When I was growing up, my lifelong friend Sean and I were (like most kids) pretty fiendish over sweets and candy. He and I had a singularly strong addiction, however, to one dessert in particular: the French silk pie at Baker’s Square. For those that don’t know, Baker’s Square is a slightly dumpy chain restaurant/bakery that prides themselves in their pies. Their pies are great in all the ways that super mass-produced and processed pies can be. Although it’s been years since I’ve been to a Baker’s Square, I feel confident that the French Silk Pie still tops their list in overall awesomeness.
Don’t be fooled by the name, the French Silk pie is not inherently a French creation. In fact, it was the brainchild of Betty Cooper, who submitted the recipe to the 1951 Pillsbury Bake-off competition (she won). Her original recipe was not a “cream pie” in its truest meaning, but rather a whipped (or creamed) mixture of butter, sugar, cocoa, etc. Although I’m all for preserving the history of recipes and honoring the traditions of American pastry, I’m not above evolving. Today we aren’t making the original style of pie filling. Instead, we’re going to be using my super rich and creamy chocolate mousse recipe, which creates a damn good French Silk pie.
You all should know by now that I’m a big fan of Guittard chocolate. I like their chocolate so much that it’s the only chocolate I use for my DFK recipes. The company started in the 1800s when a French immigrant, Etienne Guittard, realized the chocolate he brought from his native France was a better money maker than the gold he was searching for in California.
Well, Guittard is turning 150 this year, which is a pretty big deal, and in celebration they’ve released a very special chocolate, Eureka Works 62%. This anniversary chocolate blends beans honoring the origins of the first bars Etienne made. It’s a super versatile 62% with lots of notes of rich cocoa up front and great balance of bright fruit acidity. I think it will be the perfect chocolate for this recipe, and it’s actually what inspired me to make French Silk pie this week!
Like all of my pies, I use a cake ring rather than a traditional pie tin. I like deep pies and I cannot lie. If you’d rather use a pie tin, go right ahead, the method won’t change. For an in depth look at pie dough, refer to my post on the subject. Otherwise, the recipe and method are just below.
French silk pie
250g pastry flour
60g water ice cold
8g white vinegar
227g butter unsalted, about two sticks
Cut your butter into 1/2” pieces and keep it in the freezer until you need it, without letting it freeze solid.
Reserve the ice water in the cooler.
Combine the pastry flour, sugar, salt, and cold butter in a stand mixer mixing bowl with a paddle attachment. If you don’t have a stand mixer then a regular mixing bowl is fine.
Start mixing the dry ingredients together on low speed. Add your cold butter chunks to the dry ingredients while mixing. If you aren’t using an electric mixer you can “cut” the butter in with a pastry cutter or even a fork. If the butter softens during mixing, transfer the entire bowl to the cooler or freezer to chill the fat back down before mixing again.
Once the butter starts to break down and flatten into chunks the size of pecans or large beans, add the ice water in a slow stream until the dough barely comes together. It might need all of the water, it might not. It’s one of those instances when you have to feel out the process.
Don’t over mix the dough! If needed finish bringing it together by hand, then wrap it up in plastic wrap and chill it or at least 30min. up to overnight.
Apply a light coat of butter to the inside of your cake ring. This will help your pie dough stick a bit to it.
Roll your pie dough out to 1/8″ / .32cm.
Place the cake ring into the center of your rolled pie dough and cut a circle of dough around the ring that is just larger than the height of the ring.
Loosely set the dough into the ring. If the dough is hanging over the edge like crazy and is becoming hard to handle, just cut off a bit of excess dough. I like to use scissors to do that.
Start by gently pushing the dough all the way down into the bottom corner of the ring. Press the dough into the corner of the ring creating a crease. trim excess dough from the edge.
Still gently, press the dough up the side of the ring, eliminating any trapped air bubbles. If the dough gets too warm as you work with it, place the dough and cake ring back in the cooler for a few minutes before continuing on.
Chill the lined pie ring in the cooler, unwrapped, overnight. This will allow excess moisture to evaporate from the dough, reducing shrinking when it bakes.
Line the dough with cheesecloth and then fill the pie with baking beans (I actually prefer using rice).
Bake at 360F/182C for 20-30min. if you have a good convection oven, and 30-40min. if you don’t. Carefully remove the rice using the cheesecloth as a pouch and bake the pie crust for 8-10 more minutes. Let the pie crust cool.
4g gelatin 160 bloom
375g heavy cream
100g egg yolk about 5 eggs
50g whole egg about 1 egg
36g cocoa paste baker’s chocolate
Hydrate the gelatin in cold water and reserve.
Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks and reserve in the refrigerator.
Combine the chocolate and cocoa paste and melt. Reserve the chocolate to use later.
Combine the sugar and water in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil.
While the sugar syrup is heating, add the egg yolks to a stand mixing bowl fitted with a whip attachment. Begin to whisk the egg yolks on medium-high speed once the syrup starts to boil.
Once the sugar syrup reaches 121C, remove from the heat and pour over the egg yolks, while whisking on high, in a steady stream down the side of the inside of the bowl. Avoid pouring the syrup over the whip attachment.
Whip the egg yolks and syrup on high speed for 20 seconds, then reduce the speed to medium.
Squeeze the excess water from the gelatin and melt it. Add the melted gelatin to the egg yolk mixture.
Whip the egg yolks until they have cooled slightly and thickened, turning light in color.
Make sure the melted chocolate is hot, then add to the whipped eggs in one addition and quickly mix until well combined.
Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture in two additions.
Cast the mousse into the baked pie shell and let set in the cooler for a minimum of 2hrs. up to overnight.
I prefer to decorate the pie with whipped cream and some chocolate shavings. I used what’s known as a St. Honore tip to create the piped design on top of the pie, and a vegetable peeler on a block of chocolate to create the shavings.