Thursday, May 5, 2011

Grasshopper Pie - a dessert with a past

“While grasshopper pie is most commonly known these days as a type of ice cream pie, it started off as a mint and chocolate chiffon pie based on a Prohibition-era cocktail,” says the introduction to Cook's Country magazine's version of Grasshopper Pie (click for the recipe). “We wanted to go retro and bring back the original chiffon version of this pie.”
   It’s a terrific version – smooth and delicious and sure to impress. This pie would fit right in at the finest bakeries and tea houses.
   The secret behind its soft-yet-firm filling is unflavored gelatin, which stabilizes the eggs and whipping cream. The lovely cool, minty flavor comes from crème de menthe and crème de cacao.
   Despite the fact the pie is easy to make, cooking with gelatin can be tricky. After having a batch of panna cotta fail to set properly a few years back, I now always make sure gelatin has fully dissolved in a cream mixture before taking it off the heat.
   The best way I know to do this is use a small pot, which helps gelatin dissolve more easily, and check the spoon you are using to stir the mixture regularly. Gelatin that is not yet fully dissolved will leave quite obvious large flecks in the liquid on the spoon. The flecks will disappear when the gelatin has dissolved.
   If you follow the directions carefully for the recipe, however, things should work fine. I found the cooking times to be about right.
   One thing that wasn’t completely right about my pie, however, was the color. Because I used clear crème de menthe, I had grasshopper pie with a white filling instead of pale green, which would have been created by green crème de menthe.
   But since the pie ultimately tasted fabulous, the color wasn’t an issue at all.
   For the crust, the recipe calls for Oreo Mint n’ Crème cookies – a variation I wasn’t able to find in the supermarket! My substitution was to use regular Oreos and add 1/8 tsp of mint extract to the crust ingredients.
   The recipe says to refrigerate the pie at least six hours or overnight. Go with overnight – a slight boozy taste in the pie filling dissipates perfectly with the longer time.
   The pie needs to be stored in the refrigerator, preferably with plastic wrap on top.
   The recipe I linked to above on a blog is exactly the same as the one I used from Cook’s Country magazine.
   The crust is a combination of Mint n’ Crème Oreos and melted butter (or regular Oreos, melted butter and 1/8 tsp. mint extract.)
   The filling is made by cooking cream on the stovestop that has gelatin, sugar, cream, egg yolks and salt in it. Crème de menthe and crème de cacao is added right before the mixture is put into the fridge to set slightly.
   Cream that has been beaten to stiff peaks is folded into the gelatin mixture, and the resulting filling is smoothed on the crust.
   The pie is refrigerated overnight before serving.

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