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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Strawberry Ganache Pie

First of all, I wanna say hello to my new readers and email subscribers. Hi there! I see you! Thanks so much for following along on my little kitchen adventures. If it weren't for you, I'd just be some chick sitting here talking to myself. Pull up a chair.

Yesterday was Pi Day! 3/14! In honor of the inherent geekiness of the day, there will be a chemistry lesson in today's post, friends. No explosions, though. Sorry. I managed not to set anything on fire today, too. Hooray!

In my last post, I commented on how I hate to keep fresh perishables in the fridge because I forget about them. This recipe came from exactly one such example. I took down a bag of whole strawberries from my freezer to thaw to make jam, and I ended up shoving them to the back of the fridge and they disappeared from view and from mind.

A week later, when cleaning out the leftovers and mess, I found the bag of berries, now thoroughly thawed and sitting in a deep puddle of rich, ruby juice. Oh my. The urge to make jam had passed, so I found myself wondering what I could concoct that would put these babies to good use. I was then reminded of what day it was, and my own question was answered immediately. How can you make anything but pie on Pi Day?! And what goes better with strawberries than chocolate?

But my my, how those calories start adding up when it comes to pie--buttery crust, rich chocolate and heavy cream, strawberries and sugar... I think I popped a button just thinking about it! But when a girl wants ganache, peril finds the one who stands in her way. So I set out to find a lower calorie option. With a few creative substitutions, I managed to make a rich, decadent pie for only 210 calories per slice. I must say, I'm pretty proud of myself.

Ganache is a thick chocolate fudge that is made primarily from heavy cream and high quality chocolate. Both are super-rich and calorie dense. Just one teensy tablespoon of heavy cream has 55 calories and 6g fat! That's insane! That means that a standard ganache recipe, using 8oz of heavy cream, would contain 880 calories! Just in cream! That's not including crust or chocolate. No wonder pie tastes so damn good. But it doesn't have to be so fattening to be delicious.

Any kind of liquid with a bit of fat can be used to make ganache. You can use half-and-half, milk, yogurt. I chose sour cream. I wanted sour cream because the acids used to create the sourness will brighten the chocolate and give it a tangy, almost citrus undertone, which will complement the strawberries really well. I used low fat sour cream instead of whole to keep the calories from getting crazy. It has less than half the calories of heavy cream, and a lovely flavor.

Here's the chemistry lesson. Why couldn't you just use nonfat yogurt or skim milk to make ganache and cut the calories even further?


Because chocolate contains cocoa butter. And cocoa butter is fat, or lipid. Lipids are hydrophobic, and do not like water. We all know that oil and water don't mix, and that's why. It's also why good quality hot cocoa mixes always recommend using milk and not water--it's hard to get the cocoa to blend with a liquid that has no fat. Lipid binds to lipid, so we want some fat, or you'll end up with thin, clumpy chocolate that won't blend properly.

So. Here's what you'll need for one pie. I used a 9" pan, and the pie turned out rather thin. If you want a thicker pie, I recommend using an 8" pan if you have one, or simply doubling the recipe.

Recipe is kosher dairy and vegetarian.

- 4 chocolate graham crackers (full sheets)
- 1/4 cup fat free cream cheese, softened
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom

Chocolate Ganache:
- 8 oz high quality bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)
- 8 oz low fat sour cream

Strawberry Puree:
- 6 cups frozen strawberries, thawed and chopped
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Got everything? Let's make some awesomeness.

First, the crust. Crumb your grahams, cinnamon, and cardamom in a food processor into fine crumbs. If you've never tasted cardamom, I recommend you give it a try. It has a bit of a zing, like ginger. It's actually in the ginger family, and has a distinct, earthy flavor. It's yummy.

In a small bowl, work the softened cream cheese into your crust until well incorporated. I've used this comparison before, but it'll look like damp dirt. It should hold its shape when pressed between the fingers.

Press the crust into your pie plate. There's no need to bake this crust, so just set it aside. Or better yet, put it in the fridge!

Now, measure out your chocolate. If you have a food scale, use it. When baking or candymaking, chocolate should always be measured out by weight, not volume. I was doing this at night--can you tell? ::Laugh:: The photos are so dark! Hehe!

In a small saucepan, heat your sour cream over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the sour cream is hot and fairly fluid, turn off the heat and add your chocolate. Continue to stir. Did it look curdled? Did it start to look sort of gross? Don't freak out. It's normal. That goes back to what we were talking about before--the lower fat content. Just keep stirring.

If you're having trouble getting your chocolate and sour cream to come together, you can always put it in a blender. I did that, and it worked beautifully--the ganache came out thick and fudgy.

Using a silicone spatula, transfer your ganache to your pie plate and gently spread it across your crumb crust. Set aside.

On to the star of the show. The strawberries!
You may be thinking--"Wait, all that rich, velvety chocolate, but the strawberries are the star? What? No way."

Seriously. This pie owes its fabulousness to the strawberry puree. This is not some done-to-death icebox glaze. The flavor in this puree just pops, it's really wonderful.

So. Put your strawberries in a blender. Pulse them down into a smooth puree. Transfer the puree into a saucepan.

Add your sugars and vanilla, and stir until well blended. Simmer your sweetened puree until hot and bubbly, about 10 minutes. It should start getting a bit thicker.

Turn off the heat and let the puree cool. You can stir it a bit to help it along. When the puree is room temperature, pour it over your ganache and spread to cover completely.

Pop the whole pie in the fridge and let it chill several hours or overnight. It slices easily, and serves up super pretty with a dollop of whipped cream, a drizzle of chocolate, or some pretty Godiva pearls. (Careful with those pearls. I managed to choke on one. I knew chocolate would eventually be the death of me. I just didn't know it'd be so literal.)

Oh, and hey! Just to reiterate--if you divide it up into 8 slices, it's only 210 calories per slice!! With that creamy dark chocolate, accented by bright tart strawberry, and all finished with a crumbly cookie crust... Such a teeny weeny little amount of calories, it'll be hard to stop at one slice. Such torture. You really should just eat the whole pie so you don't have to stare at it anymore.

You're welcome and I'm sorry and I love you.

Happy eating!

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