We sat outside yesterday. We sat outside yesterday under a clear gray-blue sky wearing the lightest of jackets while we sipped beer and listened to our stomachs growling from the wafts of barbecuing ribs and tri-tip marinated with garlic and rosemary. Spring has sprung in Sacramento, or at least teased us with warm breezes and Daylight saving time.
Although the air was delicious, it gradually cooled as the sun went down and we headed back into the house of our barbecuing hosts. With music piping through the speakers and our stomachs full with potato salad and ribs, I sliced and served the mississippi mud pie I had made that morning. My desire to bake a fruit pie has been particularly strong as of late, but with the slim pickings of seasonal fruit at the market I stuck with the season-less pantry standby, chocolate. Can you blame me?
My friends did not seem to mind the absence of fruit in the pie too much either, as it quickly disappeared despite its enormous size (this adorable face also seemed very interested in the pie). There was some serious chocolate going on in this pie — a chocolate cookie crust, a flourless chocolate cake (infused with coffee and espresso, I might add) and a layer of chocolate pudding. Freshly whipped cream topped off the four layer masterpiece and although it was a bit of a mess to serve, I happily ate every bite of my misshapen slice.
mississippi mud pie (b) aka muddy mississippi cake
adapted from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented
yields one 9-inch pie
This pie was a bit if of a time commitment to prepare, but well worth it. I highly recommend preparing the layers over two days — making the crust and the cake the evening before and whipping up the pudding and whipped cream the day of. Little about this cake is difficult, it just takes a few good hours in the refrigerator to come together.
For the chocolate cookie crust:
16oz (one package, 35-40 cookies) chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos, crushed
5T unsalted butter, melted
For the flourless chocolate cake:
4T unsalted butter
6oz bittersweet chocolate
2T plus 1t instant espresso powder
1/4c strong coffee, at room temperature
1T vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
For the chocolate pudding:
1/2c dark unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large egg yolks
2-1/2c whole milk
3T unsalted butter
2t vanilla extract
3oz bittersweet chocolate
For the whipped cream:
1-1/4c heavy cream
2T granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Coat the inside of a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray, a layer of parchment cut to fit the bottom and another layer of spray.
In a food processor, pulse all of the cookies (with filling) until they become small crumbs. Pour into a bowl and add the melted butter. Stir together to evenly distribute the butter. Pour the mixture into the bottom of the springform pan and using the bottom of a glass, press the crumbs in an even layer across the bottom and 1/2-inch from the top of the outside ring. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes, then into the oven to bake for 10 minutes. Let the crust cool on a wire rack while you prepare the cake layer.
Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Melt the butter and chocolate together over a double boiler and set aside to cool. In a separate bowl, whisk together the espresso powder, coffee, salt and vanilla and set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer* fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks with 1/2-cup of the sugar until the mixture has doubled in volume, about 5 minutes. Add the chocolate mixture and beat until combined. Add the coffee mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary to make sure everything is well mixed.
In a separate, very clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy (this is possible to do by hand, but much easier using an electric mixer). Then add 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating until soft peaks form.
Scoop 1 cup of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whites into the batter until they are almost completely combined. Add the remaining whites and carefully fold together. Do not rush this process, the whites ensure lift in this dense cake.
Pour the batter into the springform pan and bake for 38 to 42 minutes. The cake may not look finished when the time is up, but it should look slightly set and jiggly in the center. Transfer to a wire rack to let cool. As the cake cools, the center will cave in. This is normal — it is making room for the chocolate pudding layer. Once cooled, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Off the heat, in a medium saucepan mix together the sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt. Add the egg yolks and whisk until combined. The mixture will look a little lumpy, so do your best to break down the lumps. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly until completely combined and free of lumps.
Put the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, whisk constantly for 30 seconds, then remove from the heat. Transfer to a medium bowl and add the butter, vanilla, chocolate and whisk until combined. Let the mixture cool for about 15 minutes, then press a layer of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Let the pudding chill for at least 3 hours.
Stir the pudding, then pour on top of the cooled cake trying to stay within the cookie crust border. Use an offset spatula to create an even layer. Refrigerate or freeze for about 15 minutes while you prepare the whipped cream.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream until it starts to thicken. Add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
Spread the whipped cream across the pudding layer, unmold the cake and serve right away.
*A hand held electric mixer will also work for this recipe.