Years ago, when I was first starting out in the restaurant business, I put together a business plan. The idea came to me early one morning while rolling out Danish dough in pastry class. Lots of ideas came to me while I was in pastry class. I think it was all the coffee and sugar. At the time it was just talk and I had no real notion of putting them into place. But this particular idea stuck with me. I wanted to open a diner, and not just any diner, but a classic 1940’s Silk City diner. To me the Silk City is the the Cadillac-Airstream-Harley-Davidson of diners. I located an empty one just up the road. It had recently shuttered its doors and gone out of business. I thought I might get it for a steal.
The Duroc Dinette, that is what I was going to name it because it was to have a pork heavy menu. I would move the thing to Indianapolis if I had it my way and open in a neighborhood where it was much needed. A dear friend even owned a lot in a prime location downtown and I was talking to him about giving it up for a reasonable sum and he was ready too.
I don’t know why I didn’t push it any further other then in those days I didn’t have much confidence in my abilities. At that point I had never worked in a restaurant. I wanted to get a few years under my belt before I made the leap. As is the case with many of these things you drift in other directions. A plan gets put into a file and it never gets pulled out again.
I still love diner food. I especially like the desserts at diners. Diner desserts are interesting because they are streamlined much like a diner itself. In a diner food cost have to be kept down but that doesn’t mean the food is short on flavor. The desserts are always somewhere between kitsch and homey, lots of gelatin and coconut but mind you that doesn’t mean the refrigerated glass case full of pies won’t grab my attention like I hope this delicious chocolate chiffon pie grabs yours.
For the crust:
12 chocolate graham crackers
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup unsalted butter plus 2 tsp.
For the chiffon:
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
4-oz. 72% dark chocolate or unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup whole milk
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp kosher salt
2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1. In the bowl of a food processor pulse the graham crackers, cocoa powder, and butter until a fine crumb is formed and a crust forms when you push the crumbs firmly to the side of the processor bowl.
2. Dump the crumbs into a pie pan. Starting with the edges press the crumbs firmly into the pan. Bake the crust in a heated 350˚ F oven for 10 minutes.
3. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
4. While the crust is cooling, combine water, espresso powder, and gelatin in a small bowl and let the gelatin bloom.
Add milk and chocolate to a small sauce pan and place it over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and stir until the chocolate has melted. Remove from the heat.
5. In a mixing bowl combine salt, half the sugar, with the egg yolks. Add 1/4 cup of the cream and while whisking add the hot milk and chocolate mixture.
6. Pour milk mixture into the gelatin mixture and whisk until smooth and the gelatin has completely dissolved.
7. Clean all the pots and pans.
8. In the bowl of a mixer begin whipping the egg whites until they become stiff. Slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue to whip until the whites become glossy and stiff.
9. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate filling until not trails of white remain.
10. Pour 3/4 of the chocolate filling into prepare pie crust. Refrigerate the pie and the remaining filling.
11. To make the whip cream whisk the remaining 1 3/4 cup of cream until it begins to stiffen. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract until and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.
12. Whisk the extrea cold chocolate filling. Fill a pastry bag fitter with a star tip with the filling and pipe a it around the outer edge of the pie.
13. Fill the the circle you just made with whipped cream being sure not to cover up the piped chocolate.
14. Grate chocolate over the top of the pie and refrigerate for another hour.
15. Cut the pie into pieces. Serve cold.