It was a warm Friday in May, and I left school in a hurry after teaching my last class. I swung through the drive-through of Arby's, ordering a sandwich as large as my head and then wondering why I'd just ordered a sandwich as large as my head. No time to worry about that!
I barreled down the interstate with a quick stop at the UPS processing center to grab the package that should have been delivered to my apartment (sigh) but wasn't. No time to wait for them to correct the problem -- I would need the contents of this package in a matter of hours. I ripped it open to unveil the apron I'd just had printed:
To my great relief, there were no spelling errors, egregious or otherwise. Can you imagine handing an apron to Ree Drummond that said, "WILLOW BIRD BAKING <3 PINEER WOMUN." Actually, now that I think about it, she might've liked that.
That's right, I was on my way to meet P-Dub herself at her Charlotte booksigning. Now, I'm not really fanatic about celebrities. I was in love with Isaac Hanson for about 2 weeks in middle school before realizing he was never even going to know I existed. So I snapped out of it, went about my business, and didn't bother with this "fan" silliness anymore.
That being said, I love Ree Drummond. She's warm, hilarious, genuine, and probably more deserving of her fame than any of the Hollywood crowd. And last time I mentioned her in a post, I got hate mail! From real, live, professional trolls! You know someone's really "made it" when they have their own little official hate squad following mentions of them around the internet. Cool.
She was as lovely as I expected when I met her in person, but for me, it was one of those Christmas Story experiences. You know the Christmas Story movie, right? The one with the leg lamp? In the movie, little Ralphie stands in line for hours to meet Santa with one goal echoing incessantly in his brain: to ask for a Red Rider BB Gun. That gun is all he wants, and all he's been able to think about for weeks. He rehearses his lines to perfection. Finally, he reaches the front of the line and stares up into the face of a jaded department store Santa. It's time to ask for his dream! He musters the strength to speak and . . . he panics. He chokes. He stares. He asks for a football.
Thankfully, I didn't ask Ree for a football. What I did do is shuffle about, hand her the apron shyly, sort of mention Willow Bird Baking, and then give a dazed grin to the camera. Suddenly we were walking out of the building and I thought about turning around to scream, "No! I wanted a Red Rider BB Gun!" Somehow I don't think that would have helped.
Anyway, despite my stagefright, Ree was charming and interested in each and every one of the hundreds of people who came to see her. I hope she's enjoying her apron, and I dedicate this big ol' heaping Chocolate Mousse Pie to her.
Well, okay, I sort of messed that up too. But not too badly.
The pie was tasty: a buttery, flaky pie crust embracing a thick mess of pillowy, indulgent chocolate mousse and topped with slightly sweetened, loosely whipped cream and chocolate curls. There aren't many things that taste better than that crust + chocolate combination, in my opinion. It reminded me of the French Silk pies I used to love at Perkins -- anybody out there still have a Perkins in their town? Eat a slice of that French Silk for me, please.
But there was an issue; namely, my mousse was grainy. Two or three other commenters on P-Dub's site had the same problem, but most obtained smooth mousse. I think it comes down to creaming your butter and sugar. Make sure your butter is room temperature, thoroughly softened, and that you cream the sugar in until it's really dissolved and fluffy.
Regardless of the slight sugar crunch, the pie was a rich, luxurious treat. My Sunday school class got ahold of it and left an empty pie plate in its place -- and if that's not a good sign, I don't know what is!
Chocolate Mousse Pie
Recipe by: Adapted from Pioneer Woman, crust by Willow Bird Baking
Yields: one 9-inch pie, serves about 8-9
Chocolate Mousse Ingredients:
4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
1 cup salted butter, softened
1-½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 whole eggs (since they will be raw, you may want to use pasteurized eggs, and/or avoid serving this recipe to older or pregnant guests)
Pie Crust Ingredients: (you can use a prepared pie shell if desired)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup cold lard (non-hydrogenated if available)*
1/2 cup cold butter, chopped
3-4 tablespoons ice cold water
1 egg and 1 teaspoon heavy cream for egg wash
*you can substitute vegetable shortening here if you wish, but I highly recommend the lard!
Whipped Cream Ingredients:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon hot water
chocolate curls, if desired, for garnish
To make the crust, pulse flour and salt together to combine. Add scoops of lard and pulse into the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Add in chunks of butter and pulse until butter pieces are no larger than small peas, about 10 pulses. Add minimum amount of water and pulse on low. If dough remains crumbly and doesn’t come together, add another tablespoon of water. Add as little as is required to enable the dough to be rolled into a ball. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 20-30.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Roll disk of dough out to around 2 inches larger than your pie plate and transfer it, situating it in the plate. Fold the excess dough around the edges and crimp, trimming where necessary. Cover the dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans, pressing to the edges. Bake for around 20 minutes. Remove weights and paper, egg wash crust, and bake 5-10 minutes more, until golden brown (you won't be baking it again, so make sure it has good color -- shielding edges with foil if they begin getting too dark). Let crust cool completely.
In small microwave safe bowl melt 4 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate until stirrable (about 45 seconds on high). Set aside to cool.
To make the mousse, in a large bowl with an electric mixer beat 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter (I used unsalted and added a dash of salt) and 1 ½ cups of white sugar until fluffy (about 2 to 4 minutes). NOTE: make sure butter is very soft and at room temperature, and beat until sugar is entirely dissolved, or the chocolate mousse will be grainy. When melted chocolate is cooled, drizzle it over the butter/sugar mixture. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Beat the mixture thoroughly until combined (on a Kitchen Aid mixer, you will be using the whisk attachment).
Turn your mixer to a medium speed and over a period of 15 to 20 minutes add in the four eggs, one at a time, leaving about 5 minutes between each egg addition. Once the pie filling is well mixed, pour it into the baked pie shell, scraping every last speck of it out of the bowl. Smooth out the pie filling and place pie in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours (preferably longer).
To make whipped cream, soften gelatin on 3 tablespoons cold water for about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon hot water and stir to dissolve gelatin. Let cool while you mix other ingredients in a bowl to soft peaks. Add gelatin mixture to whipped cream and fold in gently. Pile whipped cream onto top of pie and refrigerate. Garnish with chocolate curls if desired.