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French Silk Pie

Courtesy Kayla Hoang
Cook Time:
50 mins
Prep Time:
40 mins
Servings:
8-10
RATE THIS RECIPE
(5)

Chef notes

While it’s not as French as the name implies, this luscious pie combines flaky pie crust, rich chocolate mousse and pillows of whipped cream to create a dessert that holds up to its silky moniker. French silk pie — which is widely credited as being created in the US by one Betty Cooper for a Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest in 1951— is cool, creamy and a great make-ahead dessert for any special occasion. Make all the components yourself (it makes the pie extra special!) or lean on store-bought shortcuts like pre-made pie crust. Either way, you can’t miss with this recipe. 

Where this pie differs (for the better) is in the mousse. If you’ve ever perused the internet for a French silk pie recipe, you might’ve noticed how they often stray from a more classic mousse method and instead opt for a copious amount of whipped butter, giving the finished pie filling a buttercream-esque quality. I apply some thoughtful techniques in my spin on a more classic mousse. For a smooth, lighter and creamier filling, I use whipped cream to create volume. I also warm the eggs and sugar over a double boiler and whip the egg mixture after it comes off the heat instead of over the heat. By applying these touches, plus skipping the hefty amount of whipped butter, this French silk pie is the best there ever was (promise).

Like all good things, this pie takes a bit of time. But, with just a little planning, the process can easily be broken up over a few days. Bake the crust the day before or morning of assembling, make the mousse and fill the pie the night before serving and finish with whipped cream and some sweet little chocolate curls just before serving. 

Special Equipment Needed: 9-inch deep dish (about 1.7 quarts) pie plate, rolling pin, pie weights or dried beans, electric hand mixer or stand mixer

Technique Tip: If you want to give your crust a little TLC to encourage browning, brush it with an egg wash, a bit of heavy cream (my wash of choice) or whole milk after removing the weights and parchment.

If your crust edge is getting too dark, but the side and bottom crust isn’t ready yet, use a crust shield or ring of foil to shield the crust. 

You can absolutely whisk everything by hand if you don’t have an electric mixer! It will just take a little bit more elbow grease. 

I like to make little chocolate curls using a sharp peeler and a bar of chocolate. I’ve found that the best curls come from chocolate that’s slightly softened and just above room temperature. 

Swap Option: Don’t feel like rolling out pie dough? Swap it for an unbaked, deep-dish shell from the grocery store. Just take care to try and pick up a crust that’s 9-inches and/or can hold about 1.7 quarts. 

 

Ingredients

For the Crust
  • 1 box pre-made pie crust (2 sheets), thawed if frozen, or one batch homemade pie dough (enough for a double crust pie)
  • all-purpose flour, for dusting
For the Mousse
  • ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
For the whipped cream topping
  • 2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • chocolate curls or shavings, for garnish
Fulfilled by

Preparation

Bake the crust

1.

If using pre-made pie dough, unroll both sheets onto a lightly floured work surface and stack the sheets one on top of the other. Fold the stacked sheets in half and then half again, then lightly shape into as round of a disc as possible. If using homemade pie dough, transfer the chilled dough to a lightly floured work surface.

2.

Continuing to dust lightly with flour as needed, use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 1/8-inch thick round, about 14-inches across, and transfer to a 9-inch deep dish pie plate (about 1.7-quart capacity). Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the plate, taking care to make sure it’s pressed flat where the bottom and sides meet.

3.

Use a pair of scissors to trim the excess dough leaving a 1/2-inch to 1-inch overhang. Tuck the overhanging dough under itself all around the top edge and crimp as desired. Prick the bottom and sides of the crust all over with a fork. Transfer the crust to the freezer until cold and firm, about 15 minutes. Alternatively, refrigerate the shell for about 30 minutes.

4.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 F. Cut a sheet of parchment paper big enough to cover the entire pie shell.

5.

Once well chilled, press the sheet of parchment paper against the crust and fill with enough dried beans or pie weights to fill the plate to the top.

6.

Bake the crust until the top edge is turning golden, 15 to 25 minutes. The crust under the parchment will still look undercooked and wet. Carefully remove the beans/weights from the crust by lifting the corners of the parchment and gently re-prick the crust if any spots seem to be bubbling up. Return the crust to the oven and bake until matte and golden to golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes more. Remove the crust from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely while you make the mousse.

Make the mousse

1.

Fill a large pot with 2-inches of water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat and then lower to maintain a simmer.

2.

While the water is coming to a boil, transfer the chopped chocolate to a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave the chocolate in 30-second intervals, stirring between, until fully melted, about 1 minute. Add the pure vanilla extract, espresso powder (if using) and kosher salt to the chocolate and stir to combine, then set aside to cool slightly. The bowl should feel room temperature to warm to the touch, but not hot, and the chocolate should still be melted.

3.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer (or in a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment), whip the cold heavy cream on medium speed to stiff peaks, 3 to 5 minutes, and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

4.

In a bowl that nestles comfortably in the pot to create a double boiler, whisk the eggs and granulated sugar together. Place the bowl over the pot of simmering water and cook, whisking every minute, until all the sugar is dissolved and a digital thermometer reads 160 F, 10 to 15 minutes. The egg mixture should look foamy on top and be pretty fluid on the bottom. Remove the bowl from the pot and add the cubed butter. Using the electric hand mixer on medium speed, whip until the egg mixture is lightened in color, the beaters leave a visible trail through the mixture before settling back out, the butter is evenly incorporated and the bowl feels warm, but not hot to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.

5.

Use a rubber spatula to scrape the melted chocolate into the egg mixture and beat on medium speed to combine, about 30 seconds. The mixture will look similar to a brownie batter.

6.

Add 1/3 of the whipped cream to the chocolate mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined. The whipped cream will lose a lot of its volume, but will help to lighten the chocolate mixture. Scrape the lightened chocolate mixture into the bowl with the rest of the whipped cream and beat on medium speed until mostly combined with some streaks remaining. Use the rubber spatula to finish folding the mousse together until all of the chocolate and whipped cream is combined and no streaks remain.

7.

Scrape the mousse into the cooled pie crust, smooth the top with the spatula and transfer to the refrigerator to chill until set, at least 4 hours, but ideally overnight. If chilling overnight, cover tightly with plastic wrap.

Make the whipped cream and finish

An hour before serving, make the whipped cream. To a large bowl with an electric hand mixer (or in a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment), add the cold heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar, pure vanilla extract and kosher salt and whip on medium speed until it just reaches stiff peaks, 3 to 5 minutes.

Pile the whipped cream onto the chilled pie and use the back of a spoon to swish and swoop the cream as desired. Top the whipped cream with chocolate shavings or curls and return to the fridge to set up slightly for easier slicing, about 1 hour more.