If you spend time in certain circles (those of the vegan persuasion), at some point someone will try to get you to eat a foul-sounding "pie" made of melted chocolate chips and tofu. This friend will assure you that it is phenomenal, that it tastes just like a chocolate silk pie, and has none of that nasty soy aftertaste. This person will be wrong on all counts.
But there is a way to make a delicious vegan chocolate pie that tastes good. And I don't mean "good by vegan standards" -- I mean "good." Like this pie. Seriously, look at it. Don't you want a bite?
This pie follows the basic chocolate cream pie template, using the solid-at-room-temperature cocoa butter of chocolate to stabilize an airy whipped topping (I used a commercial vegan cream replacement that whips up like cream, but only because my dining companion balked at the delicious saturated fat of coconut cream -- you can substitute that instead for a slightly denser but perhaps more delicious result). I added a layer of smooth peanut butter-coconut cream filling as well (because isn't every chocolate dessert better with peanut butter?), and poured it into an almond meal crust (though you can easily use your favorite cookie crumb crust instead). And to gild the lily I topped everything with the salty-sweet snap of candied peanuts.
And if this isn't enough sweetness for you, you can check out my story on the almond-and-cream deliciousness of Swedish Shrove Tuesday semlor over at NPR. It's a lovely practice, but truth be told I think this vegan pie might be even more delicious. I know, who am I these days?
Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie
serves ~8-10, depending on level of enthusiasm
Crust and chocolate filling inspired by BitterSweet, peanut butter filling freestyled, candied peanuts adapted from David Lebovitz
this yields slightly more than you'll need, but it's hard to stop eating them so that's probably for the best
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup dry-roasted peanuts
hefty pinch coarse salt
1 1/2 cups almond meal
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp melted margarine
Peanut Butter Layer:
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/3 cup coconut cream (the thick solid layer on top of a can of coconut milk)
2 Tbsp maple syrup or corn syrup, or sugar to taste
hefty pinch salt
12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped to bits (or chocolate chips)
10 ounce package whippable vegan cream (I used this)
2 Tbsp corn syrup (optional, but gives it a nice gloss)
To make the candied peanuts: Have a cookie sheet at the ready. Mix the sugar and water in a medium skillet over a medium-high flame, until the sugar melts and dissolves. Add the peanuts and salt, and cook, stirring regularly, until the sugar mixture begins to darken (often the mixture turns sandy before it re-melts and darkens, which is totally normal but this last time I added a bit more water and it didn't - I gave the recipe here as I made it, but don't worry if the sandy stage happens to you -- it will remelt). Turn the peanuts constantly with a heat-proof spatula as this happens, until the sugar is darkly-colored but not burnt (caution: this is a narrow window). Turn the peanuts out onto the cookie sheet, breaking them up into clumps if you can (if they're too hot or the sugar is trailing into whisps as you try, just wait until they've cooled and hardened and you can do it then). Set aside.
To make the crust: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together the almond meal, cocoa powder, and sugar. Add the melted margarine, stirring to combine, and press the mixture into a 9" tart pan. The mixture will make a very thin layer -- this makes it a bit difficult to evenly distribute, but makes for a lovely end result. Bake ~10 minutes, until it colors very slightly. Set aside to cool.
To make the peanut butter filling: Whip together all of the filling ingredients until smooth. Taste and adjust as needed. Pour into your baked and cooled pie shell.
To make the chocolate filling and finish the pie: In a microwave or over a double-boiler, melt the chocolate (don't over-cook!), and allow to cool just slightly. Stir in the corn syrup.
Whip the 'cream' for 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy and tripled in volume. Take a dollop of the whipped cream and stir it into the chocolate mixture to lighten, then gently fold the lightened chocolate into the cream. Gently spread the chocolate on top of the peanut butter filling. Chill the pie for several hours to set, then sprinkle with the candied peanuts and serve.