In the summer months, when peaches are at their prime, and sweet, juicy berries are abundant, chocolate desserts usually get displaced in my kitchen by fruit concoctions.
This isn't a conscious shift, but a product of my impulsive shopping, or what I call 'market fever'. The symptoms of market fever include dizziness and impaired judgment in the presence of produce, and usually results in lumbering home with half one's weight in local fruit crammed into just two reusable shopping bags, walking 15 blocks with the dog's leash tied around one's waist, with fingertips numb and white with loss of circulation. This particular fever is often marked by fresh cherry (or raspberry/blueberry/insert other highly pigmented fruit here __________ ) stains are present around mouth and on shirt front.
So that is why chocolate gets the heave-ho for several months every year. Because I buy too much fruit to fit in my tummy, or my fridge, and it must be transformed into delicious pies and crumbles and cobblers and buckles and brown betties... things that I know will not taste as good in January with $8 raspberries from Mexico.
However, chocolate still sneaks back into my mind occasionally in August, and chocolate cream pie sometimes results. And might I say that even in the presence of stellar blueberries and strawberries, this is an absolutely dreamy summer dessert. The milk chocolate filling is cool and creamy, not intensely rich, and is perfectly complemented by the salty, crunchy pretzel crust. Quite a match made in heaven, if you ask me.
The pie looks pretty glorious when assembled, but be warned, it is quite messy once cut into. No one will mind. Believe me.
Milk Chocolate Cream Pie with a Pretzel Crust
Because chocolate is the star of this dessert, opt for the best quality milk chocolate you can find. This dessert is really best eaten on the day that it is made - but don't worry, it's very unlikely there will be leftovers.
To crush pretzels, use a food processor or seal inside a large freezer bag and crush with a rolling pin. Crush about 1/4 cup extra for sprinkling on top of pie.
1 1/2 cups coarsely crushed pretzels
1/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine crushed pretzels with sugar and melted butter. Press into a 9 inch pie plate. Bake for 10-12 minutes until browned. Cool completely.
Milk Chocolate Filling
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp cocoa
2 egg yolks
2 cups milk
1 cup cream (you can use 10% or heavy cream)
6 oz milk chocolate, chopped (roughly 1 cup)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, divided
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp white sugar
remaining crushed pretzels
1. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and cold water, with a medium sized bowl set in the water. Place a fine-mesh strainer over top of the dry bowl. Set aside.
2. Whisk together sugar, cornstarch and cocoa in a medium sized pot. Add yolks and whisk to combine. Place the pot on the stove over medium heat, and whisk in the milk and cream. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until pudding thickens and bubbles begin to form. Reduce heat and continue cooking 3-5 minutes, continuing to stir. Try not to bring the pudding to a boil or you might scramble the egg. (However don't panic if this happens by accident, you can strain out the egg bits).
3. Remove pudding from heat and stir in chopped chocolate until melted. Stir in vanilla extract. Force pudding through fine-meshed strainer into the bowl set over the ice bath. Stir to cool. Remove bowl from ice bath, and cover pudding with plastic wrap, pushing the plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding - this prevents a "skin" from forming on top. Transfer pudding to fridge, and chill for at least 2 hours.
4. When ready to serve, mound milk chocolate filling into the cooled pretzel crust. Whip remaining 1 cup of cream with sugar and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Pile on top of chocolate filling. Sprinkle with remaining crushed pretzels.