Chocolate Almond Cloud Pie…Oh My!

chocolate puddingSo I had this chocolate cookie crumb pie crust I bought a couple of months ago. I wanted to use it before it got stale. What to make…. Well, I have a fantastic cookbook, all pies, nothing else. By Farm Journal, published in 1981 but it has the vibe of the 1950’s. Lots of interesting combo fruit pies and chiffon pies like you never heard of. I found this recipe for a chocolate rum pie. The premade cookie crust could sub in for a traditional pie crust which the recipe called for. I had all the ingredients except the cream. And the rum flavoring…and the pudding mix and some whole milk….but I thought it sounded tasty and worth a trip to the grocery store for all the other items.

It was! Not hard to make either. I threw it together in three easy steps. It was one of those recipes where the sum of the ingredients is far tastier than the components would lead one to believe. Everyone devoured their slice. People took slices home. My mom was eager to keep a second slice….for tomorrow. This enthusiastic audience caused me to mention it on facebook. I got all these likes and a few hungry comments. The buzz of happy responses led me to decide to share my version of chocolate rum pie. I have renamed it Chocolate Almond Cloud Pie.

The name comes from the fact that it is as light as a fluffy cloud and from my love for my older sister who died nearly a year ago. Margie’s love of pie was renown in our family and I am absolutely sure she would have adored this pie. Whip some up this weekend and woo your family with chocolaty goodness that should please everyone.

Chocolate Almond Cloud Pie

1 pre-made chocolate cookie crumb crust, GF
1 pkg chocolate pudding, the kind you have to cook
2 cups whole milk
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp cocoa
1 cup slivered almonds, divided
1 1/3 cup heavy cream, divided
1 tbsp dark rum
4 tsp. sugar

Pour the almonds into a frying pan, no oil and toast them, stirring constantly. Alternately you could do this in the oven at a low temperature but I prefer the frying pan. Stop when they are medium brown, try not to let too many get black on the sides.

Cook the filling; put 2 cups whole milk into a medium sized and heavy sauce pan, Then add the dry pudding mix, the corn starch and the cocoa. Stir with a whisk as it heats. Once the mixture is bubbling all over the surface turn off the heat and add the rum. Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill until cooled. Take ½ cup heavy cream and whip. Add this to the pudding and whisk until blended. Take 3 tbsp of almonds and set aside for garnishing the pie later. Sprinkle the rest of the toasted almonds over the chocolate pie crust Gently spoon it into the pie shell on top of the toasted almonds. Chill at least 2 hours until set and cold. Whip the rest of the heavy cream in a chilled bowl, adding the sugar near the end of the whipping. Gently put dollops of it all over the pudding top. Sprinkle the reserved almonds on top. Enjoy!

Cooking for Easter, GF of course….

eggsEaster: holidays will be a major test of eating GF in and out of the house.

First off, this Easter I had company, my two sisters came to visit. A major test as they have never eaten GF and they can be a tough sell at meals sometimes. On Friday I made GF pasta for shrimp cannelloni with a saffron cream sauce which is a favorite recipe of mine, a good test choice…. I made the pasta sheets too thick to easily roll up with filling inside. It was pretty tricky to roll out in my Atlas pasta machine because of it’s sticky texture and I quit the rolling thinner process too soon. I think I will flour the dough a bit more as I run it through the tighter settings on the machine. It was pretty close in taste to wheat homemade pasta. Check off the pasta on my bucket list of things to try making GF!

I made a GF French bread Friday that was almost as good as any you could buy. You just glop the messy bowl of dough onto a French bread curved sheet and it rises and bakes to look pretty darn good! Check. One of my sisters asked for the recipe as she wants to eat less wheat. That is a major recommendation when Elaine asks for a GF recipe as she is pretty picky about her French bread! I made a meatloaf on Saturday night with GF bread crumbs inside it which were created in my blender from dried up GF bread slices. As good as ever…and not even a slice left for a sandwich today….check! We had a pear clafouti Saturday night – a sort of pear custard in a big tart pan, tasty and GF! Every scrap of it was eaten, Check! I made gravy Sunday to go with the pork tenderloin. Check. And for Sunday dessert I made a yogurt tart covered with fresh slices of orange. My crust was lauded by my mom; had ground almonds in it and almost like a shortbread cookie. I promised to make it again in May with local strawberries sliced on top….check, Check!

So I successfully fed my family three GF meals this holiday weekend and I was no more stressed out than normal visits in the past. The GF thing is getting easier. I find that if a recipe has flour in it I just use white rice flour and that is a really good substitution – gravies, white sauces, thickeners. And my go-to cook book is Gluten Free Baking Classics by Annalise G. Roberts. It has not failed me yet! What I love about the recipes is that they are the foods I grew up eating and like to make for company but now GF. If you are trying to go wheat free it is an absolute must buy. I have read that if you want to be GF as a permanent change you can’t give up bread and pasta, you just need to eat the same foods but with no wheat. This cookbook makes that eminently doable! Have a great week and try something GF if it is offered to you. You might be surprised at how good it is.

So…eating out…I happened to go to two different Panara Breads this past week. At the counter of the first one we happened to be waited on by the manager. I asked her for the GF menu. She said they had none. She said “What do you want to have?” This was a bit hard to respond to when she just told me she couldn’t give me even a paper with GF menu items on it. I said how about the Mediterranean Salmon Salad thinking this would be GF. She went and got a big ring binder. She paged through it and read off the long list of ingredients in the salad. She would not let me read it for myself! So… as I thought, it was GF, and therefore I enjoyed the salad down to the last sliver of almond! I averted my eyes as my man ate his baguette along with his boring chicken Caesar. He was openly envious of my lush salad full of a variety of tasty ingredients, all GF.

A few days later my family went to a different Panara for lunch on Easter Saturday. I asked again for the GF menu. I was told there was none. This server did not offer any suggestions or get out the big binder! I went for my fall back position and got another Mediterranean Salmon Salad. I found they had used the romaine they use in the regular Caesar so it wasn’t nearly as tasty as the one I had earlier the same week.

The thing that gets me is I could swear I read on line that Panara has a “secret GF menu” that you can ask for! It is so secret even the managers don’t know about it! How tough would it be to type up a two page menu showing how certain things could be GF; leave off the croutons, baguette gone, etc. And really, I have a few excellent GF bread recipes I could share with their research chefs. Panara could lead the industry by putting GF on their main menu; just set aside a couple of pans for GF and make a few loaves a day! Easy peasy. Would be a winner for Panara and their customers who surely have family members trying to eat less wheat. Listening Panara??
Have a great healthy eating week!! I know I will….

Originally published in early April 2013.