Let me tell you how I’ve been spending my evenings up here in Maine. We wrap up dinner around 6:30, nice and early. It’s wonderful to sit on the screened-in porch and watch the light change and feel the air cool down. At the end of the meal, we sit around and chat. Then my father-in-law John gets up and clears the plates and starts the dishes. And it’s usually about that time that I’m struck by a genius idea. Every night it’s the same idea, but somehow it always seems fresh. And then I ask:
Anyone want ice cream?
Ice cream in the summertime. It’s perfect. It’s essential. I’m addicted. It’s not just the sweet dairy heaven I’m after. It’s the ritual. The ride or walk to get it. The evening smells and sounds. Coming home and settling in for the night. Full of dairy goodness. I look forward to those summer-evening ice cream trips all year round.
The only problem is that in this part of Maine there are about a billion places to go. There’s Maple’s, which we refer to as “Mapes.” They sell fancy flavored gelato with things like cardamom and chili. I think we are all of like mind about Mapes. It’s the closest and usually has the shortest line. These things count.
Then there’s Hodgman’s Frozen Custard. Gus always votes Hodgman’s. We always vote him down. Hodgman’s is a 20-minute drive away. Pretty scenery on the way. Could be worth it if their product were tastier. They call it “frozen custard.” I call it frozen skim milk. That’s what that stuff tastes like. Gus likes it because it’s “simple.” Most ice cream is too complicated for him. There is another frozen custard place just down the street, but that place is so bad I can’t even remember the name. We never even consider it.
There’s Giffords. The ice cream there is basically supermarket ice cream that you have to wait in line for. Fine. Not so special. It’s also dangerously close to Pat’s, the (icky) sports bar that Gus always wants to go to for pizza. It’s not safe to go any where close to Pat’s.
And then there is my favorite, Toots. I’ve told you about Toots before. It’s a working farm and they sell the cones out of an old train caboose. Cows stink up the place. Chickens roam free. A “small” is the size of my head. Come on. Doesn’t get any better than that. Summer ice-cream perfection. Cute with a capital C.
The only knock against Toots is that they have too many flavors. And the flavors have names that mean nothing. The appellations give no clue to the ingredients. That means that it takes every group about 20 minutes to run through the list, decoding each tag with the sweet but unhurried fourteen-year-old girl at the counter. This make Gus’s blood boil and I usually have to talk him down before we get up to the window. Thankfully I always know what I want. A “tootsie” (one size smaller than small), in a sugar cone, of Pig Pen.
Do you have any idea what Pig Pen is? Pig Pen is coffee ice cream with Oreo cookies mixed in. Therein lies the problem: it’s great. I want it every day. But we all know that ice cream isn’t good for you every day. It’s worse than not good for you. I’ve got to stop it with the brilliant after-dinner ideas.
So today I came up with a solution. Chocolate cream pie with coffee cream on top. There. I’ve saved us a trip.
Chocolate Coffee Cream Pie
Serves 8 to 10
For the whipped cream:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons ground coffee
3 to 4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
For the crust:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the surface
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
For the filling:
8 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3 1/2 cups whole milk
6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1. Prepare the cream: In a small saucepan, combine cream and coffee. Bring the mixture to a boil and then immediately remove from the heat. Transfer to the fridge and chill for at least 6 hours or overnight.
2. Prepare the pastry: In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal with a some larger pieces. Add 6 tablespoons water and stir to combine with a fork. Add up to 2 tablespoons water as needed to get the dough to start to come together. Tip the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap. Use the sides of the plastic wrap to gently gather the dough into a ball. Wrap and flatten the dough into a disc. Refrigerate at least 2 hour or up to 3 days.
3. Preheat the oven to 450°. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry out to an 11-inch circle. Ease the dough into a 9-inch pie plate and fold and crimp the edges. Freeze until firm.
4. Transfer the frozen pie shell to a baking sheet, line with foil or parchment, and fill with pie weights or beans. Bake until the edges are set, about 18 minutes. Remove the pie weights and bake the empty crust until the edges are golden and the bottom looks dry and set, another 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
5. Prepare the filling: In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt. Add milk, a little at a time, to create a smooth mixture. Heat the mixture, stirring, over medium-low heat until thickened, about 12 minutes. Pour through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Add chocolate, vanilla, and butter and let stand 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Pour filling into baked, cooled crust. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to overnight. (You can eat it sooner, but it may still be a little loose.)
6. Just before serving, strain cream through a very fine mesh sieve (or a coffee non-disposable coffee filter) into a clean bowl. Add confectioners’ sugar and beat to soft peaks. Top the chilled pie with cream.