There is something about simplicity of familiar recipes that almost gets overlooked. I sometimes forget about the easiest and loveliest of foods because they don't present the adventure and practice of making something new. One of these days I'll write about the little wooden recipe box I have, filled with recipes from family members and friends. I have scanned duplicates of the originals, so I can still make my great-grandmother's pumpkin pie written in her handwriting.
I wanted to make this pie this weekend for its simplicity, but it made me think about the things that are constant in my life. Things you don't even have to think about because they are already there. Things like family, friends, and music. (A winning football team is not among those constants, but I'm told you can't have it all.) And tomorrow I start a new job. It's been a whirlwind these past two weeks, setting up appointments, filling out forms, gathering all the information I need to start, getting used to my status as full time and not student-employee, enjoying the beautiful colored lilies my husband brought home to celebrate. So I needed this chocolate pie. That's right, needed.
My grandmother has been making this pie for ages. She has been known to make several at a time to feed large crowds and bring them to many a family holiday or Sunday dinner gathering. My mom started making it too, years and years ago, so this chocolate pie is nearly synonymous with visits home to Arkansas. I can almost count on one chilling in the refrigerator or still warm from the oven. And the thing is, it's so incredibly simple to make. You can actually whip up this pie in no time, and if you already have a pie shell in the freezer, so much the better!
I make my own pie dough. Always have and always will. However, I'm told that there are some truly lovely frozen options out there so I won't push the homemade crust agenda. But try this one out if you have the time and patience. It is truly simple.
Easiest Chocolate Pie
Adapted from my grandmother Carolyn
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening, chilled
1/2 cup (or more) ice water
Combine flour and salt. With a pastry cutter, cut in shortening until flour and fat are fully incorporated. Make sure your hands are very cold before handling dough.
Add ice water about 1/4 cup at a time, paying close attention to texture of dough. It should be neither too dry nor too gummy. Knead with hands no more than a minute, until water is incorporated into the dough.
Turn out on a well-floured surface and divide into two discs. (Freeze one disc for later or form it into a pie shell then freeze.) With a floured rolling pin, roll dough until about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.
Fold lightly into quarters. Transfer folded dough to pie plate and unfold from the center. Cut off excess dough from sides using a knife, and reserve the extra strips for later (or toast them with cinnamon and sugar!).
This pie plate is an original piece of pottery from Seagrove, North Carolina and is pre-fluted. I found it a bit difficult to cut off the excess strips of dough, and then the dough tended to slump down the sides of the pie plate. So as beautiful as this plate is, I might prefer a straight-edged plate and dough that is hand-fluted.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup evaporated milk, any fat content
2 cups sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon vanilla
Mix ingredients and pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes, or until center is set.
At the very end of baking, sprinkle lightly with kosher salt if desired (I did; it was delicious).
Let cool at least 2 hours and serve warm or cold with lightly sweetened whipped cream.