Last week in Costco I bought a half gallon of heavy whipping cream. I'd never purchased more than a pint at one time in my life. Winter in Montana was hitting me hard. The shortest days had just arrived, two weeks earlier than the official start of winter. The landscape was as flat as could be. No shadows. The sun hung in the sky like a 20-watt bulb under a veil. And there I was, buying whipping cream by the half gallon.
A teaspoon of cream was wonderful in my espresso. But how many teaspoons are in a half gallon? I wasn't gonna freeze it. I've tried that before to uecky results. And so yesterday I scoured the internet for recipes that use whipping cream. I settled on a chocolate cream pie, something I'd never made. But I couldn't find a recipe that zinged. After a half day of pondering I opened the 1950 Betty Crocker's cookbook that Aunt Clara had given me when I was first married at age 19. Of course there was a recipe for a chocolate cream pie. It could have appeared on any farm counter back in Iowa where Aunt Clara lived. I started to work on making it my own: dark chocolate powder instead of squares or chips; whipping cream instead of milk; a half cup of espresso. But the process was all Betty's.
I cooked up the cauldron of midnight-dark pudding. It was thick and rich, unlike any concoction I had ever tasted. Once cool, I poured it into the pastry shell and covered with a high coat of whipped cream. I cut the first two pieces and Wood Tick and I drove several miles over two-track, snow-packed dirt roads to deliver them to friends nestled into a lonely cabin in a mountain meadow surrounded by thick forest. They could not believe their eyes to see headlights in the night; pie at their door. "It's Doug's favorite!" said Roni. A scream of delight broke the silence of the woods as I walked back to the truck.
I later served up a slice and sat by the fire. It was as if I was tasting solstice. Swallowing the creamy dark. Tis the season, is it not? To gestate, cocoon within the womb-void. To place the eternal green life of pine on the hearth; savor the darkness as we re-member the sun. Follow the impulses that make no sense. They just might lead to undreamed places. Darkness re-defined.
A Taste of Solstice
Mix in saucepan:
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 t salt
4 T cornstarch
9 T Hershey's dark chocolate powder
Stir in gradually:
2 1/2 c whipping cream
1/2 c coffee or espresso
Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Boil 1 miniute. Remove from heat. Slowly stir half mixture into 3 egg yolks, slightly beaten.
Blend into hot mixture in saucepan. Boil 1 minute more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
Cool; stir occasionally. Pour into coled baked pie shell. Chill thoroughly (2 hrs). Top with whipped cream.
blend in: 1 T butter and 1 1/2 t vanilla.