Grandmama’s Chocolate Meringue Pie is classic, traditional, simple, and well…perfect. Often times with meringue pies, there are problems; the meringue may pull away from the pie and will become watery, or the meringue will not rise like it should. This recipe is quite foolproof and I address all of these problems.
My first recollection of tasting the delectable chocolate meringue pie happened to be on an ordinary Sunday after church at my grandmother’s house. The family was still sitting at the table eating Sunday dinner (I was at the children’s table at that time) when I quietly moved toward the buffet where the real food, as far as I was concerning, sat. I carefully took a slice of the chocolate pie, tiptoed back to the table, and devoured the best dessert I had ever eaten.
I made it my life’s ambition to create a chocolate meringue pie that was fail proof, invincible, simple to make, and that created the same excitement in others as I received from my grandmama’s pie that Sunday so long ago.
I started by asking my grandmama for her infamous recipe. As I worked through the recipe, I noticed that there were times it turned out perfectly, but other times I noticed a separation between the chocolate and the meringue. Other times, the meringue became sticky or the crust a little wet.
These problems had to have a solution, and it was my job to find them and create the perfect recipe that would deliver results EVERY TIME. The reasons I am writing this blog is, one, my love of chocolate pie, but second, to save you the trouble of having to make 100 pies before you get that perfect chocolate meringue pie. There is a third reason… I want you to make this for every special occasion (I think traditions are important), and I want you to be able to make it by heart.
I knew a few things to ensure the perfect meringue, but other lessons didn’t come so easily. Of course, I knew that all my equipment needed to be squeaky clean, that there was to be no fat from the yolks mixed with the egg whites, and that room temperature egg whites became much more fluffy. Then the experimentation began! I think I made 100 pies before I successfully prepared perfect pies every time.
First, I want to begin with the soggy crust situation. Especially with custard and fruit pies, the liquid in the filling will make the crust soggy. This is an easy fix and it is worth the small effort to ensure excellent crust results. The proteins in an egg wash brushed over an uncooked pie shell will create a barrier that will keep the moisture in the pie filling from penetrating the shell. How easy is that? Once the egg whites are baked onto the pie shell, the shell becomes impenetrable leaving you with the flaky goodness that you and your family deserve.
I use my traditional crust recipe located here. I then mix 1 egg white with 1 teaspoon of water and lightly brush over the entire pie shell before I bake.
Weeping (liquid between the filling and meringue)
The next problem I had to address was the separation of the meringue from the filling due to a liquid forming between the two layers. This is called weeping (that is what I felt like doing when this happened!). I never could figure out why this happened only sometimes.
I finally realized that half of the time I had the meringue ready to go onto the pie right after the pie filling was poured from the saucepan into the pie shell (while the filling was hot), but others times I prepared the filling first and the filling cooled in the pie shell while I was making the meringue. This gave the filling too much time to cool, which is not a good thing for meringue. You need to put the meringue on the filling while the filling is piping hot. This will allow the egg whites to “cook” onto the filling.
Also, I learned that the sugar needs to be completely dissolved in the egg whites. This is majorly important to keep the meringue from separating. This is an easy fix as well. You can purchase superfine sugar to add to the egg whites or grind regular sugar yourself for the same results. I like to rub a little of the meringue between my fingers to make sure there is no graininess at all before placing it over the filling.
Beading (the liquid drops on top of meringue)
I noticed when cooking the meringue, if I raised the temperature of the oven from 350 degrees to 375 degrees, I was less likely to overcook the meringue thereby reducing my chance of the meringue shrinking and releasing “beads” on the outside of the meringue.
Another tip to remember is to seal the meringue to the crust. Don’t just top the filling. This is important for the success of your meringue.
Lastly, I have learned that making meringue is much easier on a clear, non-humid day! This is not a must, but I will take all the advantage I can get when preparing this delicious pie.
Don’t stop short of learning to make this pie by heart! You, nor your family and friends, will regret the time you invested in committing this masterpiece to memory!
Grandmama’s Chocolate Meringue Pie
Pre-baked 10 inch pie crust
4 egg whites (keep the egg yolks for the pie filling)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Chocolate Pie Filling Ingredients
1 cup sugar
3 rounded tablespoons cocoa powder
3 rounded tablespoons flour
pinch of salt
4 eggs (separated)
1/2 stick butter
2 cups milk
1/4 cup good semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
For the meringue, separate the egg whites from the egg yolks. Set aside the egg yolks. The egg whites should be room temperature before beginning to prepare the meringue. Beat egg whites in a stand mixer or by hand if you prefer until soft peaks form (the meringue will stand, but will still look a little frothy). Add the cream of tartar, sugar, and vanilla to the egg whites while continuing to beat the egg whites. Continue to beating until stiff peaks form.
For the filling, mix cocoa, flour, and sugar in a medium-sized sauce pan. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks, salt, and milk. Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients in the saucepan. Cook at medium heat until thick, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chocolate chips, vanilla, and butter. Pour into pre-baked pie crust.
Gently mound the meringue over hot filling being careful not to leave any gaps between the meringue and crust. Bake the pie in the 375 degree oven until meringue is golden brown. Be careful not to overcook the meringue. If your oven doesn’t brown very well, remove the meringue and use a torch to brown the peaks or increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees for one to two minutes to ensure browning, but not overcooking.
Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool. Once the pie is cool, tent tin foil over the top of the pie and place in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours. Make sure that the pie is cool before placing in the refrigerator or condensation will form on the meringue.