Chocolate cream pie is an old-school comfort food classic. This version calls for chocolate cookies and nuts, for added savoriness and crunch, in the crust as well as chopped chocolate and powdered cocoa in the filling. Seek out the best cocoa powder you can find. While cocoa that is Dutch-processed/alkalized — a process which neutralizes the natural acidity of cocoa beans — isn’t usually interchangeable with “natural” or “unsweetened cocoa powder” in baking recipes that call for baking soda, both work fine here. Mostly, you want a high-quality powder that tastes good to you. Make the crust and filling a day ahead, and the topping just before serving. A final garnish of flake salt really brings out the chocolate intensity while balancing out some of the sweetness. — Kim Sunée
Triple chocolate pudding pie
1 3/4 cups crumbs from chocolate animal crackers, cookies, or graham crackers, about 9 ounces
1/4 to 1/3 cup macadamia nuts or almonds
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 1/2 tablespoons high-quality cocoa powder, such as Valhrona or Guittard Cocoa Rouge
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Flake salt, for garnish
For the whipped topping:
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (optional)
1/4 cup sour cream or crème fraîche
• Heat oven to 350 degrees. Add cookies and nuts to bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. Alternatively, crush cookies and nuts with a rolling pin. Spread mixture evenly into a 9-inch pie plate, add melted butter and using a fork or spoon, mix butter into the crumbs; press crumbs into and up the sides of the dish. Bake, 15 to 17 minutes, until crust is fragrant and dry to the touch. Let cool completely on a cooling rack.
• Make the filling: Place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl. In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk about one cup of milk into the dry mixture until a smooth paste forms. Gradually whisk in remaining milk. Whisk in egg yolks. Set saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally. When mixture starts to bubble slightly, reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened. Adjust/lower heat, as needed. If you stop whisking, mixture will bubble and spurt. Keep whisking, another 14 to 16 minutes, until just beginning to thicken like pudding; note that mixture will continue to thicken as it cools. Continue to cook, stirring constantly another minute. Pour custard through the fine-mesh sieve set over the bowl; whisk mixture through and press/scrape remaining chocolate with a spatula. Discard any solids.
• Stir in chopped chocolate, butter, and vanilla. Let cool slightly, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in fridge until firm, about six hours. Scrape pudding into prepared cookie crust, cover, and chill until ready to serve. When ready to serve, garnish with flake salt and whip cream and sugar, if using, into medium-soft peaks; stir in crème fraîche or sour cream and spread over filling. Garnish with crumbled cookies or some cocoa powder dusted over.
[Sweet and savory, these toffee-crunch cereal cookies will disappear quickly so make a double batch]