradually add the egg-half/half mixture to the warm chocolate, stirring constantly with the whisk, until smooth. Set aside and let cool for about 8 minutes.
In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters whip the heavy cream until it makes peaks.
Then in 2 or 3 additions, add the whipped cream to the chocolate mixture and fold that in until all the white streaks are gone. Let chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
Adjust rack 1/3 up from the bottom of the oven and preheat oven to 275. Lightly butter a 10-inch ovenproof pie plate, dust it with cornstarch and set it aside.
Mix sugar and cornstarch into a small bowl. In the small bowl of an electric mixer at moderate speed beat the egg whites and cream of tartar for a few seconds or just until they are foamy. Beat at moderate speed for a minute or so until the whites hold a soft shape. Continue to beat at moderate speed and start adding the sugar mix, one tablespoonful at a time. Beat for half a minute or so between additions. When all the sugar has been added, add the vanilla and then continue adding the sugar as before. When all of the sugar has been added, increase the speed to high and beat for 3 minutes until the meringue is glossy and peaks. If it feels grainy, beat some more. The meringue should be very stiff.
Use a rubber spatula to spread the meringue around the sides of the plate and then place the remainder on the bottom of the plate and spread it to make a shell almost 1 inch thick and extending about 3/4 of an inch above the rim of the plate. The meringue should be fairly smooth on the bottom and sides, but the top of the rim should be shaped into irregular peaks.
Bake for one and a half hours until the meringue is a pale, sandy color. The meringue should dry out in the oven as much as possible, but the color should not become any darker than a pale gold. Then turn the oven temp down to 200 and bake for another hour until completely dry. Open the oven door slightly, and let the meringue cool in the oven. It will probably crack during cooling. Try not to stress—it is Christmastime and this is a pie—not emergency surgery. When it’s cool, and the filling is chilled, put the filling into the meringue, and marvel.
WHIPPED CREAM TOPPING
In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla only until the cream holds a shape. Spread over the chocolate filling. Refrigerate for another hour, until filling is set. Dust with cocoa. Slice with a knife and serve within three hours of finishing the whole thing.
Usually I am not a fan of performing tightly time-sensitive recipes because it makes me feel like my pants are too tight (even before I’ve eaten it!) But this one is worth it. Meringue, in my opinion, is a veritable culinary miracle. If I lived in a gingerbread house, I would use meringue for drywall. Also for lawn sculptures.