This recipe for Black Bottom Pie with Gingersnap Crust and Brandy from Martha Hall Foose’s Screen Doors and Sweet Tea is completely out of hand. So much so that I polished off a piece last night, ate a slice with lunch and had another with dinner. It’s gone now, I gave the rest to a couple happy contractors. Yesterday I’d already decided to make the pie, when I read in Foose’s header the pie is “an ideal way to say “Happy Birthday” to the men in your life.” Well, to my late dad who most assuredly would have loved this pie Happy Father’s Day and pre Happy Birthday.
The making of this pie is more than my love of the cookbook or remembering my dad…it is about the ingredients. Certainly, they are great…gingersnaps (a favorite cookie), butter, brandy, egg whites, and semisweet chocolate are standouts. It is about honest real ingredients and the healthy joy that comes from putting them together (I am always giddy when egg whites form soft peaks). When I went to the supermarket yesterday to pick up whole milk and confectioners’ sugar I got into line behind a woman with a rather full cart loaded with low fat packaged/processed foods. Now, I think it would be fair to say this woman looked like she was making an effort to be in shape and certainly was not fat…though she was definitely not thin. I wanted so badly to tap her on the shoulder tell her to unload the cases of Fresca, margarine (yuck), and light this and that and head back to the produce section with me for some “real” ingredients. This gesture would have been less about her weight and more about her overall physical/mental health. Are you all rolling your eyes at me yet? That’s okay, I’m not running with this for too long.
Food is meant to be enjoyed; real food is meant to be smelled and tasted. Eating healthy is a commitment that starts with real/nutritious ingredients not just convenient packaging.
This now defunct Yoplait commercial was a bad idea that rang all too true with a lot of women who have an eating disorder and those who are or were at some point strong candidates. Women worry about their weight and that’s okay..but here’s the thing obsessing about it and making it a math problem i.e. well if I have that small sliver and walk an extra half-mile….that’s just miserable (speaking from personal experience). Everything in moderation. I love dessert as much as any other food group, but the kind I eat are often homemade with real ingredients. And yes, I just made dessert a food group…at least in my world it deserves a space in that pyramid or on that plate. Duncan Hines does not equal real ingredients. By baking a cake or anything else from scratch you worked for it, you know what is in it and likely can pronounce each and every ingredient. One more thing, the next time you make something from scratch vs. out of a package think of it this way…fresh = your body can break down the nutrients and disperse them efficiently and packaged = additives which prolong shelf life are not going to be gotten rid of so easily. Get the picture?
Now, for a dessert you should make and feel great about while doing so….let’s turn to the incredible woman from the Mississippi Delta Martha Hall Foose.
Black Bottom Pie: Gingersnap Crust and Brandy from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea
1 1/2 cups gingersnap crumbs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split
1 cup granulated sugar
4 1/2 tsp cornstarch
4 large egg yolks, beaten
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp brandy (I used Maine made apple brandy)
1 Tbsp unflavored gelatin, sprinkled over 1/4 cup cold water
4 large egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup heavy cream (I skipped due to my dairy intolerance, this would have put things over the edge for me)
1 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar (I skipped)
1/2 ounce semisweet chocolate
Make the crust. Preheat the oven to 325. Combine the crumbs, granulated sugar, and butter in a bowl. Pat the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes, until the crust bubble slightly and is puffed. Set aside to cool.
Make the filling. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk and vanilla bean just to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar and the cornstarch. Add the egg yolks and whisk until there are no lumps. Remove the vanilla bean from the milk, rinse, and reserve for another use. Slowly whisk the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and cook over very low heat, stirring constantly with a spatula, until the mixture boils for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
Remove 1 cup of the custard to a small bowl. Add the unsweetened chocolate and vanilla extract to the small bowl of custard. Pour this chocolate custard into the cooled baked pie crust. Mix the brandy and softened gelatin into the remaining custard. Cool the saucepan of brandy custard in an ice bath.
In an electric mixer, whip the egg whites at low speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar. With the mixer running, add the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 Tbsp at a time, and the salt. Once all of the sugar has been added, increase the speed and whip the whites until they hold soft peaks. Fold the egg whites into the cooled brandy custard. Smooth the mixture over the chocolate layer in the pie.
Whip the cream and confectioners’ sugar until the cream holds soft peaks. Spoon it in big dollops over the brandy layer. Shave, or grate, the semisweet chocolate over the top. Refrigerate for 3 hours or until set.
(Next recipe I’m making from this book is her Peach Fried Pie, but since one is only allowed to post up to three recipes from any source/cookbook and I’ve already posted her Watermelon Salsa and Sold My Soul to the Devil-ed Eggs you’ll need to purchase the cookbook for it.)