Sunday, October 30, 2011

a Pie for Halloween... Chocolate Caramel Cream Pie with a Chocolate Spider Web Drizzle



My man LOVES caramel.  In one of our magazines we subscribe to, he saw a picture of a salted caramel pie topped with mounds of whipped cream, and looked at me with persuasive blue eyes that hinted we have to make this.  We meaning me, of course.  :)  I like when he has special requests for recipes, though, and I aim to please!





This pie took many forms in my head before I actually made it, and it became much more than just a pie of caramel and whipped cream.  Even as I was making it, I adjusted my original plan of three layers (caramel on the bottom, chocolate ganache in the middle, and whipped cream cheese on top, finished with the chocolate spiderweb).  But the caramel was not nearly as thick on its own as I was expecting, and I suppose I could have cooked it longer to thicken it more, but I was becoming impatient as it had already been cooking for two hours (a simple process of cooking sweetened condensed milk in a water bath in the oven until it becomes thick and caramelly).




So as it was, the caramel was the consistency of thin Dulce de Leche, and was still very spreadable, more like a topping, and I was afraid it wouldn't thicken enough as it cooled to hold up in the pie.  So instead of spending any more time on cooking it, I decided to combine the chocolate and caramel layer into one, and just poured the hot caramel over chopped chocolate to create a thick and rich chocolate caramel layer on the bottom, knowing that as the chocolate cooled, it would naturally thicken the caramel.




A light and creamy layer of cream cheese folded with slightly sweetened whipped cream was a delicious topping for the rich chocolate caramel, and with Heath toffee bits sprinkled between each layer, a salted graham cracker crust on the bottom and the chocolate spiderweb drizzle on top, the result was a scrumptious pie that tastes very much like a candy bar!




This pie is very rich and one piece is definitely enough, so share this with friends or family, or wrap individual slices to freeze and enjoy later.  Kids and adults alike will love the dark and light creamy layers, the chocolate spiderweb, and of course, a fake spider on top adds the final fun and creepy finish for a Halloween dessert.




Chocolate Caramel Cream Pie with a Chocolate Spider Web Drizzle

Crust
·         2 ½ cups finely crushed graham cracker crumbs (2 “sleeves” of graham crackers)
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Chocolate Caramel Layer
·         2 cans sweetened condensed milk
·         4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (70% cacao)
·         1 bag (8 ounces) Heath toffee bits

Whipped Cream Cheese Layer
·         1 cup whipping cream
·         8 ounces cream cheese, softened
·         ¼ cup powdered sugar
·         1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Chocolate Spider Web Drizzle
·         ½ ounce semi-sweet chocolate (62% cacao)
·         1 teaspoon unsalted butter


Step 1: Crust
Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Spray a 10-inch spring form pan with non-stick spray.

In a bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and salt.  Pour the melted butter over the crumbs and toss with a fork to moisten.  Press the crumbs firmly against the bottom and up the sides of the pan; the crumbs should come two inches up the sides.

Bake for 10 minutes, just until golden brown.  Set crust aside to cool and raise the temperature of the oven to 425.

Step 2: Chocolate Caramel
Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a 9x13 baking dish.  Cover with foil.  Set the dish inside a larger pan, such as a roasting pan.  Fill the roasting pan with water so that the water comes halfway up the sides.  Place in the oven and cook for two hours, stirring 2 or 3 times, until the milk has caramelized, appearing thickened and tan-colored.  Refill the water as needed.

While the milk is cooking, chop the 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, place in a large bowl and set aside.

When caramel is ready, remove the pans from the oven.  Stir the caramel to remove any lumps and pour the hot caramel over the chopped chocolate.  With a silicone spatula, stir until completely smooth.  Mixture will be very thick.

Sprinkle half of the heath bits on the bottom of the cooled crust.  Immediately pour the chocolate caramel mixture over the heath bits and smooth out the surface.  Sprinkle with the remaining heath bits.  Place the pan in the refrigerator to cool while you prepare the cream cheese layer.

Step 3: Whipped Cream Cheese
With an electric mixer, beat the whipping cream for about 5 minutes on medium speed, until soft peaks form.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla bean paste on high speed for two minutes until smooth and creamy.  Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture, one half cup at a time, until fully incorporated.  Spread the cream on top of the chocolate caramel layer and use a spatula to spread out the top as smooth as possible.  Set back in the refrigerator while you prepare the chocolate drizzle.

Step 4: Chocolate Spider Web
Place the ½ ounce of semi-sweet chocolate and 1 teaspoon butter in a small, microwaveable bowl.  Melt the chocolate and butter at high speed in 15 second bursts, stirring every 15 seconds, until smooth.  Pour into a zip-lock bag and set aside to cool for five minutes.

Remove the pie from the refrigerator.  Snip a small piece off the corner of the zip lock bag.  Starting at the center of the pie, pipe the chocolate in a spiral pattern, with about 1 ½ inches between each line, until you’ve reached the edge of the pie.  Gently drag the tip of a knife through the chocolate from the center to the edge, all around the pie, to create a spider web pattern.  Cover the pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours, or overnight.

Before serving, let the pie sit at room temperature for five minutes, then run a sharp knife around the side, between the pan and the crust.  Carefully remove the sides of the pan and set the pie, still on its base, on a serving plate to slice and serve.

For a fun Halloween touch, place a few fake spiders on top of the pie or on each slice.

Yields 8-10 servings.