I have always avoided making pies. No, seriously. I scroll through pretty food Instagram pages salivating at these gorgeous-looking pies which always seem to appear so perfect, despite the fact that pie pastry can be a baker’s worst nightmare! Personally, I love the taste of a nicely-made pie, perhaps a lemon meringue pie (with a torched Italian meringue on the top, yum!), or a simple tarte filled with pastry cream and topped with those perfectly-cut strawberries and raspberries which you can find in French patisseries? Except, my incapacity to effectively blind bake the pastry shell – which, in case you might not know, means baking the pastry alone before adding the filling and continuing to bake it – and the threat of it shrinking has meant that any attempt I have ever made to make a pie has almost inevitable failed (even before being able to taste the filling!).
Today, however, I present to you my own version of a Mississippi Mud Pie…and it involves no blind baking, no pie weights, and no anxious moments staring into the oven and praying for everything to turn out fine. Instead, this is a decadent pie with a creamy chocolate centre encased in a crisp biscuit base…and in case that has not yet enticed you, it is nicely topped-off with a shiny ganache. This is a chocolate lover’s delight, truly!
I made this pie for my mother’s birthday during the first year of my diagnosis. I have always loved baking cakes for people’s birthdays, even more so decorating them. But the fact that my mother is Italian automatically places her with the ‘I hate icing on cakes’ category of people (although I suspect her unwillingness to accept any American-inspired food which tastes better than that of her homeland has something to do with this!). So, this recipe came about because I was looking for an alternative to a classic birthday cake with a buttercream decoration and I needed an excuse to satisfy my cravings for something rich and chocolatey. When you have an eating disorder which involves depriving your body of the nutrients it requires to be healthy, you suddenly begin to crave foods which you had never before considered. I went through a period when all I wanted to eat was cheesecake…and then another when I really wanted something like a creamy mushroom pasta – the irony is that I had never liked either of these foods before! However, I only realised why I felt such a strong need to eat certain foods during certain periods of time once I began to put weight back on. And so, this pie was a balancing act of emotions and thoughts: on the one hand, I wanted to make a special birthday dessert, and on the other I was fighting with my anorexia because I wanted a cheesecake but could not bring myself to eat something so filling. Indeed, following on from my previous recipes when I wrote about the paradoxes within anorexia, I decided to omit the whipped cream, found in traditional Mississippi Mud Pie recipes, and replace it with a chocolate ganache…and which of the two toppings do you think is actually more calorific? I made this again for my mother’s birthday this year. I still used the ganache and I made sure not to cut down on any of the ingredients because this pie is perfect, and it is precisely because of all the butter and cream involved. So really, I think that you shouldn’t waste any more time thinking about it…go and bake this pie now! I know that your taste buds and your tummy will be very, very happy.
Enjoy baking it, and do not forget to tag @phi.mag with your creations!
The Fearless Baker
For the base:
300g crushed bourbon biscuits
50g melted butter, slightly salted
For the filling:
85g dark chocolate
85g butter, unsalted
85g muscovado sugar
100ml double cream
For the ganache-style topping: 100g dark chocolate
100ml double cream
2tbsp golden syrup
150g icing sugar, sifted
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (170°C fan-assisted).
2. Mix the biscuits and butter together in a bowl and press into a 9inch springform tin (one of the ones where you can detach the sides from the base). Make sure to pack the crumbs tightly and evenly across the base and up the sides of the tin. Chill in the fridge until the filling is ready.
3. For the filling, melt the butter and chocolate together over a bain-marie or in the microwave. Set to the side to cool slightly whilst you whisk together the eggs and sugar for about 5 minutes, or until thick and creamy.
4. Fold the double cream and cooled chocolate mixture into the eggs and sugar. Pour mixture into the chilled biscuit base, then bake in the oven for 40 minutes, or until just set (you want the middle to still be a tiny bit jiggly). Set aside until completely cool.
5. To make the topping, melt together all of the ingredients in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring continuously until a thick and glossy consistency is reached. Pour over the cooled pie and place the pie in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.