Hot Cocoa Pie is exactly what it sounds like: a warm pie that tastes remarkably like the iconic winter drink. This pie features a chocolate shortbread crust with a silky smooth milk chocolate filling and a melty marshmallow topping.
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Hot Chocolate Pie Recipe
This past fall I was very busy and wasn't really finding the time for developing pie recipes. Despite that, I couldn't get one particular idea out of my head that kept popping up in my thoughts: a hot cocoa pie. My vision was somewhat simple. A warm pie with the flavor of that milky chocolatey drink topped with a melting marshmallow. Even though my time was limited then, I just couldn't keep myself out of the kitchen trying to bring my dream to life for this pie. It took a few months to get it just right, but this resulting recipe was everything I was hoping it would be.
The pie has an undeniable hot chocolate vibe, only much more extravagant in all of the best ways. It starts with a crunchy and crumbly chocolate shortbread pastry which is delicious all on its own. The crust is paired with a milk chocolate filling which is like nothing I've ever tasted before. It can be best described as a cross between a custard and a mousse, but it's served warm, which is unique. And finally, it has to be finished with a melty marshmallow topping (also known as swiss meringue) that makes it feel like real hot cocoa.
So, let's get to making it, shall we? The text below offers tons of tips and helpful notes, or you can scroll to the bottom to grab the recipe and get started!
Here is an overview of the ingredients needed for this recipe. The full recipe is listed below in greater detail.
- all-purpose flour
- unsweetened cocoa powder (dutch is preferred, but natural is okay too)
- powdered sugar + granulated sugar
- kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt in my house, which is coarse... if you use table salt or fine salt, you may need to adjust the salt amount)
- unsalted butter
- milk chocolate (see more on this below)
- evaporated milk (sorry but you won't need the whole can here, just a cup!)
- cream of tartar (this is optional but encouraged for a more stable marshmallow topping)
- vanilla extract
Let's Talk Chocolate
This recipe calls for milk chocolate. I tried this pie with several brands of milk chocolate, including Hershey's. I strongly advise DO NOT use Hershey's. I also encourage you to use the best milk chocolate you can as it really affects the texture and the flavor.
In addition to that, the recipe calls for chopped chocolate, as opposed to chocolate chips. Bar chocolate is far superior to use in baking recipes because it doesn't have any additives meant to help it hold its shape.
Can you use chocolate chips for this in a pinch? Sure, but make sure they are high-quality chocolate chips. By high-quality, I mean I don't recommend making this with something like Nestle. I recommend brands like Ghirardelli, Guittard, or Callebaut.
Out of all the pies I made, the best-flavored chocolate one was with Hu milk chocolate bars.
Useful Tools to Make This Recipe
Here is a list of some of the primary tools I use in this recipe. You won't necessarily choose to use them all, but they are exactly what I used. Any links may contain affiliate links.
- food processor (to make the pie dough)
- metal pie plate (see note on this below)
- rolling pin
- fine-mesh strainer
- metal bowl (one that fits over the top of a small pot)
- kitchen essentials: baking scale, bowls, measuring cups, measuring spoons, etc
Why a Metal Pie Plate is Best
Normally I don't recommend metal pie plates, or even specify anything about the pie plates aside from the size in my recipes but with this pie it's essential.
Because there are already a lot of steps in this recipe, I wanted to take away the need to blind-bake the pie. For the pie crust to cook well, it needs to be baked in a material that is the best conductor of heat, and that is metal. I noticed a big difference in the crust cooking all the way through when I cooked it on a glass pie plate vs. a metal pie plate.
If you cannot use a metal pie plate, I recommend you blind-bake the pie crust first. Check out this Guide to Blind Baking if you are unfamiliar. Bake the chocolate pastry at 375ºF, and then since the pie crust will already be cooked, you can lower the temperature when you bake the filling to prevent the chocolate crust from overcooking.
There are three components needed to make this hot chocolate pie:
- the chocolate pie crust
- the hot cocoa pie filling
- the melty marshmallow topping (aka swiss meringue)
Some components can be made ahead of time (such as the pastry) but others should be made just before serving (like the melty marshmallow). See more on the specific components below.
Making the Chocolate Pie Crust
This hot cocoa pie pairs so well with a crumbly sweet chocolate pie crust. This chocolate pastry is basically a chocolate cookie baked in a pie tin. It's more stable and soft than a chocolate crumb crust.
It also comes together quickly in a food processor following the usual way to make a crumbly pie crust:
- Add the dry ingredients
- Pulse in the butter
- Add the wet ingredients--in this case, an egg--and pulse until it just comes together around the blade, and then stop!
The consistency will be that of play dough when it's done. It needs to chill for a bit before rolling it out. It's best to leave it chilling for about 2 hours, but if you are good at rolling out pie dough, as little as 30 minutes would probably suffice. It's also perfectly fine to make it ahead by a few days.
Please note, the recipe does not call for you to dock the pie crust. This hot cocoa pie filling is too liquidy, and if the crust has holes in it, it surely runs the risk of the filling leaking through. Similarly, make sure your pie crust is rolled out to an even thickness with no cracks in it.
How to Make the Chocolate Filling
The filling starts with melting butter and chocolate together over a double boiler. Which most people don't keep in their homes (including me), so a "makeshift" double boiler will do just fine. This entails putting the butter and chocolate in a heat-safe bowl (I don't recommend glass at all for this purpose, metal is best) and let it sit on top of a pot of simmering water. Heat it until it melts.
Then, add in the rest of the ingredients as the recipe instructs. In the end, strain the filling twice.
This step is helpful to strain out any clumps from the cocoa powder or flour, or pieces of egg that didn't blend in well, and also, it helps get out any air bubbles that might have formed in the process of mixing.
Once you've made your filling, let it sit for about 5 minutes. Though you have already strained it twice, this quick resting aspect also aids in removing any air bubbles.
Then it's time to bake!
How to Tell When the Pie is Fully Baked
Here comes the important part! If you've read any of my previous custard pie recipes, you'd know I normally instruct that the pie is fully baked when just the edges are set but the middle is still a little bit wobbly. Well, in this case, that is the opposite of true.
Because the intention is for this pie to be served warm, the filling should be fully set up. And as soon as it's set, pull it from the oven. This means you'll have to keep a close eye on it towards the end of the prescribed baking time.
Making the Melty Marshmallow Topping
What is hot cocoa without marshmallows, right? This pie had to have it in some form, and I thought about maybe torching some homemade or store-bought marshmallow on top of it, but then I thought about the texture of eating it and I knew it had to be something entirely different. After all, the best part of hot cocoa is when the marshmallow gets all warm and gooey from the heat of the cocoa.
So even though it's an extra step, I knew this pie needed a melty marshmallow topping, aka a swiss meringue. Swiss meringue is made by cooking egg whites and sugar together over a double boiler and then whipping it until a super fluffy, billowy meringue emerges. The egg whites are cooked through, which takes away any fear of consuming raw eggs, and it has a thick, glossy texture that can't be matched.
Here is an overview of the steps needed to make this swiss meringue:
- Set up a double-boiler: Luckily, you've already done this to melt the chocolate, so be sure to keep that on the stove while the pie bakes.
- Add ingredients to the metal bowl and whisk them together.
- Cook the egg whites over the double boiler until they reach 160ºF: this takes no more than 10 minutes, and I don't recommend you walk away from the stove, to avoid overcooking the eggs.
- Whip the eggs: remove the egg whites from the double-boiler, and slowly start to whip up the egg whites until stiff and glossy.
Tips for Making the Marshmallow Topping
- Clean your mixing bowl and whisk attachment well: Before I begin making a meringue, I always rewash my bowl and whisk by hand with hot soapy water. I dry it and then wipe it down with a thin coating of white vinegar. This ensures there are no leftover spots of grease, which could prevent the meringue from whipping up properly.
- Use your hands to separate the egg: I find using my hands to be the easiest way to separate the eggs, but also to ensure no egg yolks get into the egg whites. Egg yolk streaks in the egg whites could prevent them from whipping up.
- Use a smaller pot for the double boiler: You may have noticed in the photo above that I'm using a pretty small pot for my double boiler, and this is very strategic. I like to keep the heat on the bottom because it helps ensure no crystalized sugars on the side of the bowl (see my second tip below for an elaboration on this).
- Make sure all the sugar is melted: Alternate between whisking the mixture and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula when you are heating the egg whites and sugar. You want to be whisking the egg whites to ensure they cook evenly, and don't scramble. Just be sure none of the sugar has climbed up too high on the side of the bowl before it has a chance to dissolve. This runs the risk of cooking the sugar to the side of the bowl which could result in a grainy meringue. This is why you alternate between whisking and scraping down the side of the bowl to make sure all the sugar dissolves. Whisk and scrape, whisk and scrape.
- Use an instant-read thermometer: The egg whites need to be cooked to a temperature of about 160ºF to ensure the egg whites are cooked through to be safe to eat, and this makes them more stable. An instant-read thermometer reads the temperature quickly and accurately. If you are really stuck and don't have a thermometer, cook the egg whites until the sugar has fully dissolved (you can rub the mixture between your fingers to check) and until the mixture is thickened and started to get glossy.
- Piping the meringue on top: this step adds a beautiful look to the pie, but you can also just pile it on top
Don't want to make the marshmallow topping?
I don't recommend skipping the topping because the quantity of sugar in the pie filling was specifically calibrated to account for the sugar in the topping. So if you serve this pie without it, the pie might not taste sweet enough. If you absolutely do not want to put on the marshmallow, I recommend increasing the sugar in the pie between ¼-1/2 cups.
Another alternative is to use store-bought marshmallow fluff! It has a similar texture!
How to Serve It
The pie is intended to be served warm, just like hot chocolate. It needs to rest for about 30 minutes after it is baked, but then it's ready to serve!
As it cools down it takes on a different texture. Still delicious, so leftovers are ok, but do try it when it's warm.
The pie will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.
More Chocolate Pies
I am so honored when you make a recipe from my site! If you make this Hot Cocoa Pie please leave a comment and a star rating with your experience! If you have any questions about this recipe, feel free to comment here, too!Print
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