Chocolate Cream Pie: we're rollin'.

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America’s top three favorite pies are (drum roll, please):

Apple. Pumpkin.

And NOT cherry, blueberry, strawberry, lemon meringue, pecan, custard, shoofly, sweet potato, or key lime.

Nope, none of the above. As you’ve probably already surmised from looking at the mouthwatering picture, it’s classic chocolate cream – “starter pie” (using a packaged graham cracker crust, chocolate instant pudding, and Cool Whip) for many a budding baker.

Yes, you can quickly and easily put together a chocolate cream pie using the ingredients mentioned above. It’ll taste pretty good, too.

But to make a classic diner-style chocolate cream pie, the kind you see sitting under a cake cover on the formica counter at the local Dip ‘n’ Sip, you need to make a pie with REAL crust: tender, buttery rolled-out crust.

I recently did a pie demonstration for about 60 people gathered at Titcomb’s, my favorite local bookstore (and one that every book-lover should visit at least once in their lives… it’s that special a place).

I asked the roomful of people, “Who here makes  a good pie crust?”

Two people raised their hands. TWO out of 60.

Which leads me to believe, there are still a lot of you out there either 1) shunning homemade pie as too difficult due to that pesky crust, or 2) furtively unrolling a frozen/thawed store-bought crust into your pie plate.

If you fall into either of these categories, chin up. Throw your shoulders back, stride confidently into the kitchen, and get out your rolling pin. We’re going to make a deep-dark Chocolate Cream Pie that’ll make even the best diner’s version pale (literally) in comparison.

Let’s start with that stress-inducing crust. Stay calm and roll on! I’m going to walk you through this one step at a time, so even if you panic at the thought of making pie crust, trust me – this will be the best crust you’ve ever made.

That said – if you already make a darned good crust, simply use your own recipe and technique to make a single baked 9″ pie crust. Feel free to skip all this crust stuff, and scroll down to the filling directions.

Start by whisking together 1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a shallow bowl.

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Work in 1/4 cup vegetable shortening. I recommend Crisco; the less expensive store brands I’ve tried just don’t cut it. Work the flour and shortening until the mixture is in lumps the size of small peas.

Dice 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter into 1/2″ pieces, and work into the mixture until you have an irregularly lumpy mixture, with some pieces of butter the size of your fingernail.

Next, you’re going to add ice-cold water. The amount will vary, depending on how accurately you measured your flour, and how humid it’s been in your kitchen lately.

Start by sprinkling 2 tablespoons water over the crust, and tossing everything together to distribute the water; the mixture will come together in spots, and be dry in others. Add an additional 2 tablespoons ice water, tossing to combine; the lumps will become larger.

At this point you can continue to add water, a tablespoon at a time, until you can gather the dough into a cohesive ball.

But the flakiest crust demands you add the smallest amount of water possible; here’s how to reach that goal.

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Transfer the crumbly mixture to a piece of waxed or parchment paper. There’ll be dry spots in the pile. Use a spray bottle of water to lightly spritz these places; that way you’ll add JUST enough water to bring the dough together.

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Fold the dough over on itself, first from one side, then the other, then from each end. There’ll probably still be a few sandy bits breaking off; that’s OK.

Pat the dough into a disk. Roll the disk on its edge, like a wheel, to smooth out the edges. This step will ensure your dough will roll out evenly, without a lot of cracks and splits at the edges later.

Wrap the dough in plastic or paper, and refrigerate it for 30 minutes, or for up to a couple of days. This cold rest does two things: it relaxes the gluten in the flour, which can potentially make crust tough; and it gives the flour time to absorb the water, making it easier to roll.

Next: shaping and baking the crust.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 9″ pie pan that’s at least 2″ deep. This will make serving the pie easier after it’s finished.

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Take the crust out of the fridge and unwrap it. If it’s been chilling longer than 30 minutes, let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes or so, until it starts to become pliable.

Roll the crust into a 13″ circle. I like to roll atop a lightly floured silicone mat, to contain the “mess,” but your counter top is fine.

I also like to put a piece of parchment paper atop the crust as I roll; it helps prevent the crust sticking to the pin, and also cuts back on the amount of flour I have to sprinkle on the crust to keep it from sticking. The more added flour – the drier/tougher the crust.

Well, I still ended up with ragged edges, didn’t I? Some crusts are more cooperative than others! No worries; all will be well once I crimp the edges.

Fold the crust in quarters…

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…and set it into the greased pan, with the corner in the center of the pan. Unfold it, without stretching; simply settle it gently into the pan. If you’ve ever had a crust puddle down into the bottom of the pan as it bakes, one big reason is that it was stretched into the pan, rather than simply eased in.

Fold under those ragged edges, and push them into a tall rim. Use the thumb and pointer finger of one hand, and one finger of the other hand, to make a nice crimp.

Is your oven at 400°F? Let’s get the pie ready to bake.

Prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork; this will help prevent steam from collecting underneath and forming bubbles.

Put the lined pie pan in the refrigerator to chill for 10 minutes. Again, this relaxes the gluten, to alleviate toughness; it also chills the fat in the crust, which helps promote flakiness.

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Line the pie with a round of parchment or aluminum foil; I find a 9″ parchment cake round works nicely.

Fill the parchment with something heavy and oven-safe; I’m using wheat berries here. Many people use pie weights, uncooked rice, or dried beans. I recently saw a tip to use pennies, as they conduct the heat nicely; I’ll have to try that sometime.

Bake the crust for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and gently remove the foil or parchment and weights. Return the crust to the oven for 10 to 20 more minutes, until it’s golden brown all over. If the edges of the crust start becoming too brown, cover them with a pie shield, or strips of aluminum foil.

Remove the crust from the oven, and let it cool while you make the filling.

Notice despite all my care the crust still shrunk a bit; but at least it didn’t slide down the insides of the pan. Chocolate cream filling will cover a world of cosmetic mishaps!

Ah, yes, the filling…

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Put 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 1/3 cups (8 ounces) chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Set it aside, for now.

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In a medium saucepan off the heat, whisk together 2/3 cup granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional; for richer chocolate flavor), and 1/8 teaspoon salt.

Whisk in 1/4 cup of cold heavy cream until the mixture is smooth, with no lumps. Repeat with another 1/4 cup of cream; the mixture will become smoother.

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Whisk in 3 large egg yolks.

Place the saucepan over medium heat, and gradually whisk in another 1/2 cup heavy cream, and 2 cups milk.

Should you use skim milk, 1%, 2%… whole? Whatever you like; the higher-fat the milk, the richer the filling.

Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly as it thickens; boil for 1 minute.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture over the reserved chocolate and butter in the mixing bowl. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

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Push the filling through a strainer into a bowl, to remove any lumps. You can use the back of a ladle, a flexible spatula, or a wooden spoon to stir it through the strainer. Scrape the underside of the strainer  a few times with a clean spatula to help the process along.

Place plastic wrap or buttered parchment paper on the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and chill thoroughly.

Stay with me here; this is a long process, but SO worth it – and we’re nearly there.

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Transfer the thoroughly cooled (and thickened) filling to the baked pie crust. Level the top as best you can with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula.

You can serve the pie immediately. But I find it becomes nicely sliceable if you either refrigerate it overnight, or place it in the freezer for 30 minutes or so before serving.

You can also simply chill it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve, up to several days. The closer to serving time you assemble the pie, the crispier the crust will be; but it’s totally up to you and your time frame.

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Now, isn’t this just a thing of beauty and a joy forever? Yes, it’s more involved than whipping up a pan of brownies; but the destination is totally worth the journey.

And, if you’re not an expert pie crust baker, think how much progress you’ve just made!

The recipe for this pie calls for topping the entire pie with whipped cream before serving. I prefer to top individual slices with whipped cream; that way, if the whole pie isn’t consumed in one sitting, you don’t have to contend with whipped cream that gradually settles and melts into the pie as it sits in the fridge.

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Chocolate Cream Pie.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. waikikirie

    Now you did it PJ….I was sent to have the chocolate pecan and then you throw this one at us. What a decision…..teehee

    Reply
  2. Sharon

    I remember my mom making chocolate meringue pie, she always makes her filling from scratch, they are better. I’ve made these with whipped topping, for some reason my kids don’t like meringue, but I sure do. This sounds like a great chocolate cream pie.

    Reply
  3. SarahD

    I just can’t do it. I’ve tried and tried. I can bake anything else with great skill. I even watched a KA demo in person. It just doesn’t happen. Trader Joe’s makes a pretty good frozen crust. :)

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Don’t give up Sarah! Pie crust is something that is easy to make, but hard to master. We are here to help if you need advice. Jon@KAF

    1. Annies

      Well, I use pennies as pie weights and it work perfectly.
      People in a right mind would clean them up really good and use them as pie weight.
      Sometimes people just need to voice their opinion and I can stand it!

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      Each to his own level of comfort, Annie, right? I’m a firm believer in challenging my immune system to keep it strong and healthy – I let my toddler son eat dirt so he’d see it didn’t taste good, AND help his body deal with germs. Worked out fine! Now, as for pennies, I’d certainly line the crust with parchment or foil, and wash the pennies; but beyond that, I wouldn’t worry about them looking “dirty.” Thanks for connecting here – PJH

  4. RW

    Yes, I second the meringue. I am from the south and have been baffled by the this chocolate cream pie concept; the rich chocolate filling and the whipped cream cancel each other out. That is what those three egg whites you have left from the filling are there for. They were born for this I tell you!
    Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt and 3-4 Tablespoons of sugar until they form soft peaks. Spread on top of chilled filling in the pie crust and give it some dramatic swoops and swirls, touching the crust all around so it doesn’t shrink back. Then put it in the oven. My family was divided between broiling and baking. I use a 375F oven for about 10 minutes or until the meringue is just browning on the peaks. Cool before eating. The contrast from flaky, buttery crust, rich, sweet, creamy chocolate, and airy meringue is perfection.

    Reply
  5. Sally

    I like the measured circles on the silicone mat, and I really like the idea of covering the crust with waxed paper or parchment paper so it doesn’t stick to the roller. I’m not keen on silicone, however, and I think if I had one of those mats, I’d put waxed paper over it so I’d have the measurements but a surface I trust. I don’t like or trust silicone, because I do taste it a tad if I lick something off a silicone spatula. (Parchment paper is safe in my book becs I don’t smell or taste it at all; I’m what OSHA classifies as “a canary”.)

    Reply
  6. Jo

    Maybe this is a ridiculous question, but where does one find a food safe spray bottle?

    Check out Amazon or a kitchen store. The bottle will have NFS marked clearly on the side. Betsy@KAF

    Reply
  7. Terri

    I’ve made this recipe many times to rave reviews. It is time consuming, but so worth it. My crusts never look that pretty, but they do taste good.

    It is a KAF favorite! Betsy@KAF

    Reply
  8. Bridgid

    for Cris – the pennies would be on parchment. Copper is an excellent conductor of heat. I love the idea – I HATE the idea of using beans or something else edible that cannot be cooked after using as a pie weight, and I am too cheap to buy pie weights. But pennies sound great to me! I’ll bet if I ran them through the dishwasher in a mesh bag they would be a lot cleaner, too. Thanks, PJ!

    Reply
    1. waikikirie

      Those were my thoughts exactly!!!. Run the pennies through the dishwasher and place them on parchment. I am thinking of putting a bunch of pennies through the dishwasher to have on hand.

  9. Kitty

    I grew up with chocolate pie with meringue topping. I always make my own pudding from scratch using cocoa, cornstarch, etc., but never with chocolate chips. Will this pudding still stay thickened if you top it with meringue and put it back in the oven?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Kitty, I haven’t tried that, but I’d assume it will soften up, then firm again when you put it back in the fridge. Let us know how it comes out – PJH

  10. Emily

    This is my first ever Chocolate Cream Pie. My mom’s recipe uses the pudding-I asked her do I get the cook & serve or the instant? She said it depends on if you want to stand over the stove or not… I imagine she used instant, though I always love her pies. This year I’m sure she will be super impressed with my Chocolate Cream Pie!!! I just made the filling, and I didn’t lick the bowl until the pudding was safely covered and in the fridge. Haha I knew if I tested it, it wouldn’t make it into a crust on Wednesday! I can’t wait for everyone to try it! And we are a New England family so it’s always been home-whipped cream for the top, but I think I agree with RW that the 3 egg whites are left over specifically for a meringue. We’ll see how it goes! Thanks so much KAF and KAF community! (Now I have to locate some pennies and get them washed!)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Emily, so glad you decided to try a completely from scratch chocolate cream pie – I think you’ll be very happy with it. Enjoy the next few days getting everyting ready for the feast – and thanks for connecting with us here. PJH

  11. Kimberly

    This is great! With the espresso and eggs in the recipe, I have decided that this is a breakfast dish! Mmmmmmmmm…… gonna have to get cream and eggs pronto!

    Reply
  12. Lisa Maher

    I have my crust cooling in the refrigerator and just reading over the filling recipe. I have a question, when cooling the pie overnight, do you cover it? And if so, with what?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Lisa, you have to wait until it’s completely cool to cover it, otherwise it gets soggy. If you’ve finished the pie late at night and you HAVE to go to bed (yes, been there, done that), wait as long as possible, to give it more time to cool (get ready for bed, brush your teeth, etc.); then find a large cover of some kind (the plastic top to a deli tray; a large bowl), and put it over the pie, but stick something under one corner of the cover to prop it up and let some air in; this will help evaporate any collecting moisture as the pie continues to cool. Good luck – PJH

  13. Rachel

    I just found the printable version, but couldn’t find my previous comment to delete it — disregard my blonde moment, and this will be Thanksgiving dessert — thank you! :)

    Reply
  14. Virginia

    Made this for Thanksgiving for non-pumpkin-pie eaters. I had to call the Bakers Hotline twice for Amy to hold my hand through a couple of steps, but the results were outstanding. My husband and 24 year old son would not stop pestering me for a taste-test. I relented and they declare it the best chocolate cream pie in the universe! My son had two pieces and said, “And I used to think Jello pudding pie was good. But there is no comparison!” This recipe is well worth the effort. I didn’t change a thing but I did use the expresso powder. Also, it helped to read the recipe through several times first. And, lastly, I fell in love with parchment paper! Wow! What a difference it makes in making the crust. Thanks KAF!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Virginia, you’re right, it’s a bit involved. Well, for those who don’t bake a lot, more than “a bit.” But all the steps are pretty straightforward; and the end result, as you say, is really superb. I hope your husband and son leave a few pieces for tomorrow! Happy thanksgiving – PJH

  15. DD

    I am so glad I found this recipe! Just trying it for the first time for Thanksgiving tomorrow, and my son is so excited, as it’s his favorite kind of pie! He even helped me make it! I have the filling chilling in the fridge, and I weighted the crust with pennies in the oven, as my husband likes to collect them, we had plenty! (They worked great!) Thanks for sharing this, and with the pictures, it made it that much easier to follow!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      So glad you found this recipe, too – enjoy the pie tomorrow. Hope your son has a big piece! PJH

  16. Dick Johnson

    I just finished putting this recipe together (using my own pie crust recipe, sorry!) and am currently chilling the chocolate filling.

    Anyway, I tasted the spoon (isn’t that what this entire process is for? tasting the spoon!) and the filling is amazing. It’s chocolatey without having too strong of a cocoa taste (I love dark chocolate, my wife doesn’t) and it is very smooth. Very, very smooth.

    To the reason for my post:
    People talking merignue versus whipped cream — I prefer whipped cream, though merignue is nice as well. Some are saying how whipped cream cancels out the chocolate because of sweetness.

    That is where my preferred method comes in. I take a cup of very cold heavy or whipping cream, 1-2Tbsp of granulated sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla (yes, basic whipped cream). Oh, I also chill my whisk and mixing bowl first. Whip them until you get stiff peaks (my preference, you can go softer) and then serve with your pie. I usually just cover my pies with it.

    This is a VERY slightly sweetened whipped cream. It works very well with a chocolate cream pie. You get the whipped cream texture and taste, without adding a whole lot of sweetness.

    I’ll re-post later (I know, most posts are old) to let you all know how the family liked this.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Dick, I’m with you – I prefer my whipped cream very lightly sweetened. I feel this allows the flavor of the cream itself to shine through and, as you say, the sweetness isn’t strong enough to battle with the chocolate filling. Thanks for connecting her – we’ll look forward to hearing how your family enjoyed the pie! PJH

  17. pekesrus

    I have made this pie a few times and everyone loved it. I personally am a chocolate & whipped cream girl so it’s not surprising I found this recipe. My only change up is a graham cracker crust. It goes very well with the chocolate ;)

    Reply

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