Introduction: Chocolate Rum Crunchberry Pie

The last pie contest I entered was on February 11, 1990. This is a recreation of that pie. Here's what you need:

Mousse
  • 4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Pie
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup light-brown rum
  • 1 baked, 9-inch graham cracker crust pie shell

Step 1: Preamble: Thomas Edison's Birthday

When I was at Wesleyan, I took an American Studies class whose eccentric professor, Joe Reed, assigned us to make a pie in honor of Thomas Edison's birthday. After a screening of Young Tom Edison (starring Mickey Rooney) we all gathered back at Joe's house to sample pies and vote on a winner.

My pie was a largely improvised affair (in honor of Edison, but also due to my near complete indifference to baking) that I based loosely on a recipe pulled from a random cookbook and modified to conform with whatever ingredients I could find in the Alpha Delta Phi kitchen. Shockingly, this pie turned out pretty well. Joe Reed even had two pieces! It must have been the rum. Nevertheless, I lost the contest to Pulitzer Prize winning author Annie Dillard's strawberry pie.

Step 2: The Mousse

When I started making my original pie, I found I was missing a few critical ingredients in the recipe, BUT I found a container of chocolate mousse in the refrigerator and used that instead. In order to recreate that, you need to have some chocolate mousse, so here's how to make that:
  • Whip 1 cup of heavy cream to soft peaks, then refrigerate.
  • Separate 3 eggs.
  • Combine the 4.5 oz chocolate, 2 tbsp butter in the top of a double boiler over hot, but not simmering, water, stirring frequently until smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool until the chocolate is just slightly warmer than body temperature.
  • Whip the egg whites until they are foamy and beginning to hold a shape. Sprinkle in the 1 tbsp sugar and beat until soft peaks form.
  • When the chocolate has reached the proper temperature, stir in the yolks. Gently stir in about one-third of the whipped cream. Fold in half the whites just until incorporated, then fold in the remaining whites, and finally the remaining whipped cream.
  • Refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Step 3: The Pie

And now, the pie:
  • In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the sugar, a pinch of salt and all the cup of heavy cream.
  • In another small bowl, beat the egg yolks.
  • Heat the milk mixture, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves.
  • Stir in the egg yolks, stirring continually, until slightly thickened.
  • Remove the milk mixture from heat. Add to the chocolate mousse, and stir in the rum.
  • Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form; beat in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Fold into the chocolate mixture.
  • Separate a cup of crunchberries. Crush them lightly and stir into the chocolate mixture.
  • Fill the pie shell with with the chocolate mixture; chill until set.
Garnish with whipped cream and extra crunchberries or whatever. Serve and eat!

Step 4: A Note on Crunchberries!

The ungarnished pie looks a bit repulsive, no? To that I can only say:

Wow, what happened to crunchberries?

In 1990 they were bigger, round and came in red only. These just look like colored versions of the regular cereal. I also hear Quaker plans to stop "actively marketing" Cap'n Crunch which makes me wonder if even these crunchberry pretenders will not be much longer for the world.

In any even, fear not, any crunchy sugar cereal like Trix or Fruit Loops will be adequate for your pie.

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