Chocolate Midnight Pie in a Cafe au Lait Crust
1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (or any other all-purpose flour will do)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) confectioners’ sugar
heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt (I used fine sea salt, so added a pinch more)
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
4 to 6 tablespoons (2 to 3 ounces) milk or cream (half and half, light, heavy, or whipping) (I used half and half because it was what I had on hand)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used fine sea salt)
4 large eggs
1/4 cup (3/4 ounce) Dutch-process cocoa
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) coffee liqueur* (e.g., Kahlua), or substitute strong brewed coffee
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) cold milk or cream (half and half, light, heavy, or whipping)
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (5/8 ounce) cornmeal
2/3 cup (4 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
*Frangelico (hazelnut), Amaretto (almond), Grand Marnier (orange), or Framboise (raspberry) are all wonderful, in place of the coffee liqueur.
To make the crust: Stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work the butter into the dry ingredients (using your fingers, a pastry blender or fork, or a mixer) until the dough is unevenly crumbly. Dissolve the espresso powder in 1 tablespoon of the milk. Sprinkle up to 6 tablespoons (or more, if necessary) of the milk into the dry ingredients (beginning with the tablespoon of espresso milk), continuing to mix until the dough is cohesive. Grab a handful; if it holds together willingly, and doesn’t seem at all dry or crumbly, you’ve added enough liquid.
Shape the dough into a disk. Roll its edges along a floured work surface (as though the disk were a wheel), in order to smooth them out. Pat the disk till it’s about 1″ thick, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Allow it to warm a bit and become flexible, 15 to 30 minutes. Flour your work surface, and roll the dough into an 11″ to 12″ circle. Transfer the dough to a regular (not deep-dish) 9″ pie pan that’s at least 1 ¼” deep ( I spray the dish with cooking spray and dust with flour to ensure the pie will not get stuck to it). Trim and crimp the edges. Place the crust in the refrigerator to chill, while you’re preparing the filling.
Beat together the butter, sugar, and salt till smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating slowly but thoroughly after each addition; you want to combine them with the butter and sugar, but not beat in a lot of air. Stir in the cocoa, liqueur, milk, and vanilla. Use a food processor (mini, if you have one) to grind together the cornmeal and chocolate chips. Add to the batter. Pour the batter into the crust.
Bake the pie for 45 minutes, adding a crust shield (I have a makeshift shield using strips of aluminum foil) after 20 minutes. The middle may look pretty soft; so long as the temperature has reached 165°F right in the center, the pie is done. Remove it from the oven, cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight before serving (necessary to allow the flavours to meld and the pie to set.. so remember to have some patience!). Serve each slice topped with a layer of whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate curls, if desired.
Yield: 1 pie, 10 servings.