Chocolate Cream Stress Relief

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“I love that after a day when nothing is sure, and when I say ‘nothing’ I mean nothing, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It’s such a comfort.”

— Julie (Amy Adams) from Julie and Julia

Yes, of course I have this movie, and no, according to my dad, who actually got to spend time with Julia Child while he was at culinary school and she came as a visiting instructor, Meryl Streep did not get Julia’s voice right. Also, according to him, Julia could outdrink a group of college guys handily, but that’s another story.

That said, Julie/Amy Adams was right. After a long week, combined with all the uncertainties in life, there’s nothing quite like the knowledge that if you combine sugar, a little flour, egg yolks, milk and a touch of corn starch and salt together over medium heat, you will get custard. Then, when you add chocolate, butter and vanilla to that, it will be chocolate custard. And if you put that custard in a pie crust and top with a combination of cream, powdered sugar and vanilla that’s been beaten into submission, you will get chocolate cream pie. Every. Time.

Now, this recipe, from OrWhateverYouDo.com, gives you the ingredients and instructions for homemade pie crust, and you are welcome to follow it. However, like I said, it was a long week full of uncertainty and my entire brain screamed, “AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!” and I bought a frozen pie crust along with the other ingredients I needed. It is worth the reduced stress and I figure even my father can’t fault me for skipping a step if I’m making the rest from scratch, right? And if he can, I don’t want to hear it.

The rest of the process is very simple and reasonably quick, though it might not feel like it as you’re standing at the oven, slowly stirring what will become custard over the stovetop. Your custard is a combination of sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt, egg yolks and milk. Buy the whole milk for this, by the way, if that isn’t what you normally have in your fridge. This is chocolate cream pie, for goodness' sake. No one is mistaking this for diet food.

Before you start the oven, though, you need to chop the (unsweetened) chocolate unless you like scraping burnt custard off the bottom of a saucepan. Because the custard will cook to the pan sooner than you think and the chocolate will take longer to chop up than you believed. Definitely do not wait until the custard is done to chop your chocolate. Just have the chopped chocolate ready.

Moments before you give up and grab your keys to return to the store for a Marie Callendar’s ready-made chocolate cream pie, the custard will start to thicken and once it’s done thickening (think well-refrigerated pudding consistency, with peaks forming after you stir), add in your chocolate, butter and vanilla and stir until it’s all uniform. Pour this in your crust and smooth it out. Then into the refrigerator it goes to cool and set, ideally overnight (you might still want to go out and get that Marie Callendar pie if this is a chocolate emergency).

The next day (or a few hours later if you can’t wait), make your whipped cream. Combine whipping cream, vanilla and powdered sugar and beat the life right out of it with a mixer. Unless you are an Olympian-level athlete with guns of steel, you aren’t going to do this by hand. When you think it’s finally done, go a little longer because in my experience, homemade whipped cream is rarely done when it looks done. It’s a very crafty dessert. If you want to get fancy, you can throw this in a piping bag with a tip and do little swirls to cover the custard or you can just put a big glob of it on there and spread it with a spoon. Depending on the kind of day you've had, you might just buy a can of Redi-Whip or Cool Whip and use that. There's no judgement here.

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