So of course I had to figure out the history of this incredible dessert that had eluded me for the past 45 years! It is a fairly recent phenomenon - going back to 1951 when Betty Cooper from Kensington, Maryland submitted her original recipe for French Silk Chocolate Pie and won the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. You can view this version on the Pillsbury website (the company says it is one of their "top 10 pies to try"). From there I guess it just took off, as a review of literature from the second half of the 20th century shows it popping up in cookbooks, magazines and newspapers, and more recently on blogs such as Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks.
One of the best things about this pie is that it is surprisingly easy to make and takes just a few ingredients. The original recipe says to use a regular pie crust, but the one in the kids cookbook suggested a vanilla wafer cookie crust (I think either would be fine, as would graham cracker), but we went ahead and got vanilla wafers for our version. We also decided to make individual mini-pies instead of a big pie ... that way we could always try some now and then freeze the rest for special treats later. I have to admit I didn't read the recipe carefully ahead of time and it wasn't until we were in the middle of making it until I realized that it calls for four eggs that end up not being cooked and require 5 minutes of beating each (yes, a full 20 minutes total -this gives it that delicious ultra-creamy and whipped consistency). The recipe does specify pasteurized eggs (technically all egg products sold in the U.S. must be pasteurized due to the risk of food-borne illnesses), although many folks could still find using raw eggs problematic with various salmonella outbreaks. However, I honestly don't worry too much about that since I only buy organic, free-range eggs which pose much less of a risk. Also, folks that are very young, very old, pregnant or with comprised immune systems are more susceptible to issues with raw eggs, none of which fit our family demographic. So, I decided to go ahead with the recipe. (For those who are concerned, there are any number of French Silk Pie recipes now that call for cooked eggs - here's one from Food.com, or just simply google "French Silk Pie cooked" for others).
I'm glad we did as this is a really lovely, tasty dessert that is dinner-party worthy (although I probably would try the cooked recipe for company just as a precaution).
Here's the version we tried:
French Silk Pie, Ooh La La!
For the pie shell
About 30 large or 60 small vanilla wafers (enough to make 2 cups of crumbs)
1/4 butter, melted
For the Filling
3 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
4 pasteurized eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
whipped cream (optional)
1. Put the vanilla wafers in a gallon-size plastic zipper bag and close it. Roll over the bag with a rolling pin to crush the cookies into crumbs. (You could also do this in a food processor, but kids find it fun to crush with the rolling pin).
2. Mix the crumbs with the melted butter in a mixing bowl until well combined.
3. Spread the crumb mixture evenly into a 9-inch pie pan, pressing firmly into the bottom and sides. Place the crust in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
4. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave. Let cool to room temperature.
5. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy then beat in the melted chocolate.
6. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 5 minutes before adding each egg and scraping down the sides of the bowl every few minutes. (Do not skimp on the time for this - you will be well-rewarded for your patience!)
7. Stir in the vanilla.
8. Pour mixture into the prepared pie shell and chill for several hours (we actually put our mini-pies in the freezer and found it was luscious served either refrigerated or frozen).
9. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and enjoy!!
Source: Cool Pies & Tarts by Pam Price