Pie Day 2012… gluten-free!

Icebox Chocolate Pie

At first I’d planned to put a photo of the perfect, un-cut pie at the top of this post, but the thing is, this pie was all about the texture, and that was what worried me the most. People like pie for a lot of different reasons. For me, pie can be a sensual experience. The layers, the textures, the balance and contrast. But as you may know, I went gluten-free back in January, and I’ve hardly been baking at all since then. Pie Day 2011 was so fun, but I wasn’t sure I’d take part this year. Gluten-free pie? Really? So I got to combing through my cookbooks. Not the gluten-free ones mind you — I searched the old ones, hoping for unexpected inspiration. Then I found it. An ice box pie from the classic My Mother’s Southern Desserts by James Villas with a hazelnut meringue crust!

meringue crust

Despite my love for Homesick Texan’s chocolate pecan chewies, I don’t do meringue often, especially not in the summertime. Lucky for me, we had a break in the humidity. The crust starts with 3 large egg whites, a pinch of salt, a pinch of cream of tartar, and 2/3 cup granulated sugar, beaten to stiff peaks. Then you flavor it with 1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. You shape the meringue into a “nest” in the buttered pie pan — you can see the flecks of hazelnut in there. It’s not an exact science — just have fun with the shaping. Then you bake the crust at 300 degrees F for 50 minutes and finally give it time to cool down to room temperature before proceeding.


The filling is all about chocolate, but the original called for 8 ounces of milk chocolate. I couldn’t bring myself to do it — I had a big block of bittersweet in the house that was calling my name. You melt the chocolate with 1/4 cup of water (funny, I thought water and chocolate don’t mix!), and I flavored it with 2 tablespoons brandy instead of the bourbon called for in the original recipe. Then you let the chocolate cool a bit and whip up 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream to soft peaks. Everything gets folded together and you fill the cooled crust with the fluffy, mousse-like filling.

Icebox Chocolate Pie

Then comes patience… a lot of it. It’s worth waiting at least two hours for this pie to cool down properly in the refrigerator. It is an icebox pie after all. Top with chocolate curls (oh wait, mine look more like shavings), and serve. I’d make this pie in a non-stick pan next time because I have to admit, the crust stuck hard to the glass pan, but the flavors and textures were good. I mean outrageously good. Happy Pie Day!

36 thoughts on “Pie Day 2012… gluten-free!

  1. I can vouch for the delicious homesick Texan pecan chewies. You made me a believer in that. This pie looks awesome. It’s probably not more work than cutting butter into a regular crust, but the finished product looks and sounds complicated and fancy because of the meringue crust, yet still down-home southern. Am I weird in living your ingredient photos the best? The meringue curl at the tip of the whisk and the huge chocolate chunks are just gorgeous!

  2. Gorgeous. I love that you have a chocolate chopper.
    With chocolate, small amounts of water will make it seize…larger amounts smooth it out and act as a superhighway for flavor, believe it or not.
    There’s a really interesting choc mousse recipe on Food 52. Two ingredients: choc & water. It works, too….I did it just for fun.

  3. Gorgeous pie and I love the meringue crust! Very cool – and would work beautifully with so many fillings. But, as you say, its all about the chocolate! Happy Pie Day, Justin, and I’m glad I could bake along this year!

    1. i definitely don’t use them often enough, but i bought too much and put the extras in the gluten-free cookies i made the other day — Shauna’s recipe from her next book. thanks for stopping by

  4. This is blowing my mind. Maybe I haven’t been out in the world enough- because somehow I managed to have never seen a meringue crust. Amazing. This is officially on my must do list.

    1. ha, it was new to me too, but it reminded me of other desserts like fancy French layer cakes with a meringue-type layer in the middle, dacquoise is the term i think

  5. brilliant idea with the crust! I’ve recently ventured into the lands of vegan and gluten-free baking [though I find the latter to be much more intimidating, especially without a nifty pre-packaged gluten-free mix] so I will have to give this recipe a whirl. Does the crust get soggy at all?

    1. it really didn’t get soggy because the mousse like filling more rests on top. if anything, maybe it makes the crust a little chewier, but i loved the texture.

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