I entered (and didn’t win) my first recipe contest ever in January. The goal for Scharffen Berger’s Elevate a Classic Dessert contest was to create a spin on a classic dessert using Scharffen Berger chocolate.
Happily, all three winners are from California – and second and third place were won by contestants in the city just north of me and in my own city of Sunnyvale (go Silicon Valley bakers!). I’m also encouraged that the second place prize included a pretzel component.
Jennifer Daskevich of Los Angeles won the $10,000 grand prize for her original recipe: Chocolate Lover’s Whoopie Pie with Coconut Pecan Filling and Ganache Drizzle. Second prize went to a Malted Chocolate Ice Cream with Pretzel Bark recipe by Candace Chan of Mountain View; and third place winner Linda Wang of Sunnyvale tapped her inner girl scout to come up with a Tall, Dark and Sophisticated S’mores recipe. The winning recipes can be found on Scharffen Berger’s site. I haven’t made any of them yet, but would love to hear from anyone who has.
For my entry, I zeroed in on pie pretty quickly after considering chocolate mousse (boring), and I had been experimenting with pretzel crusts, so pie it was. But what sort of pie? A classic dessert is a chocolate pudding pie but I wasn’t sure how to spin that. But what about chocolate covered pretzels? I decided to make those in a pie version.
My working title for the pie was OccuPie (I was developing the recipe during the height of the Occupy movement). My submitted title was Movie Night Madness Chocolate Covered Pretzel Pie, but I like OccuPie better.
I experimented a lot with the crust, first making an uncooked version that stubbornly stuck to the pan every time I tried to cut a slice of pie. I quickly switched to a version that’s baked for a short time. I love the pretzel crust and think it would be great with a lot of different fillings – especially banana cream.
I know chocolate covered pretzels don’t include caramel, but I added a layer of salted caramel under the filling for two reasons. First, I love caramel and I’ll put it in any dessert if I can get away with it. Second, it provides a moisture barrier between the bottom of the crust and the filling – I didn’t want my precious pretzel crust to get soggy.
The filling is a fairly standard chocolate pudding. I used egg yolks only for richness, and a combination of dark and milk chocolates, plus cocoa powder (which deepens the chocolate flavor without adding richness). I included a bit of good bourbon in the filling but it tastes great without it, too (I like the smokiness of bourbon with chocolate).
I took some more liberties with the topping. I suppose this is a stretch to call this a pie version of a chocolate covered pretzel, but who cares? It’s really good. Sweetened cream and mascarpone cheese, and then chocolate shards on top make a pretty looking pie. And a delicious thing to eat.
I know it looks involved – it is (surely one of the reasons I didn’t win!). But the components are simple to make and it can be made in stages. It’s definitely not something to whip up at the last minute.
Makes one 9-inch pie, or 8 servings
3 1/2 cups salted mini-pretzels
1/4 cup granulated sugar
12 tbsp unsalted butter, melted & cooled slightly
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
3 oz. Scharffen Berger Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chunks (70%)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon Scharffen Berger Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder
5 large egg yolks
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 3-oz Scharffen Berger Bittersweet Bar (70%), coarsely chopped
1 3-0z. Scharffen Berger Semi-Sweet Bar (62%), coarsley chopped
2 teaspoons good-quality whiskey or bourbon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 lb. mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Have ready a 9-inch glass pie plate.
Combine the pretzels and sugar in a food processor and process until the pretzels are medium-fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are evenly moist.
Dump the crumbs into the pie plate and cover with a large sheet of plastic wrap. Use your fingers on top of the plastic wrap to press the the crumbs on the bottom and side of the plate to cover evenly and completely. Use a metal measuring cup with straight sides and a flat bottom to compact the crumbs into an even layer. Remove the plastic wrap.
Bake the crust for 10 minutes – it will puff up. Remove the crust from the oven and press down again with the metal measuring cup. Place the crust back in the oven for another 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely on a rack.
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup with the water, stirring carefully. Avoid splashing the sides of the pan.
Cook over high heat until an instant read thermometer reads 350 degrees, or until the mixture is dark amber in color. Remove from the heat, and slowly add the heavy cream and then the fleur de sel. Whisk in the creme fraiche. Set aside to cool completely (the caramel can be made up to two days ahead, stored in a covered container in the refrigerator).
Spread a thin layer of the caramel on the bottom of the cooled crust. Refrigerate while making the filling.
Melt the Scharffen Berger Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chunks in a clean, dry heatproof bowl set in a wide pan of nearly simmering water, stirring frequently with a dry spatula until smooth. Remove the bowl from the water and wipe the bottom dry.
Tear off two 15-inch-long sheets of waxed paper. Scrape the melted chocolate onto one sheet and spread with an offset metal spatula in a thin, even layer – leave at least 1/2″ border on the edges of the wax paper. Cover the chocolate with the second sheet of waxed paper.
Starting at one short edge, roll the paper and chocolate into a narrow tube about 1 inch in diameter. Refrigerate the tube seam side down on a baking sheet for at least two hours.
Remove the tube of chocolate from the refrigerator and quickly unroll it while the chocolate is still cold and brittle to crack it into long curved shards. Peel back the top sheet of waxed paper.
Immediately slide a metal spatula under the chocolate to release it from the waxed paper, and then slide the shards onto a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate until ready to use. Warm fingers will melt the shards, so work quickly, or handle them with a spatula or tongs.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, salt, cornstarch and cocoa powder. Add the egg yolks and whisk until the mixture resembles a thick paste. Slowly pour in milk and cream, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil over medium heat, continuing to whisk constantly; let boil for 30 seconds and immediately remove from heat.
Add the chopped chocolates, whiskey and vanilla. Whisk until well combined and mixture has cooled slightly. Let cool at room temperature for 15 minutes, whisking regularly to keep a skin from forming. Pour the filling into the crust, over the caramel. Cover the pie with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic against the filling to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for 4 hours before topping.
In a medium bowl, combine the mascarpone, cream, sugar, and vanilla. Using an electric mixer, beat on low speed until almost smooth, 30 to 60 seconds. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the mixture is thick and holds firm peaks, another 30 to 60 seconds. Important: don’t overbeat.
Remove the plastic wrap from the top of the pie. With a rubber spatula, drop the topping in large scoops onto the top of the pie. Use an offset spatula to lightly spread the topping over the chocolate filling.
Arrange the chocolate shards in a pile on top of the pie, sticking some into the mascarpone cream to form a forest of chocolate on top of the pie.
Serve the tart right away or cover loosely and refrigerate, in the pan, for up to 6 hours.
- OccuPie (Sheri’s Recipe Box)