Do you find this photo offensive?
No, not THAT kind of offensive.
But, picturing as it does a pie with a cracked top, do you feel, well... disappointed that it's not perfect?
And I'll tell you why. I'm fed up to here with "perfect" food.
Food that's been groomed, propped, then Photoshopped until you have something that's about as close to reality as the celebs you see on the cover of the National Enquirer.
In other words – as the Car Talk guys would say, B-O-G-U-S.
Not every loaf of bread rises to a golden dome. Not every muffin looks like the front of the Duncan Hines box. Not every pancake is a flawless 4" circle.
And not every pie is perfect.
In fact, I'd venture to say that most of what we create, as non-professional home bakers, is pretty average in the looks department.
Sure, there are those of you with the Martha Stewart gene – you know who you are – who can create outrageously gorgeous wedding cakes, decorated cookies, and picture-perfect pastries.
But for many of us (including me), the struggle and high chance of "failure" in the quest for beauty just isn't worth the effort.
Don't get me wrong; when my delicious, tender cake is also worthy of a Saveur magazine photo shoot, I've hit the jackpot.
But when it doesn't happen (read: 99.9% of the time), I'm not bummed.
Beauty is only skin crust deep.
And your first bite of this Chocolate Midnight Pie – with its espresso-scented, buttery bottom crust; intense chocolate filling, and shatteringly crackly top crust – is surely just as satisfying as a pretty picture.
Want to make a pie that's guaranteed to be picture-imperfect? I'll show you how; I'm an expert at imperfection!
Let's start with the crust.
Whisk together the following:
1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt
Add 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pats; work it into the dry ingredients until the mixture is unevenly crumbly.
Dissolve 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder in 1 tablespoon of milk. Sprinkle over the dry ingredients. Add up to 5 tablespoons milk (or more, if necessary) to the dough, continuing to mix until everything 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 until it's about 1" thick, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
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 a 12" circle.
Transfer the dough to a regular (not deep-dish) 9" pie pan that's at least 1 ¼" deep. Trim and crimp the edges. Place the crust in the refrigerator to chill, while you're preparing the filling.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Beat together 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth.
Add 4 large 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.
Mix 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur (e.g., Kahlua; or substitute strong brewed coffee) with 1 tablespoon cold milk or cream (half and half, light, heavy, or whipping) and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add to the batter.
Note: Frangelico (hazelnut), Amaretto (almond), Grand Marnier (orange), or Framboise (raspberry) are all wonderful, in place of the Kahlua.
Use a food processor (mini, if you have one) to grind together 1 teaspoon espresso powder, 2 tablespoons cornmeal, and 2/3 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips.
Add to the batter.
For over-the-top chocolate flavor, stir in 1/4 cup cocoa, Dutch-process or natural.
Pour the batter into the crust.
Bake the pie for 45 minutes, adding a crust shield after 20 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool.
Warning: this pie is disturbingly liquid when you pull it out of the oven. But don't panic; an overnight rest in the refrigerator solidifies it and gives all the flavors a chance to mellow.
So long as the temperature has reached at least 165°F right in the center, the pie is done.
Once the pie has cooled to room temperature, cover it and refrigerate overnight before serving. Keep any leftovers refrigerated.
The pie, after having been chilled overnight, will be soft in the center; it'll gently ooze when cut.
And yes, the top crust will be cracked; think the crackly top of a pan of brownies.
Serve the pie with ice cream or whipped cream.
Or not. It's perfectly fine as is.
Both in taste, and appearance.
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