Easy as π...

I have finally done it! After years of good intentions, I have finally produced a pie in honor of Pi Day! In the past, my lack of experience held me back from commemorating this psuedo-holiday, as I wasn't comfortable with the idea of tackling such a seemingly-complicated confection.When I finally conquered my fear of pie-baking last year, I found myself under the weather on Pi Day, and unable to participate. This year, however, I wasn't going to let anything stand in my way; I was absolutely determined to honor the arrival of Pi Day.

I started looking through my collection of saved pie recipes a few weeks ago to make a selection. Several of the options I'd pinned to my Pinterest inspiration board called for fruits that were out of season, so those were out. I wasn't in the mood for apple pie, and I kicked around the idea of a pie whose primary filling was salted caramel, thereby eliminating the middle man from the salted caramel apple pie and the banana caramel cream pies I made last year. Ultimately, however, I decided to go with a pie that was inspired by different salty-sweet dessert pairing that is close to my heart -- the chocolate-covered pretzel.

As I mentioned recently, I'm generally more of a salty snack kind of gal, so chocolate-covered pretzels have long been a favorite of mine. They touch on all three of my major food cravings -- salt, chocolate, and carbohydrates; truly, they are a perfect food. That's why I knew I had to make this pie the moment I saw it on a blog.

The chocolate filling for the pie is pretty standard; it's basically a regular chocolate pudding, and I felt comfortable making it after tackling pastry cream for the first time last year while making the banana caramel cream pie. The crust is what makes this pie unusual: instead of the standard graham cracker crust, the base for the pie is formed from pretzels ground with melted butter and brown sugar in a food processor and packed into the bottom of a pie plate. I'd never made a graham cracker crust before, so I can't say whether forming the pretzel crust was more or less difficult, but it was certainly less work overall than a regular pie crust.

In true chocolate-covered pretzel style, the crust received a thin layer of dark chocolate ganache before taking the creamy chocolate filling. Once the pie had firmed up, the ganache layer became texturally indistinguishable from the rest of the filling, but I appreciated the extra hit of chocolate flavor that it lent. The whole thing was topped with a luscious cloud of homemade whipped cream and a shower of shaved chocolate, making it perhaps the most attractive pie I've made to date.

My only problem with this recipe was that I wanted the crust to taste more overwhelmingly like pretzels. I'm not sure if the brown sugar mellowed the salty punch of the pretzels, or if I should have just used a pretzel with a higher salt content (in my family we like our pretzels really salty, and in fact, favor the brand Salty Stix, which should tell you everything you need to know about our preferences on that front), instead of the Rold Golds that were on sale at the store that week. As it was, the pretzels gave a nice toasted note to the crust and maintained their crunchiness surprisingly well, given the wet filling.

I'd definitely give this pie another shot, with a few tweaks to the crust, even if it were nowhere near March 14th. Good chocolate pies are hard to find, and this one fits the bill. Happy Pi Day!

Chocolate-Covered Pretzel Pie
adapted from Tidy Mom

3 c. broken pretzel sticks
3/4 c. light brown sugar, divided and lightly packed
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 c. cornstarch
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
Pinch of salt
2 1/2 c. whole milk
4 egg yolks
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 oz. semi sweet chocolate, chopped
1-1/4 c. + 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
1. In a food processor combine pretzels, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and butter; blend until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Press mixture firmly into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake crust until fragrant and just turning golden, 10 to 15 minutes; cool.
2. In a medium saucepan whisk together 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, salt, and milk. Place over medium heat and stir until sugar is just dissolved, about 2 minutes. Whisk in egg yolks. Cook, stirring constantly, until custard thickens and just boils, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in bittersweet chocolate and vanilla. Place pan in a bowl of ice and water and stir occasionally until custard cools.
3. While custard cools, make a chocolate ganache to cover pie crust. Place chopped semi sweet chocolate in medium bowl. Heat 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream in microwave about 30-40 seconds (just until boils). Pour warm cream over chocolate and stir until melted. Pour over cooled pie crust, using rubber spatula to help spread chocolate up the sides and over entire bottom of crust. Place in refrigerator or freezer until set.
4. Pour custard into cooled crust with hardened ganache and press plastic wrap directly onto surface. Chill until firm, 4 hours or up to a day.
5. Whip cream and confectioners’ sugar until soft peaks form, spread over pie and garnish with extra pretzels and chocolate shavings.

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