Sunday, April 01, 2012

Black Bottom Pie (You Make the Rockin' World Go Round)

I only frequented Raleigh's Poole's Diner twice when I lived in the North Carolina piedmont, but twice was enough to know that when Ashley Christensen, the chef of the up-scaled Southern luncheonette shares her pie recipes, you make them. I tried her banana cream pie with salty bourbon caramel for Pi(e) Day and again for a honky-tonk St. Patrick's Day party (I will post that recipe soon, I promise), and have been eyeing the black bottom pie on my Pinterest board (which I've been using lately to track recipe ideas). So when two dear friends with a penchant for sweets came to visit, and with a birthday-and-music party on our dance card for our Saturday evening, I figured it was a chance for somethin' special.

Black bottom pie is another southern favorite which, according to John Edgerton in his Southern Food: At Home, On The Road, In History, surfaced almost simultaneously-- appearing in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' 1942 Cross Creek Cookery as well as in Duncan Hines' Adventures in Good Cooking in the early 1940s. It's called such because of the bottom layer of chocolate custard, which is covered with a layer of vanilla custard, and topped with a healthy (or unhealthy) dose of whipped cream. In this version, marscapone in the custard and coffee in the chocolate layer give it a little extra oomph. I found this recipe to be a little sparse on the vanilla layer, as you can see from the pre-whipped cream and toppings picture above, so next time I make it, I'll set more vanilla custard aside before adding chocolate to the rest. Christensen's calls for 1 cup to be set aside, but I would recommend 1 1/2 cups, for more equal portions of vanilla and chocolate, and a purty three-layered cross section when you slice it.

Black Bottom Pie
Adapted from Poole's Diner via Bon Appetit

For crust:
6 oz. gingersnap cookies
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp. heavy cream

For custard:
1 envelope unflavored gelatin 
1 1/2 c. whole milk
1/2 c. heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
2 Tblsp. rum (dark preferred)
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. mascarpone
5 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (I used bittersweet, 60% cacao)
1/4 oz. hot espresso or strong coffee

For topping:
1 c. chilled heavy cream
3 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. rum (dark preferred)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Unsweetened cocoa powder (for dusting, optional)
Grated or chopped semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate (for sprinkling, optional) 

For crust:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Pulse cookies in a food processor until finely ground. Slowly add melted butter and cream and pulse until fully combined and crust begins to form together. Grease and flour a 9-inch pie pan. Pour crust into pan and use your hands or the back of a measuring cup to pack into the bottom and sides of the dish to form a crust shape. Bake 12-15 minutes or until set. Let cool.

For custard:
1. Pour 2 Tbsp. of water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over. Whisk until incorporated and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat milk and cream in a small saucepan until it just begins to simmer. Remove from heat.

2. Whisk egg yolks, sugar, rum, cornstarch, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl. Gradually mix egg mixture into milk mixture, using the whisk. Return to medium-low heat and cook until thick, about 5 minutes.

3. Remove custard from heat and stir in mascarpone. Place 1 cup custard in a medium bowl and set aside (though this ended up not allowing for enough vanilla custard for me. I would advise setting aside 1 1/2 c. custard). Return saucepan with remaining custard to heat and stir in chocolate until melted and smooth. Add coffee. Pour chocolate custard into crust and smooth top. Chill until set, about 30 minutes, while keeping vanilla custard at room temperature.

4. Gently pour remaining vanilla custard over the chocolate layer. Be careful not to disturb the chocolate, so that layers set separately! Smooth top and chill for about one hour.

For topping:
1. Using a mixer, beat cream and sugar until cream begins to thicken. Add rum and vanilla, then beat until stiff peaks form. Spread whipped cream over custard, and dust with cocoa powder and sprinkle with chocolate curls or slices.

As it turned out, when we arrived at the party, we found out that there was no birthday cake for the birthday boy, so this black bottom pie was adorned with candles and magically transformed into a black bottom birthday pie (adding to the alliteration)! Then I had the task of cutting lil' tiny slices so everyone could get a piece. Here's my old pal Angela, one of the aforementioned dear friends with a penchant for sweets, with one of the aforementioned wee slices. The slicing of the pie was just what we needed to get the music started. Once it was gone, there was nothing left to do but bust out some Fats Waller & Jelly Roll Morton piano in the living room and later, fiddle tunes with friends in the attic.

This pie is a little bit labor intensive with lots of steps, but is worth it for those double custard rummy layers in a spicy gingersnap crust. It also wasn't overly sweet, which I like, but if you've got a real sweet tooth, then opt for semi-sweet chocolate instead of bittersweet. And as I couldn't stop singing when I was making it, black bottom pie, you make the rockin' world go round! (to the tune of Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls," clearly).

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