Monday, March 03, 2014

Grasshopper Pie

Grasshopper Pie is a 1950s chiffon-style diner pie in full, unabashed glory, complete with an Oreo crust, gelatin, and a shockingly bright hue not readily found in nature (it also happens to be a very 50s shade of green). According to Jean Anderson's The American Century Cookbook, the recipe may have been developed by the Knox Gelatine and Heublein Cordial companies as a way to promote their products. Though there is a mention of "grasshopper pie" in the New York Times, dating back to 1904, that one is made from real grasshoppers and is said to have originated in the Philippines. Food historians date the creme de menthe version to the late 1950s and early 1960s. The grasshopper name comes from the similarly flavored green cocktail-- made from cream, creme de menthe, and white creme de cacao--that had its heyday in that era.

I whipped up this version, adapted from Martha Stewart's New Pies and Tarts, for the new local magazine Domicile DC's spring issue. The green color makes it a natural pick for St. Patrick's Day, and the mint-chocolate combination paired with an icebox treatment allows it to be a refreshing choice for both winter, summer, or the dawning of spring.

Grasshopper Pie

For the crust:
¾ cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 ½ cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (about 25 cookies)
1/4 cup sugar
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 cup loosely packed fresh spearmint leaves
1 cup heavy cream, cold
3 Tablespoons green crème de menthe
2 ¼ teaspoons (1 envelope) unflavored powdered gelatin
5 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar

For the topping (optional):
Whipped cream
3 chocolate sandwich cookies
Chocolate shavings
Shredded coconut

For the crust:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease and flour a 9-inch pie plate. In a medium bowl, whisk together coconut, cookie crumbs, and sugar. Add melted butter and stir until well combined. 

2. Press crumb mixture into the pie plate, forming a crust. Bake until firm for 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

For the filling:
1. In a medium size bowl, prepare an ice water bath and set aside. In a small saucepan, bring milk and mint just to a boil. Remove from heat and cover. Let steep 15 minutes, then pour mixture through a fine sieve into a glass measuring cup or bowl. Discard the mint leaves and set aside milk. 

2. Beat cream in a chilled medium-sized mixing bowl until stiff peaks form. Cover the bowl and refrigerate while you prepare the rest of the filling.

3. Pour the crème de menthe into a medium heatproof bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let stand 5 minutes to soften. In another medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Add the steeped milk to the softened gelatin, whisking until well-mixed.

4. Set the bowl with the milk mixture over (not in) a pan of simmering water. A double boiler works well for this if you have one. Whisk continuously until the gelatin is dissolved, about 1 minute. While whisking, pour the hot milk mixture in a slow, steady stream into the yolk mixture. Return the combined mixture to the heatproof bowl and set over the simmering water. Cook, whisking continuously, until the mixture is slightly thickened and reaches 150 degrees F on a candy thermometer, about 8-10 minutes.

5. Transfer the bowl to the ice water bath, whisking until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mousse or pudding (about 2-5 minutes). Remove the bowl from the bath and whisk in 1/3 of the reserved whipped cream until combined. Gently fold in the rest of the whipped cream using a rubber spatula. Spoon the mixture into the pie crust, then refrigerate until set for 6 hours or up to 1 day.

For topping:
1. Scoop whipped cream onto the center of the pie and sprinkle with chocolate shavings and shredded coconut. Top with sandwich cookies, if desired. Serve chilled.

Related recipes:
Bourbon Icebox Pie
Lemon Icebox Pie
Nutella Icebox Pie
Peppermint Pattie Tart

Photos by Kelly Alfaro for DomiCile Magazine

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