Sunday, November 13, 2011

Vegan Chocolate Pie with Coconut Crust

Lately, I haven't really wanted sweets. Probably that's a good thing. But I have wanted chocolate. Not just any chocolate, but really dark chocolate. If it's not dark chocolate, I'm not interested. I could keep this trend, except I'm kinda also getting sick of chocolate--even while I still want it. I might resort to buying either the ridiculously dark chocolate or cocoa nibs, except those are outside my budget.

I'm hoping this pie will cure me of wanting chocolate. I've been wanting to make this pie for a while, but actually got around to making it because I had a friend coming to town. A friend who appreciates dessert. A friend who's open to trying the oddball things I make. Willing guinea pigs are always nice to have around. And I'm also hoping E will help me eat some of it. There are plenty of variations of vegan chocolate pie around. The type I like, I originally got from Alton Brown's "moo-less" chocolate pie and have since modified somewhat. But I wasn't sure what the point of this pie was--true, Oreos are vegan*, but if you're aiming for something that's a little healthier--this isn't necessarily the pie for you. On the other hand, maybe you're just lactose-intolerant and this works fine for you.

This is, however, a pie I like. It's smooth and silky. This variation is pretty light and fluffy (there are versions that are slightly heavier). It's got a fair amount of protein. It's quick to put together. It usually makes a pretty presentation. Since going gluten-free, I've made up the filling and eaten it like pudding, once. But it's so much more fun (and impressive) as a pie.

A friend of mine makes a really fantastic gluten-free pie crust for coconut cream pies and pear tarts, with coconut flour and/or Bob's Red Mill GF All-Purpose, coconut flakes, and sometimes even coconut sugar. My goal wasn't to replicate this crust (though I might need to ask how she does this), but just to use it as a jumping off place for a slightly less sweet crust. I think the pie is plenty sweet without a sweet crust, and I think it's fun to have the contrast between the crust and the pie filling. I used agave sugar, rather than sugar, in the crust and flax to replace the egg binder most pie crusts use. To replace the butter, I used a vegan substitute.

Edible Flowers
This pie is pretty forgiving flavor-wise. I've offered a few alternatives I've tried in the past with the filling, but I imagine lavender essence could be used to replace the vanilla, or that, if you were so inclined, you could even incorporate lavender blossoms (dried) into the pie. Or, you could top slices of the pie with individual edible flowers, like poppies or pansies. As you consider serving the pie, think about how you might plate it, based on the flavor profiles available in the pie -- chocolate-covered coffee beans, peppermints or mint leaves, candied orange peel, or raspberry sauce squiggled over the plate before you slip the slice from the pie dish. Presentation, I'm told, can make a huge difference in how people perceive your food--and if you're using a high quality chocolate, you can play up flavors already present in the chocolate as you plate it.

Vegan Chocolate Pie with Coconut Crust
For the crust:
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup quinoa flour
2 tablespoons vegan margarine
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tablespoon flax mixed with 1/3 cup cool water
2 tablespoons agave nectar
Olive oil

For the pie:
12 ounces Mori-Nu soft silken tofu
1/4 cup almond milk (or other dairy free milk, or coffee, peppermint orange or chocolate liquor**)
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla
8-9 ounces vegan semi-sweet chocolate

Cut the butter into the flours until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the coconut flakes. Add the flax-water and agave nectar and stir until it forms a very loose dough (it should not form a ball, but should hold together when pressed). Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary. Press the dough into a 9" pie pan lightly greased with olive oil. Prick bottom of crust lightly with fork. Cover and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake the pie crust 15-18 minutes, until it turns a light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely.
Coconut Crust

After the pie crust has cooled, blend the tofu, almond milk, agave nectar, and vanilla in a blender until smooth. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a double-boiler (or very heavy bottomed sauce pan) over low heat, stirring often to avoid scorching. Once the chocolate has fully melted, scrape it into the blender and process until well mixed, scraping down the sides, as necessary.

Pour the filling into the crust, cover, and refrigerate at least 2.5 hours, or until the pie filling has set. Serve cold.

*Though not necessarily made with vegan sugar. And this depends on where you live in the world. In some places, apparently Oreos contain whey powder, which makes them non-vegan.

**I've also made this with peanut butter and sunflower seed butter, both of which work well--but didn't seem like they would be the best compliments to a coconut-based crust. If you're looking for something like a healthier chocolate peanut butter pie, you could certainly incorporate peanut butter or another nut butter into this, or layer peanut butter on the bottom and pour the chocolate-tofu filling on top. One day, I might post one of these recipes.

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