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!
Grandma’s Best Chocolate Pie
Prep Time: 15 min. Set Time: 2-24 hours
Yield: 10 pieces
- 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
- Whisk together ½ c. sugar and cocoa in a small bowl.
- Heat 2 cups of milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and cocoa mixture and whisk until combined.
- In a second small bowl, mix corn starch, ½ c. sugar, egg yolks and 2 tbsp. milk.
- Add to saucepan and whisk until smooth.
- Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Continue cooking and whisking 3-4 minutes, until mixture thickens.
- Remove from heat. Add vanilla and stir to combine.
- Pour into pie shell and refrigerate several hours, or better yet, overnight.