French Chocolate Silk Pie & Warm Memories

French_chocolate_silk

By James & Catherine Hill

At our little castle, we have a tradition of serving chocolate silk pie on really special occasions, because it is a family recipe on Catherine side, and because it is perhaps James’ favorite dessert she makes. Which is lovely because it is way, way easy!

On the downside, if you do not have four or more people to serve this to, or you’re a major chocoholic, a lot of it will go uneaten. It does not last all too long in the refrigerator, but who cares, man? It’s rich and worth it! But if you just can’t justify making a whole one, the solution might be to halve the recipe and make it in mini pie or tart pans or cupcake tins. When we make the full recipe just for ourselves there is always a bit that goes uneaten, but we tend not to care too much about it. Here’s why.

We will say it over and over. The key to a happy domestic life in your castle is to make whatever you bake, build, cook, craft, and choose as entertainment be the best use of your energy, money and time. However, there is one more thing to consider, and maybe we haven’t stressed this enough. You might want to consider from time to time the emotional investment factor. Weigh this against the good habits of saving energy, money and time. By the emotional investment, we mean what a food means to you even when it is sort of a frivolity. Like a food that is a long held tradition or a comfort but provides little else. When one goes to make such a food they have a choice to make about budgeting and the emotional investment.

For a special event, you might write your budget more on the generous and perhaps wasteful side than on the skinny side for that day and write it in a thinner fashion elsewhere – like beans and rice for a few days for dinner. Or you might do what we do currently. We create a fund especially for an event by earmarking a part of our savings over the year. Example: we save for all the yearly holidays starting each January by earmarking money each month. Example: the money we saved in January goes to Valentine’s Day dinner. Then the next few months go to Easter, then the rest of the year goes to Thanksgiving and Christmas season (Which Includes Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Epiphany.

In general, deserts are foods which make more of a dent in a food or party budget then you might think, and even when it’s home made. This is why when you do have a desert for a party make it an event. We might leave it out on a pedestal and then let people know when it will be served and we tend to take a lot of time and care in serving it. The care helps us justify the cost because the desert will be lovely and thus act as the perfect conclusion to a dinner party or small gathering. By the way, to get the most impact out of serving time do not serve guests piece by piece. When you do that it makes it so that people start eating at different times. Perhaps build your plates in the kitchen and serve using a tray all the guest at once to the biggest wow factor possible. This can be hard in a small apartment will little counter space by the way and if so the individual size servings suggested earlier might be a better option and you might simply plate and garnish at the table and then serve all at once right there. I should interject here that I think piles and piles of flavored chips are one of the worst wastes of money at a party, not deserts, because with the money used to buy junk food, one could buy the ingredients to make easy party foods that sit well in grown up stomachs with little effort. As far as a pricey addition to a festive table, deserts certainly do take the cake for that, because of the special flours and decorating items needed. It is a heavy front end cost endeavor. Not the French chocolate silk pie though. It is rather economical and you don’t have to be marvelous at making it look pretty either. Let’s face it. The desert does not have much nutritional value. So dollar for dollar you know you’re getting less “real” food. But if it’s only once and awhile it will surely nourish the soul. Especially when French chocolate silk pie becomes a family tradition.

We make French chocolate Silk Pie for James’ birthday, New Years and we have even brought one to a friend’s wedding. We hope you try it out and add it to your next special event’s menu.

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Miller’s French Chocolate Silk Pie Crust Pie Crust

By Catherine Hill

For refrigerator style pies like our French Chocolate Silk Pie we Hills like using a crust made from Graham cracker crumb and filberts (hazelnuts) and like everything, we like it homemade. But if all you have time for is a store-bought crust it’s okay by us.  I buy store bought cookie crust all the time and I won’t apologize for it. In fact, I have found that there’re some nice gluten free crusts out there too.  To that end, I have included a few tweaks to this recipe to make it gluten-free as well. The basic idea I hope to teach you here is how to make a crust that will hold up to cutting and serving.  

Read More…

Starting with the Basics of Dessert

mothers_cream_eclair

By Catherine Hill

Oo là là!.  My Mother’s Cream is a rich thick pastry cream with a mellow flavor that can be easily jazzed up. If you like a little something decadent, fancy, French and sweet but don’t want to pay nearly $4 or more per treat, I suggest making your own pastries and cakes.

Butter, cream, eggs, flours, milk, salt, sugars, and water are the main ingredients for most of the delights you’d find in a French pastry or bread shop. Extracts, flavorings, and jams can mark up the cost quite a bit, but for the most part, you will be paying a quarter of the price, THAT’S $1!

When you make it yourself you can make healthier choices by crafting smaller pastries than the bakery offers and saving your hips and heart some undue strain. Sadly, dessert food is not nutritional. They are high in fat, sugar and sometimes cholesterol. I stay clear of using shortening and corn syrup as much as I can. Restaurants want you to come back, so they give you layer after layer of sugar and fat, usually in heaping quantities. At the store, the boxed or frozen desserts come crammed full of that stuff and more making the trans fats and sugar content way higher than those produced by you at home. That is why I suggest if you’re going to indulge why not make those indulgences in your own kitchen from scratch instead of out of a box.

I must caution our first-time bakers that are thinking of jumping full-fledged with no experience to a full-on multi-component homemade recipe, slow your roll.

If you, for instance, don’t know how to make:

Cake
Frosting
Pastry cream
Whipping cream
Glaze (fruit nor sugar)

I would not try and make every component of say a cupcake and then on top of it all attempt assembling it.

I swore off baking for 8 years because I found it overwhelming. I thought, since I was an artist somehow I would be good at the decorating part. That, my friend, was hubris. I do not want this for you. Bad baking doth not make a happy castle Repeat this: “hubris and baking do not go together, and I promise to always enter into a new recipe as if I know nothing”. I think you’ll be okay if you stick to that mantra. Baking, and making fillings, both have new skill sets to learn. It takes planning, practice, and stamina. You’ll have to get used to the process before you get going.

I try to make the easiest thing first when learning something new. It helps me build my confidence. So if you are really new to making sweets I think you should start similarly with something like a frosting or the pastry cream.

Back to our recipe, my Mother’s Cream which is rather closely related to Boston Cream and is a version of pastry cream for use in cakes and pastry like éclairs. It is a little fiddly and fussy. You will have to learn how to separate egg whites from egg yokes and to temper (meaning to slowly increase in temperature). It will definitely challenge you to get your whisking skills up to snuff too. It is versatile and will teach you skills that you will need in other, more complicated recipes. It took me 4 tries to do it right, but all of my mistakes were tasty.  Please read my recipe for Mother’s Cream on our recipe page.