German Chocolate Pie, Anyone?

My mother loved to cook.  In fact, when I tell people about her, I’m always quick to emphasize that she catered people’s parties and functions on the side.   She was once the subject of the area’s newspaper’s “Cook of the Week” feature.  She’s been gone for nearly two decades, and yet whenever people talk about her (at least to me), they never fail to mention how she could cook.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of her best loved desserts was her German Chocolate Pie.  For years, my brother and I would nag her to make them; it was a childhood favorite.  It wasn’t until years later that I learned that other relatives also begged for them, and that was part of why we got them so infrequently.  It’s a very rich and heavy pie, and until I started making them myself, I didn’t realize what a genuine pain in the rear that they could be.  This is a pie where if the instructions say, “Cook for X minutes,” they mean X minutes, not X+1.  It’s actually an easy item to make, but . . . I don’t know.  It’s actually one of my least favorite to prepare, despite all of its inherent goodness.  In my experience, too many things can go wrong.  (As you can see, my most recent attempt – made last week – turned out fine.  But for me this is the exception, not the rule.)

A good ten years before Mom’s passing, the recipe disappeared.

Mom’s health declined steadily during those ten years and she rarely entered the kitchen.  Despite receiving the “third degree” from my brother (who acted as if his head would explode if he didn’t get the recipe), Mom couldn’t recall the specifics or where she might have stored that soiled sheet of paper.  We reluctantly came to accept that this treat was yet another thing lost to the ages, and German Chocolate Pie went from memory to myth, as did many of her specialties, once her cookbooks vanished.  (Later investigations revealed that my sister has the fabled books, but alas, no GCP recipe was found.)

Things changed in February 1996, when – of all places – the recipe turned up in an issue of Ebony magazine.  I kid you not – it’s printed in their Valentine’s Day dinner issue, and it raised some of uncomfortable questions for me: Was the recipe actually Mom’s?  If so, did someone send it to the magazine for their own creditIf not, from where did Mom get it?  More importantly, if the recipe was readily available to the public, then why didn’t my relatives make their own darn pies?  That’s the big one, in my book.

I assume that Mom collected a recipe that she’d come across in her own research.  That knowledge doesn’t diminish how good the pie is, though.

German Chocolate Pie

Ingredients

  • (1) 9-inch unbaked pie shell [Get a deep dish shell or else you’ll have extra batter.]
  • (1) 4-ounce package sweet cooking chocolate  [Get Baker’s Sweet Chocolate in the green box.]
  • 1/4 c [1/2 stick] butter
  • (1) 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)  [Get Eagle brand canned milk]
  • 1 cup whipping cream, unwhipped  [It’s in a small carton next to the milk at most grocery stores.]
  • 1/2 c buttermilk biscuit baking mix [like Bisquick]
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c flaked coconut
  • 1/2 c chopped pecans, toasted

Instructions:

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Bake pie shell for 10 minutes; remove from oven.
  • Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
  • Melt chocolate with 2 tablespoons of butter in small saucepan.  Wait until after your pie shell is prepared because the melted chocolate will begin to solidify almost immediately.
  • In large mixer bowl, mix the following and beat until well blended:
    • chocolate mixture
    • 2/3 c sweetened condensed milk
    • whipping cream
    • biscuit mix
    • 2 eggs, and
    • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Pour into prepared pie shell.  (I always put a foil covered cookie sheet underneath the pie pan, and then both into the oven.)
  • Bake for 40 minutes or until center is set. This is the tricky part, because the outside will set long before the inside.  Treat it like a cake – after 40 minutes, insert a toothpick at various points to see if the pie has set.  If not, return it to the oven and check on it in 2 or 3 minute increments.  (If you leave it in too long, it will ultimately dry out the center, so you have to watch this like a hawk.)
  • When the pie is done, remove and let cool.

Making the frosting:

  • After the pie has cooled, combine in a saucepan:
    • remaining sweetened condensed milk
    • egg yolk
    • remaining butter, and
    • remaining vanilla extract
  • Cook over medium heat, stirring until thickened and bubbly, about 5 minutes.  You can burn this in a blink of an eye, so you will need to pay close attention and stir constantly.
  • Add coconut and pecans; stir.
  • Spread over top of pie.  Be very careful here as you’ll likely tear open the top of the pie while spreading the frosting; it’s no big deal.  But to avoid tearing off the entire top of the pie, you must use a light touch!
  • Refrigerate leftovers.  Very important.
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