We don’t make cakes for birthdays anymore. We make pie—French Silk Pie to be exact. It’s the treat of choice in our family. And I make plenty—especially in the month of September. Even though it’s labor intensive, just hearing the family ooh and ah over that first bite makes it worthwhile. Seeing them pat their bellies and grin just warms my heart.
This decadent dessert came to us from Terry’s Aunt Jamie by way of his mother, Eloise (aka Mo). Jamie picked it up in a cooking class in Paris when Terry’s Uncle Sully, a colonel in the Air Force, was attached to the U.S Embassy there. Although I never got to eat one of Jamie’s originals, I’ve enjoyed many a piece at my mother-in-law’s table, as well as at my own. It’s a labor of love, but truly worth the effort.
The first time I tasted French Silk Pie was back in 1973. Terry and I weren’t yet married, but item enough that he spent lots of time at our apartment. (I was a package deal with two children, ages seven and nine.)
The French Silk Pie he served us wasn’t his original effort. Actually the road to success had been a bit rocky, or should I say soupy. As we gobbled up our first pieces of that dream dessert, he told us the story.
Hungry for his favorite pie, he’d called his mother who lived in Florida to get the recipe. (That was before email and texting.) He didn’t want to wait for a letter, so she dictated it to him over the phone.
Twice, he assembled all the ingredients and faithfully creamed the sugar, butter and eggs to a fare-thee-well. Cooled the chocolate before adding it. Poured it in a totally cooled crust and refrigerated the pie for the required time.
But that pie would not set up. Each time he placed a poof of Cool Whip—our version of whipped cream back then—on top, it sank into the depths of the soupy chocolate filling.
After the second failure (an ugly word), he called Mo back. A seasoned cook, she’d figure it out. He knew she would. They went through the recipe again, ingredient-by-ingredient, step-by-step. Here’s how I imagined the conversation might have gone.
“I followed it to a T.”
“What kind of margarine did you use?” (Yes, we used margarine back then, too.)
“Do you have the package handy?”
“Got it right here,” he said, stretching the phone cord across the kitchen so he could open the refrigerator. “Kraft Parkaye Whipped Margarine.”
“Did you say, whipped margarine? I bet that’s the problem. It’s softer. No wonder the pie won’t set up. Try it again with regular margarine.”
With hope in his heart, Terry dashed off to the store to buy the ingredients.
Later, after much creaming, beating and cooling, he proudly presented the rich, creamy pie to us.
And he was right. It was to die-for-good. And it still is.
Passing It On
I haven’t done hands-on cooking classes for this pie with my family, but I think one is in order. I’m sending out the call. There’ll be pictures. Lots of pictures. Mothers and grandmothers do that. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Maybe next February, someone will make a pie for me.
I’m sharing the recipe today.
Remember, the secret to success is in the beating. Lots of beating.
French Silk Pie
1-cup butter or margarine
1 ½-cups sugar
2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted & cooled
1 tsp. vanilla
3 large eggs (or 4 medium) *
1 baked pie shell
Cream butter 10-15 minutes, gradually adding sugar. Add 2 squares melted, cooled unsweetened chocolate & 1 tsp. vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 5 minutes after each one egg. Pour into baked pie shell. Chill 2 hours. The secret is lots of beating.
Garnish with whipped cream.
(Make it the day before. It’s even better the 2nd day.)
* Note: I’ve decided that extra-large eggs change the consistency of the pie–make softer fluffier, which isn’t bad, but it’s not in keeping with the original version.
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
Copyright © Reflections from Dorothy’s Ridge 2016. All rights reserved