My culinary career started with my Easy-Bake Oven and making mud pies in the summer. Up to my elbows in the most luxurious mud ever made, I created all different shapes and sizes, and then left them in the sun to dry. In my imagination they were the most beautiful an yummy pies ever made. Unfortunately, as fun as they were to create, they were not exactly palatable. But a restaurateur in San Francisco had a much better idea and created a dessert that became a national craze.
In the 1950’s Joanna Droeger of the Brighton Express Restaurant in San Francisco made an Oreo cookie crust, filled it with softened coffee ice cream, and then slathered the top with a fudge syrup. One day in 1957 as she was assembling her pies by pressing the ice cream into the crusts with her hands, she was asked what she was doing and replied, “just making mud pies.” The name stuck. A 1962 newspaper article stated, “… her unbelievable hand-crafted desserts … a rhapsodic coffee ice cream and fudge delicacy misleadingly titled ‘Mud Pie.’” The Brighton Express hosted a multitude of up and coming artists, writers, and performers in San Francisco’s North Beach. Such notables as William Saroyan, Janis Joplin, Lenny Bruce, the Smothers Brothers, Imogene Cunningham, and Woody Allen enjoyed Joanna’s jolly personality and the welcoming atmosphere in the restaurant.
The chain of “Chart House” restaurants took this dessert national. Modestly started as a steak house in Aspen, CO in July 1961, the chain grew to over 65 restaurants at its zenith in the 1980’s. Over expansion and a lack of managerial focus is blamed on its slide to mediocrity in the 1990’s, but renewed vigor and a return to its roots has turned it around once again. You can still enjoy their signature dessert at Chart House restaurants across the country.
Mud pies run rampant on restaurant dessert menus. There are a few variations, but they are all pretty similar, mediocre most of the time, with occasional moments of inspiration. Today’s recipe is a vast improvement.
When I was thinking about today’s recipe, I wanted a cool dessert that was totally fudgy – something worthy of swooning over. I thought of the ice cream filled mud pies from my favorite restaurant in Palo Alto. Also, my brother-in-law’s birthday is this week and he loves chocolate pie. Then I started to get creative. Why not combine these two favorites into one dessert? And that’s exactly what I did. So, you have a chocolate cookie crust on the bottom, a fudgy, brownie-like layer in the middle, and then a chocolate chip-studded ice cream crown on top. But that wouldn’t be enough chocolate for you guys, so the entire pie is covered with fudge sauce!
I made my version with chocolate chip ice cream, but you could stir the chips into any ice cream you like. Mocha is the most traditional, but chocolate, chocolate chip mint, almond and caramel would all be delicious. You can use regular chocolate chip ice cream (no need to stir in more chips) which is very easy. But if you wanted to use a caramel ice cream, soften it as the recipe says and stir in the chocolate chips. Get as creative as you can and have fun!
A fun alternative would be to make “cupcake” ice cream pies. Line cupcake tins with paper liners and equally divide the batter between the cups. Bake the cupcakes and set aside to cool completely. Top with ice cream, mounding it in the center like a normal cupcake. Freeze until solid and then dip each one in fudge sauce. Freeze again. Can you imagine how cute and popular these would be at a child’s birthday party? I would have loved them when I was a kid!
I hope that you try this dessert in the next few weeks while the summer heat is still bearing down on us. I know it will cool you off and most definitely satisfy your chocolate cravings. When you have had a rough day, this is the dessert that will make everything better!
Happy Chocolate Monday – have a wonderful week!!!
Kitchen Skill: How to Cleanly Slice Cakes and Pies
The trick to a cleanly cut slice of ice cream pie, cheesecake, or any sticky substance is heat. If you run a sharp knife under hot water before slicing the dessert, it will slide effortlessly through. You need to wipe the knife clean and reheat after every single cut. Try it with this ice cream pie and you will have perfect pieces every time.
- Chocolate Crust
- 14 oz (1-1/2 packages) chocolate wafer cookies
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 8 tbsp (1 stick) butter, melted
- Fudge Layer
- 6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 3 large eggs
- 1/8 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- Ice Cream Layer
- 2 quarts coffee, chocolate, or vanilla ice cream, softened
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
- 2 cups chocolate fudge sauce, recipe follows
- Whipped cream, for garnish
- 1 cup chopped pecans, for garnish
- Set a rack in upper third of the oven and preheat it to 350°F.
- Place the cookies the bowl of a food processor and process until you have fine crumbs. Add the sugar and pulse a few times to combine. Pour in the melted butter, pulsing until the mixture has the texture of moist sand. Press into a deep 9-inch pie plate or springform pan and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Reduce the oven to 325°F and move the rack to the center of the oven.
- While the crust is baking, set a heatproof bowl in a large skillet of water. Over medium-low heat melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring occasionally. When the chocolate is mostly melted, remove the skillet from the heat and let the residual heat finish melting the ingredients. Stir until smooth.
- In your stand mixer, beat the eggs, salt, and 1/2 cup of the sugar together until fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Fold 1/3 of the egg mixture into the melted chocolate and butter mixture to lighten it. Once fully incorporated, fold in the remaining egg mixture until no streaks remain.
- Pour the chocolate batter into the crust and bake until puffed and beginning to crack, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool for 1 hour, and then chill until quite firm. You can make the pie to this point up to 2 days ahead and keep it covered in the refrigerator.
- Place softened ice cream in a large bowl and mix in chocolate chips. Spoon the ice cream over the fudge pie, smoothing it into a high dome. Freeze for several hours.
- Spread the fudge sauce over the top and sides of the ice cream. Freeze for at least 8 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, remove from the freezer about 30 minutes ahead and let sit at room temperature to slightly soften (this makes cutting and serving easier).
- Serve on chilled plates, garnished with whipped cream and chopped pecans if desired.
- Yield: 6 to 8 servings
- 12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped coarsely
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
- 1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 (12 oz) cans low-fat evaporated milk
- 4 tbsp cane syrup or light corn syrup
- Combine the chocolate and butter together in a medium saucepan, and heat over medium-low heat until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and whisk in remaining ingredients, beating until smooth.
- Increase heat to medium-high, return the saucepan to the heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, whisking constantly.
- Remove from the heat and let cool. Store in the refrigerator. Rewarm to thin before serving. Serve with profiteroles, over scoops of ice cream, or use as a dipping sauce for fruit or cookies!
- Yield: about 4 cups
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