I’ve got to admit, I don’t love pudding. Actually, I pretty much despise it. It’s think it’s mostly the slimy and squishy texture, blech! Why would anyone eat a jiggly bowl of glop when you could have something with a crunchy flaky texture, like pie, for example?
I was asked to bake up some pies for a “Pies and Ties” themed launch party at my husbands office. Since everyone would be dressed in snazzy getups, I figured they wouldn’t want to risk the mess that goes along with cutting and serving up a pie. Individual, mini pies seemed like a good plan. I generally make fruit filled pies but I recently took a baking class at San Francisco Cooking School where we made chocolate pudding pies and they were really tasty! It made me realize that I get stuck in ruts of baking my favorites without thinking about other peoples preferences. So, I compromised and made a chocolate pudding filling but added some of my personal faves; espresso, hazelnuts and vanilla bean salt flakes.
I was skeptical, pudding gives me the shivers, but this espresso infused pudding stopped me in my tracks and I found myself whispering in a low raspy voice, Ahh Yeah, pudding. Anyone else remember the pudding sketch from the early 90’s MTV show The State? Or does anyone even remember The State for that matter? I can’t think of the word pudding without thinking of this ridiculous sketch.
Anyhow, this pudding filling is fantastic. I actually ate an entire spoonful of it, something I usually can’t do without my gag reflex activating (gross, sorry). Pouring the filling into the mini pie shells, topping it with crunchy chopped hazelnuts and sprinkling them with vanilla bean flake salt, turned the pudding from meow to wow. Seriously yummy, even if you are more into slowly grinding up on $240 worth of pudding, than actually eating it (click the above link if you have no idea what I am referring to).
- All Butter Vodka Pie Dough - 2 disks
- sugar - 1/2 cup
- dark unprocessed cocoa powder (preferably Dutch processed) - 1/4 cup
- cornstarch - 3 tablespoons
- heavy cream - 1/2 cup
- whole milk - 2 cups
- finely chopped bittersweet cacao chocolate (60%) - 6 ounces
- pure vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon
- instant espresso - 1-2 tablespoons
- hazelnuts - 1/2 cup
- salt - 1/4 teaspoon
- coarse sea salt for sprinkling (I used vanilla bean flake salt) - 1-2 teaspoon
- Prepare All Butter Vodka Pie Dough for double crust recipe and chill as directed.
- Have 2 standard muffin tins ready to fill. You will also need pie weights or dried beans (dry rice also works) a 6" round object and a paring knife to cut pie shells and foil at the ready.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1st dough disk into a circle until about 1/8" thick. Cut out as many 6" circles as you can using your 6" round object and a small paring knife.
- Gather the dough scraps and re-roll the dough to cut out more 6" circles with remaining dough.
- Line the muffin pans with dough circles by folding the circles into quarters and placing the tip at the center of the muffin cups. Unfold the dough rounds and gently press into the muffin tins. The rounds will overlap the muffin cups, gently fold and crimp the edges as desired.
- Repeat with second dough disk.
- Refrigerate for at least 20-30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- Line the chilled pie shells with foil and fill the cups with pie weights, beans or rice. Gently place the filled muffin tins on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the pie crust looks dry when you peek under the foil.
- Remove the foil and weights and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the crusts become a golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Bake the hazelnuts for 8-10 minutes until they begin to darken and give off a nutty aroma.
- Once the hazelnuts have cooled you can remove the skins by rolling handfuls of the nuts around in your bare hands or in a clean kitchen towel. Don't worry if the skins don't come off completely, the skins give the nuts character and texture.
- Roughly chop the hazelnuts and set aside.
- Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, instant espresso and salt in a medium sized heavy pot. Use 1 tablespoon of instant espresso for a lighter espresso flavor or 2 tablespoons of instant espresso for a stronger espresso flavor.
- Slowly add milk and cream and whisk to incorporate. Bring to a boil over medium heat and continue whisking.
- Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, for about 5-8 minutes until the mixture starts to bubble up and thicken.
- Whisk in the chopped chocolate and remove from heat. Add the vanilla and stir until smooth like pudding.
- Evenly divide the hot pudding between the prepared pie shells and smooth out the tops. If not serving right away, cover each pie with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the pudding, this will prevent that gross pudding skin from forming.
- Chill in the refrigerator for at least a few hours.
- When ready to serve (remove plastic wrap) evenly sprinkle the tops of the mini pudding pies with toasted hazelnuts followed by the vanilla bean flake salt.
- Enjoy with a strong shot of espresso.
- Recipe inspired by and adapted from , Home Baked Comfort (Williams-Sonoma): Featuring Mouthwatering Recipes and Tales of the Sweet Life with Favorites from Bakers Across the Country by Kim Laidlaw (7-Feb-2012) Hardcover .
- Filling inspired by and adapted from Divine Hazelnut Chocolate Pudding by Sweet Paul Mag.