Double-Chocolate Cream Pie
- 8 ounces all-purpose flour (1 2/3 cups; 225g), plus more for dusting
- 1/2 ounce sugar (1 tablespoon; 15g)
- 1 teaspoon (4g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume or use the same weight
- 8 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks; 225g), cold
- 4 ounces cold tap water (1/2 cup; 115g)
- For the Filling:
- 4 ounces 72% dark chocolate (3/4 cup; 115g), roughly chopped
- 1/4 ounces vanilla extract (1 1/2 teaspoons; 7g)
- 9 1/2 ounces sugar (1 1/3 cups; 270g)
- 3/4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; use half as much if iodized
- 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
- 1 1/2 ounces Dutch cocoa powder (1/2 cup; 45g)
- 1 1/4 ounces cornstarch (1/3 cup; 35g)
- 5 ounces egg yolk (shy 1/2 cup; 140g), from about 8 large eggs
- 24 ounces milk (3 cups; 680g), any percentage will do
- For the Topping:
- Swiss Meringue
- 6 ounces egg whites (2/3 cup; 170g), from 5 to 6 large eggs
- 9 ounces plain or lightly toasted sugar (1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon; 255g) (see note)
- 1/4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; use half as much if iodized
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Scraped seeds from 1 split vanilla bean
For the Dough: Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl. Cut butter into 1/2-inch cubes (this size is important, as smaller pieces will melt too fast) and toss with flour mixture to break up the pieces. With your fingertips, smash each cube flat—that's it! No rubbing or cutting. Stir in water, then knead dough against the sides of the bowl until it comes together in a shaggy ball. Dough temperature should register between 65 and 70°F (18 and 21°C); if not, refrigerate briefly before rolling and folding .
Make the Layers: On a generously floured work surface, roll dough into a roughly 10- by 15-inch rectangle. Fold the 10-inch sides to the center, then close the newly formed packet like a book. Fold in half once more, bringing the short sides together to create a thick block. Divide in half with a sharp knife or bench scraper. Dough temperature should still be somewhere between 65 and 70°F (18 and 21°C); if not, refrigerate briefly before proceeding.
For Single-Crusted Pies: Using as much flour as needed, roll one piece into a 14-inch circle and drape across a 9-inch pie plate; it will be super easy to lift by hand. Dust off excess flour with a pastry brush, using it to nestle dough into the very corners of the pan. With scissors or kitchen shears, trim the edge so that it overhangs by 1 1/4 inches all around. Fold overhang over itself to create a thick border that sits atop the rim of the pan. Crimp or shape crust as desired. Repeat with remaining dough. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
For a Blind-Baked Pie: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350°F (177°C). Line chilled pie shell with a large sheet of aluminum foil, pressing so it conforms to the curves of the plate (a second sheet of aluminum may be needed for full coverage). Fill to the brim with sugar, transfer to a half sheet pan, and bake until fully set and golden around the edges, 60 to 75 minutes. Fold long sides of foil toward the middle, gather short sides, and use both hands to carefully transfer sugar to a heat-safe bowl. Let sugar cool to room temperature. If needed, continue baking crust a few minutes more to brown along the bottom.
For the Filling: Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl, add vanilla, and suspend a large, single-mesh sieve over the top. Whisk sugar, salt, espresso powder, cocoa powder, and cornstarch together in a 3-quart stainless steel saucier. Add egg yolks and roughly 1/2 cup of the milk and whisk until smooth before adding the rest of the milk. Cook over medium-low, stirring gently with a whisk until hot to the touch; about 6 minutes.
Increase heat to medium and continue whisking gently until thick and bubbly, about 5 minutes (if it's not bubbling by then, feel free to crank up the heat). When you see that first bubble, set a timer and continue whisking exactly 90 seconds. Immediately pour into the sieve, pressing with a flexible spatula until custard passes through. Fold until chocolate has melted into the custard, and cover with a heavy towel.
For the Topping: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 375°F.
Fill a wide pot with at least 1 1/2 inches of water, with a thick ring of crumpled tinfoil placed inside to act as a "booster seat." Place over high heat until steaming-hot, then adjust temperature to maintain a gentle simmer. Combine egg whites, sugar, salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla seeds (if using) in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Set over steaming water, stirring and scraping constantly with a flexible spatula, until egg whites hold steady at 175°F (79°C), between 8 and 10 minutes. Transfer to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip at high speed until meringue is glossy and beginning to ball up inside the whisk, about 5 minutes. Use immediately.Pour custard into the prepared crust, and dollop meringue over top. Gently spread it edge to edge with the back of a fork, using the tines to sculpt it into a pretty design. Place on a wire rack set inside a 13- by 18-inch rimmed baking sheet and bake until well browned, about 15 minutes (this set-up minimizes heat transfer to the custard).
To Serve: Cool 1 hour at room temperature, then cover loosely in plastic and refrigerate to an internal temperature of 60°F, about 3 1/2 hours. Cut with a wet chef's knife, rinsing the blade clean with cold water between each slice. Wrapped in plastic, leftovers can be refrigerated up to a week.