Grandma’s Best Chocolate Pie

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My Grandmother Barbara (Grammy Babs as my kids call her), was known for her pies.  I think I’ve mentioned this before. I remember sitting in her old New England Colonial kitchen for hours, watching her bake. 

I remember everything about that kitchen…the wood burning cook stove, the Hoosier cabinet, the wringer washing machine in the corner, the straight-backed chair next to her “picture postcard window” where I would sit and watch her as she cooked. 

I remember the taste of her chocolate pie, and how much I loved it. I mean, what kid doesn’t love chocolate. 7-year-old me did, that’s for sure! 

What I wish I remembered more was her actual cooking. I was too young to ask questions about what she was doing. For instance, why were there multiple copies of the same recipe, each with slight differences? Obviously this was a work in progress. But which version was the final version…her most developed?  Who knows.  

So I did what I do with many of her recipes like this. I used what I could and improvised the rest. 

Gram’s recipe started with scalding her milk. When my father was young, their home was a working dairy farm. Scalding the raw milk Gram used was important to get rid of the bacteria in the unpasteurized milk. My milk was pasteurized, so I simply started by heating my milk.

Start by heating 2 cups of milk in a saucepan. To this, add ½ cup of sugar and 4 tbsp. of good cocoa powder that had been whisked together. I used Ghirardelli cocoa powder because I love Ghirardelli’s rich taste. I gave this a good whisk until it was combined well.

In a small bowl, mix together corn starch, egg yolks, ½ cup sugar and 2 tbsp. milk to a thick paste. Add this to the milk mixture in the saucepan and whisk it until smooth. 

Turn up the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Once it is boiling, turn the heat back down to medium and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes until the mixture thickens.  

This was a step that all of Gram’s chocolate pie recipes did not include…how long to cook. Her recipes in general were a record of quantity of ingredients for her own reference later. She knew how long to cook it, so she didn’t need to write it down.  My mom and I joke that her recipes were a collection of “add a pinch of this, a dash of that, and cook in a moderate oven until done”. This isn’t far from the truth!

Once the mixture has thickened, remove it from the heat and add the vanilla extract. Pour it into a pre-baked 8” pie shell (make your own or buy one and pre-bake it) and refrigerate for several hours, or preferably overnight.  Tip, the longer you refrigerate the better!

If you try this recipe, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you! Follow me on InstagramPinterest and Facebook for more stories and recipes from my family table to yours. 

Grandma’s Best Chocolate Pie

Prep Time:  15 min.    Set Time:  2-24 hours       
Yield: 10 pieces

Ingredients

  • 2 c. + 2 tbsp. milk
  • 1 c. sugar, divided
  • 4 tbsp. cocoa
  • 4 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 8” prebaked pie shell

Instructions

  1. Whisk together ½ c. sugar and cocoa in a small bowl.
  2. Heat 2 cups of milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and cocoa mixture and whisk until combined. 
  3. In a second small bowl, mix corn starch, ½ c. sugar, egg yolks and 2 tbsp. milk.
  4. Add to saucepan and whisk until smooth.
  5. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Continue cooking and whisking 3-4 minutes, until mixture thickens.
  6. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and stir to combine. 
  7. Pour into pie shell and refrigerate several hours, or better yet, overnight.

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