It’s funny how I can feel so alone in a crowded room these days. This little place here in cyberspace, though—I never feel alone here. The sincere comments, emails and well-wishes over the last week have only reaffirmed what I’ve always believed—there are more good people in this world than we sometimes realize.
When I wrote a post asking friends to make a peanut butter pie to celebrate Mikey’s life and the love for everyone in their own lives, I never expected the amazing domino effect that would follow. One woman wrote to tell me she has a peanut butter chocolate cupcake on the menu at her cafe in Buenos Aires in honor of Mikey, with the proceedings going to a charity that helps kids in need.
It reminded me of Eric Carle’s story the The Tiny Seed, the way the love Mikey and I shared made it’s way through the borders of Argentina into the heart of a woman neither of us knew. There are many more stories like this, and they make my heart swell with hope.
Today I have another pie to share with you. I made this pie for Thanksgiving last week, and for most of you this is a new recipe too. I created it about four months ago for Betty Crocker, and Mikey passed away before it was published. I thought about it last Tuesday night as I was planning my Thanksgiving menu. I knew that brown butter apple pie was a definite on my dessert list. Being Italian, though, we’re never satisfied with just one dessert. In fact, there’s usually a dozen to choose from on Christmas Eve.
I had planned on making a pumpkin pie, but Mikey and I were the only ones who liked it. While I wouldn’t get the hairy eye for eating a whole pie by myself, I just didn’t want to eat that one without my partner in pie-eating crime. So my mind wandered to that chocolate chess pie.
I first made chess pie for Olga’s birthday back in May. It was a more traditional lemon one, and I was in awe of how darn easy it was to make. When Betty Crocker called asking for some new recipe ideas, I decided to try my hand at a chocolate chess pie. I didn’t invent the wheel on this one, I just tweaked it really since chocolate chess pie is a common Southern treat.
Last week, I took that tweak one step further. Instead of simply melting the butter, I decided to brown it—I may need a support group for people who brown butter obsessively. I wasn’t quite sure if it would make a difference, as the recipe only needs four tablespoons of melted butter anyway, but I decided it was worth a try. I’m happy to report the extra few minutes imparted a subtle toffee undertone to the chocolate filling.
You know what else I love about this pie? It gets better with age. I know this because I served it as dessert four day later. I also had a tiny sliver every night in between, and as the days passed the velvety chocolate filling transformed into a thick, fudgy one. It was seriously like a slice of deep chocolate fudge on a buttery crust.
Oh, and the crust. This is the easiest pie crust you will ever make. I know people say that all the time, but this time it’s really true. It’s a vinegar-based pie crust, which at first thought, I know you’re wondering if it tastes like vinegar. Not a chance. I liberally adapted the recipe from Mollie Cox Bryan, so much so that really it’s a new recipe in itself. For starters, I ran out of white vinegar, so I opted for apple cider vinegar. I also swapped in butter for the shortening—big surprise, I know.
A little bit of sugar is essential in any pie crust too, so I added a teaspoon. My last change was adding some cornmeal to the crust for a crumbly, textured quality. This pie crust has character people. You also don’t need to chill it before rolling it out. Just make it, roll it out, fit it into the pie plate, then let it chill ever so briefly as you prepare the filling. The recipe is enough for two piecrusts, so I wrapped the leftover piece and used it for the apple pie the next day.
I don’t see a need to make any other crust—ever.again.
I know some of you may be feeling anxious about the holidays. Whether you’re traveling a similar road as myself, just get blue around this time of year or feel under pressure by all the baking happening around you—it’s an easy time of year to want to check out. I love Christmas-time, though, and this year, more than ever, I need it to feel happy and special.
Yes, my heart aches at the sight of his stocking hanging next to mine—at the thought of tomorrow’s tree lighting in Rockefeller Center, knowing we won’t take the kids together this year, but I do still think it is the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a time when dreams come true, and hearts grow ten times in size. I may be too old to sit on Santa’s lap, and heaven knows he can’t make my only wish come true this year, but this chocolate chess pie? Well, for a small moment in time on day 108 it had the power to heal.
This recipe is now in my Thanksgiving E-book, and can be found my new site, Simmering. Click here.