Friday, May 2, 2008

Please sir, can I have s'more?

I'm not a pastry chef, I'm an amateur baker who loves desserts. There's a very big difference between your grandmas homemade apple pie and a French tart you eat at a nice Parisian restaurant. They may be at either ends of the spectrum. Pastry chefs tend to use refined & special ingredients and the tastes can be complex yet subtle. Your grandma makes simple treats that she creates using seasonal fruits or homemade jams. Nothing has to look perfect because it's going to be eaten up anyway and the taste is always very ...home-made, comforting and nostalgic. This pie is the embodiment of those's a pie that a pastry chef would turn his nose up on, but it's a pie that gives you this warm fuzzy feeling inside. I don't mind eating & making either desserts...because I don't follow a particular direction in my baking. Anything that looks good to me will end up on this blog, whether it's a French Macaron, Austrian strudal, Belgian waffle, Egyptian Baklawa or even American Pie :)

So, inspired by a love for s'mores, I decided to make a s'mores pie. I normally have something sweet that I've baked lying around the kitchen, but if I don't, I simply make the 5 second treat known as the "s'more". My daughter loves Barney (a big purple dinosaur I secretly hate but pretend to love) but basically in Barney's words this is how you make a s'more:
"You take a graham cracker and you break it in two
You melt a chunk o' chocolate and get it just right
You melt a marshmallow and you get it real hot
you smush 'em all together and you take a big bite
mmmm smores you know it's alright!" (or something along those lines...haha)

We don't always find Graham Crackers here in Dubai. And if you find them they'll probably cost triple of what "digestives" cost. Digestives are the British version of Grahams. Some argue they don't even come close but ever since I was a child my mother used digestives for cheesecake since we lived in England for almost 5 years. It is only when I traveled to the US for graduate school that I discovered the Graham, and honestly I do prefer it to the digestive, I don't know why exactly, maybe it's the crunch, not daughter (she's about 20 months) prefers the digestive still.

Basically, the pie is a graham cracker crust that I made from scratch (I happened to find graham flour), the middle is a rich chocolate custard and it's all topped with a yummy gooey layer of mini-marshmallows.

So here is the recipe:

Graham crackers/pie crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups graham flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks or 1 cup of butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tbs. honey

Preheat oven to 350ºF degrees.

Mix both flours, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat sugar, honey and butter till fluffy and light. Add flour mixture slowly and when combined transfer to a floured surface and shape into crackers or if making pie crust line the pie tin. Refrigerate for 20 mins and bake if making cookies. If making pie line the crust with parchment paper and add pie weights or dried beans and bake for 20 mins. Remove beans and bake for 10 more mins.

The chocolate custard pie filling:
6 tbs cornsarch
1/2 sugar
1/4 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder
3 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt

Lightly whisk egg yolks and set aside. In a medium saucepan whisk the milk, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa & salt, bringing the mixture to a simmer not boil. Slowly had a quarter of the milk mixture to the egg yolks mixing well. whisk in the remaining mixture and at this stage add the chopped semi-sweet chocolate and whisk until melted. Return to the saucepan and cook, whisking constantly for 3-4 mins. Do not boil but allow mixture to thicken. Rerigerate and cover with plastic wrap till needed.

To assemble the pie:
Pour custard into the baked pie shell and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. When chilled add mini marshmallows and using a kitchen torch scorch the marshmallows till they melt slightly and turn golden in places.