Dad’s Ice Box Pie

For as long as I could remember, my father’s favorite desserts in the world have been Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and ice box cake. When I was little, I always pictured “ice box cake” as being some kind of deliciousness you’d pull out of your freezer to snack on, but it turns out that ice box cake, or at least our family’s version of it, is nothing more than graham crackers, vanilla and chocolate pudding from the box, and bananas layered together. The “ice box” part of it comes from the storage of the dessert. If it sits in the fridge overnight, the crackers soak up the pudding and become soft and cake-like. It’s one of the easiest and cheapest desserts you could make, and it’s extremely lovely to come home to after a long day at school or work.

When I started learning more about desserts, I figured out a more grown-up way to make my papa bear’s favorite dish. I began by substituting the graham crackers for a graham cracker pie crust, turning it into a pie rather than a cake. Turns out, it’s much easier to eat (too much of) this way.

I replaced the classic Jell-O pudding mix with a chocolate pudding that doesn’t come from a box, and instead of vanilla pudding, I added whipped cream. Who really likes vanilla pudding anyway? The creme de la creme of the old school dessert is the sliced bananas, and by keeping those in the pie, I turned an easy treat into something that could impress people. Well, it impressed my dad anyway. I always top the pie with Reese’s-either chopped peanut butter cups or the pieces-because, like me, my pops is in love with peanut butter and chocolate, but shaved chocolate, additional sliced bananas, or nothing but pure and simple whipped cream are also fabulous toppings.

Stuff You’ll Need

  • Graham cracker pie crust
  • Two slightly green bananas (they’ll ripen once they’re in the pie)
  • Fresh whipped cream
  • Chocolate mousse or chocolate pudding (recipe below)
  • Toppings of choice-Reese’s Pieces or Peanut Butter Cups, sliced bananas, shaved chocolate

For the Chocolate Filling

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

How to Do It

  1. Whip the heavy cream and 2 Tbsp of granulated sugar at high-speed until it holds soft peaks, 1-2 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Make the chocolate filling. Create a double boiler by placing a small saucepan half-filled with water on high heat on the stove top. Allow it to come to a boil, and then turn the heat down slightly so it remains simmering. Place a metal, heat-safe bowl on top of the pot, and add the chopped chocolate and butter to the bowl. Whisk continuously until the chocolate and butter have melted completely, and remove the bowl from the heat. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. When the bowl is cool enough to handle, quickly whisk in the egg yolks and vanilla. Whisk continuously until the yolks have blended completely.
  4. In a separate bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the egg whites and the remaining 2 Tbsp of granulated sugar on high-speed until the mixture holds stiff peaks, 1-2 minutes.
  5. Stir a few tablespoons of the egg white mixture into the chocolate, and then fold the remaining mixture gently into the chocolate using a rubber spatula. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture gently just until the white streaks disappear. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
  6. After the filling has cooled, fill the graham cracker crust 3/4 of the way full with the chocolate. Slice the bananas in thin slices and line every inch of the chocolate with bananas.
  7. Top with whipped cream and additional toppings, and serve immediately. If you don’t plan on serving (or eating) the pie immediately, hold off on putting the whipped cream on.

 Recipe for chocolate mousse from Today Food.

Tip: Be sure to use organic, pasteurized eggs in this recipe because you’re basically serving them raw. The high temperature of the chocolate/butter mixture only does so much to cook the yolks so protect yourself! Also, be sure to eat the pie within a day or two. This really shouldn’t be a problem…

Boston Cream Cake

Hello friends! It’s been too long since I’ve written 😦 but I promise I have a grrrrrreeeat recipe to make up for it!

My brother-in-law is a fantastic chef from Italy who can do everything but dessert. I promised him that the next time we came over for dinner, I’d bring him a Boston cream pie, his favorite, to thank him for the fabulous dinners he cooks. Honestly, other than the doughnut, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a real Boston cream “pie” so I wasn’t sure where I’d find a recipe for one either.

I came across this recipe from King Arthur Flour a little hesitant because it called for packaged pudding mix for the topping on a from-scratch cake filled with from-scratch chocolate ganache. Not only did I find that an odd place to cut corners, but I’ve found that packaged powdered pudding mix is quite atrocious once you learn how to make your own.

So I did this…

Vanilla pastry cream. Pastry cream, mousse, and pudding are all made in the same general way. Milk and sugar are cooked, used to temper whisked eggs and cornstarch, and cooked again. The addition of whipped cream after cooling creates a mousse or a lighter pastry cream. It’s easy enough to master using the easy recipe for vanilla pastry cream below, and it will sure as hell impress your friends more than a prepackaged powder.

Pastry Cream

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes approximately 5 cups

  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch, sifted
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 4 Tbsp butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
  • Medium saucepan, sieve or strainer

How to Do It

  1. In a medium saucepan, stir 2 1/2 cups of milk, sugar, and salt together until the sugar is dissolved. Place over medium heat, and bring the mixture to a boil.
  2. Whisk the cornstarch, flour, 1/2 cup of milk, and egg yolks together in a stainless steel mixing bowl.
  3. Temper the egg yolk mixture with a small amount of the hot milk. When the milk and sugar mixture begins to boil, remove it from the heat and slowly pour a steady stream into the egg yolk mixture while continuously whisking. Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan, and bring to a boil while constantly stirring. Boil for 30 seconds, and remove from the heat.
  4. Work the mixture through a strainer or sieve to smooth it out. Add the chunks of butter and vanilla extract, and continue to stir until the butter has melted and the cream is smooth.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool. Fold in the whipped cream until blended.

Recipe from King Arthur Flour.  

Tip: Make it chocolate by adding 4 oz of semisweet chocolate when adding the butter, or change the extract flavor (almond, orange, etc) to change the flavor of the pastry cream. This can be used as filling or can be enjoyed alone as pudding. Mmmmm.

Boston Cream Cake

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes one 9″ cake

For the Cake

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Parchment paper, 9″ round pan

For the Chocolate Topping

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1 Tbsp light corn syrup or agave nectar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line and lightly grease a 9″ round cake pan.
  2. Whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla & almond extract, baking powder, and salt until thickened and light in color. Set aside.
  3. Combine the butter and milk, and heat in the microwave (or on a stove top if you prefer) until the butter is melted and the milk is hot.
  4. Take turns adding the milk and the flour to the egg mixture, whisking between each addition.
  5. When the batter is blended, pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester or fork comes out clean and the sides have pulled away from the pan.
  6. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, and then remove it from the pan and place on a wire cooling rack to finish cooling.
  7. While the cake is cooling, make the chocolate topping by adding the chocolate, corn syrup or agave nectar, vanilla, and cream to a medium stainless steel mixing bowl. Place the bowl on top of a small saucepan half filled with water, and simmer over medium heat. Continue to stir the mixture until the chocolate is melted and the cream begins to bubble slightly.
  8. Remove the chocolate from heat, and allow it to cool for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in confectioner’s sugar until the chocolate has thickened.
  9. Cut the cake into two layers by slicing through it horizontally. Place one layer of the cake (cut side up) on a plate, and cover the half with the vanilla pastry cream. Place the second layer of cake on top of the pastry cream (cut side down), and cover the half with the cooled chocolate topping. Smooth the chocolate with a spatula.
  10. Refrigerate the cake for 20-30 minutes to absorb the flavors and soften a bit. Let it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before serving.

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.

It may not be any fewer calories than a Boston cream doughnut, but at least you won’t get that funky stale doughnut shoppe taste when you eat it. It will be gone way too fast for that.



Chocolate Pots de Creme

If you’ve made mousse, custard, or pastry cream before, these creamy desserts will be simple. If you haven’t attempted to make any of those, it will still be simple to make these. People are always impressed with desserts you can serve in individual portions because they look like they take more effort than they do. I found the Chocolate Pots de Creme during my search for something gluten-free and French for our French-themed book club (more on that on the next Winesday post), and I adjusted the amounts to serve a group of 7. The original recipe came from the book Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen.

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 8 servings

  •  2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/2 Tbsp
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 oz chopped semi-sweet chocolate
  • 8 ramekins
  • 9 x 13″ cake pan, or another pan with 1″ or taller sides in which you can fit ramekins

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Combine the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla in a stainless steel mixing bowl for a stand mixer or to use with an electric hand mixer. Mix until fully incorporated, but be careful not to whip the ingredients.
  3. Scald the milk in a double boiler or in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Add the chocolate, and continue to stir until the chocolate has melted.
  4. Remove the milk from the heat, and carefully pour it into the egg mixture in a small, steady stream as you continue to stir the mixture.
  5. After the milk is added, skim any foam off of the top of the mixture with a rubber spatula.
  6. Fill the ramekins halfway with the batter, and arrange the dishes in the cake pan. Pull the top rack slightly out of the oven, and place the pan on top. Fill the pan with enough hot water that the level outside reaches the same height as the mixture inside the ramekins. Carefully slide the oven rack back into the oven, and bake until the custard sets, about 45 minutes.
  7. Remove the pan from the oven, and remove the ramekins to cool. Cover and store in the refrigerator. The custard will thicken slightly and be very rich. You can serve it plain, with powdered sugar, or with whipped cream, but be sure to always serve it with a delicious red wine.

Pumpkin Mousse!

At this time of year, I can’t help it. I need to indulge in pumpkin in any way possible, and the thought of it always makes me very excited. Hence the ! after the title for every pumpkin recipe. It just makes me excited for the chilly nights, and I love that one ingredient can be used in every type of dessert to make something delicious.

This next recipe is a little creation of my own. I searched for pumpkin mousse recipes in a variety of places, but I couldn’t find any to my liking. Most of them involved some combination of sugar-free instant pudding, cream cheese, or some other non-mousse related ingredient. I wanted the more traditional route. Mousses can cover a broad range of creamy, fluffy desserts, but generally, they always have whipped cream, meringue, or both folded into them. I decided to make a basic pastry cream and add some pumpkin goodies and whipped cream to make it a mousse.

Pumpkin Mousse

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 6 1 cup servings

  • Whipped cream (8oz heavy cream : 2oz sugar)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tsp corn starch, sifted
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp (1/4 stick) butter
  • 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp allspice

How to Do It

Start by setting up your kitchen for what’s most comfortable for you. This is not a difficult process, but timing is everything. It will help if you have your ingredients readily available and can do everything in a streamline fashion. This is how I set up my counter to make the mousse.

Measure out what you can ahead of time.

Now, let’s get into creating!

  1. First, make the whipped cream, chill, and set aside. It may be helpful to divide it in half as you’ll be folding half into your mousse and using the other half to top the mousse.
  2. Dissolve the first 1/4 cup plus 1/2 Tbsp sugar into the milk in a sauce pan, and set over medium heat. Bring just to a boil.
  3. While the milk is heating, combine the eggs, the cornstarch, and second portion of sugar into a mixing bowl or stand mixer. Using the whip attachment, whip the ingredients until bright yellow and creamy.
  4. Temper the egg mixture by slowly and steadily pouring the hot milk in a thin stream into the mixing bowl while continuing to beat the eggs. Do this until the entire amount of milk is whipped in, and remember: if you add the milk too quickly, it will start to cook the eggs!
  5. Transfer the mixture back into the hot saucepan, and place over medium heat while continuously stirring.
  6. Add the butter and vanilla extract, and continue stirring. The mixture will begin thickening quickly. When it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat.
  7. Stir in the pumpkin and spices until fully blended.
  8. Cool the mixture quickly by putting the pan in an ice bath, or transfer it to a smaller bowl or pan and refrigerate. Be sure to cover with plastic wrap so the cream doesn’t develop a crust on the top. No one likes crusty mousse.
  9. After the mixture is completely cooled and chilled, fold in half of your whipped cream. A rubber spatula works well for this. The texture will begin to change from a pudding-like texture to a creamy mousse.
  10. Divide into six serving dishes (I used ramekins), top with additional whipped cream and a ginger snap, grab a spoon, and enjoy!

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