A Vegan Gluten-Free Chocolate Cream Pie That Tastes Good (Really!)
I don’t want to come across as all judgy with my many vegan friends, but let’s face it: it’s damn hard to make satisfyingly decadent desserts without butter and sugar, unless you replace those items with weird, manufactured stuff like soy margarine. I’ve been pretty well indoctrinated by the European dessert tradition, so I’d really rather eat butter, even if it was originally squirted out of a cow. Therefore, I was pretty skeptical when Jason arrived on a visit from Austin touting the culinary delights of a recipe for Chocolate Cream Pie from Elana’s Pantry that was not only vegan, but also gluten-free. Austin is full of people living various Food Lifestyles, so I wasn’t surprised Jason had delved into the vegan dessert world. What surprised me was that he, an extreme chocolate-loving non-vegan, would so strongly advocate this pie on the basis of pure taste. So naturally, we had to give it a go.
The pie is a breeze to make: after blind baking the almond meal crust, the filling comes together on the stovetop. We substituted canola oil for the expensive, fancy-pants grapeseed oil, and the crust still baked up golden and delicious. The basis of the filling is coconut milk thickened with arrowroot powder and sweetened with agave syrup (a LOT of agave syrup). We used Ghirardelli’s 60% cacoa chips because that was the best our smalltown Iowa grocery store had to offer. I wouldn’t recommend using anything less dark, or an inferior chocolate like Nestle or Hershey’s.
The only tricky part of the process is whisking in the arrowroot powder, which seemed to gelatinize almost immediately upon hitting the hot liquid, leaving nasty clumps. I’m not sure if arrowroot works the same way that cornstarch does; next time, I might try whisking the arrowroot powder into some room temperature coconut milk, and then introducing it into the hot coconut milk in the pan. Jason used a metal whisk in a stainless steel pan at home to good effect, but I am a fanatic about my coated Calphalon pans, and insisted we use a silicone whisk to avoid scratching them. Let me assure you, the silicone whisk was not up to the task. We ended up pouring the coconut milk/arrowroot powder mixture through a mesh strainer to remove the gloppy lumps before adding in the remaining ingredients. Since we had removed some of the arrowroot, we were a little concerned the pie filling might not set up properly, but it still turned out dense and fabulous.
While this pie was an intensely chocolate delight, my one complaint is how expensive it is to make. I suppose if you are living the vegan lifestyle and have specialty items like agave syrup and grapeseed oil on hand anyway, it’s not so bad, but for me, the cost of the ingredients makes this pie a special-occasion-only pie, not something to bust out regularly for summer cookouts or impromptu potlucks.