Saturday, May 29, 2010

Graduation Presents

Since we're in the midst of graduation season, a lovely time of year which is also the season of incredibly boring, self-righteous speakers and speeches, it feels right to bestow gifts on people I like and admire, whose accomplishments I wish to celebrate. However, since we're still in an economic recession (that's what it feels like to me, even though a person in the class ahead of me at college whose job it is to officially deem recessions "happening" or "over" has declared this one over), I haven't much to give, so I'll keep it simple until I can think of something better:

1. First, I recently read the commencement remarks at Smith College made by a particularly unpleasant television pundit. Bombast, hatred and sloppy thinking issue from many quarters these days (always, I suppose), but this woman really gets on my nerves. She said to the graduating seniors:

"Be intellectually and morally rigorous in your own decision-making and expect that the important people in your life do the same if they want to stay important to you."

My first gift is to advise you to ignore what that dreadful, hate-spewing, unfunny, hypocritical woman says and instead think of the words of the English poet Philip Larkin in his poem The Mower:

"we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time."

For reasons that I hope are obvious, I think those are much better words and sentiments. 

2. My second present, also simple, is the following recipe for Chocolate Cream Pie, which looks incredible. It was discovered suddenly by Miss J.B. Cravan during a journey from New York to Pennsylvania last week, and she  marked the moment with a cry of "Eureka!" (which wouldn't be a bad one-word commencement address) from the back seat.

Chocolate Cream Pie

A crunchy crust and pudding-like filling make this pie a standout. This pie should be well chilled before it’s served.
Source: Saveur

16 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄2"
cubes and chilled, plus more for pie plate
1⁄4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 9-oz. package chocolate wafers,
such as Nabisco, finely ground
(about 2 1⁄4 cups)
3 1⁄2 cups half-and-half
2⁄3 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
1⁄4 cup cornstarch
9 egg yolks
9 oz. semisweet chocolate,
finely chopped
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate,
finely chopped
2 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
Dark chocolate, for garnish

1. Heat oven to 375°. Grease bottom and sides of a 9" glass pie plate with butter; set aside. Heat 8 tbsp. butter and brown sugar in a 1-qt. saucepan until sugar dissolves. Transfer butter mixture to a medium bowl; stir in ground wafers. Transfer mixture to pie plate; press into bottom and sides, using the bottom of a measuring cup to compress crust. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Bake until set, about 15 minutes; let cool.

2. Heat half-and-half in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat until it just begins to simmer; remove pan from heat. In a large bowl, whisk together 2⁄3 cup sugar and cornstarch; add egg yolks and whisk until smooth. Drizzle half-and-half into egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly, until smooth. Return mixture to saucepan; heat over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until bubbles rise to the surface and mixture is very thick, 3–4 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add remaining butter and chocolates in small batches, whisking until smooth; stir in 1 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla. Set a sieve over a medium bowl and strain chocolate mixture. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing plastic onto surface; refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.

3. Remove plastic wrap from chocolate filling and, using a rubber spatula, stir mixture until smooth. Spoon mixture into reserved crust, forming a dome, and smooth surface with the spatula. In a large bowl, whisk remaining sugar, remaining vanilla, and heavy cream until stiff peaks form; spread on top of filling, forming a dome. Using a peeler, shave some of the dark chocolate onto top of pie. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

School is over. Summer begins. Eureka!


  1. i can picture Miss J.B. Cravan saying that :) hiyas janers

  2. I love entries about food :)

  3. Hi you two. Back from NY. Jane says hi. We've shackled her to the bed to study. (Actually, that's an exaggeration.) We're heading out to dinner shortly for more food. (Nectar in Berwyn.) Thank you for writing. Doesn't this pie look AWESOME. If you two would like, we can have a Chocolate Cream Pie-making party to celebrate the end of school. Eureka!