Several years ago, Danielle Oteri wrote a column for the website “Good Food Stories,” where she explored the differences in personality between her friends and family who preferred to cook, versus those who preferred to bake.
It’s a fun read, if you get the chance (goodfoodstories.com/the-psychology-of-baking), but one quote from her friend Melissa resonated with me from a baking experience I had this past week: “Baking [also] has seemed to me to be chemistry, while cooking is like art,” she said. “Art you can taste as you go—and for me, that’s a big part of it. I like to stick my fingers, er, spoon, into whatever I am cooking and taste at every step.”
Adam Strunk, who is the managing editor of Harvey County Now, was asked to be a celebrity baker for a charity pie auction last week, but Adam is most definitely a cook.
He’s an improviser and follows his instincts in the kitchen. If you ask Adam for a recipe, he’ll give you vague lists of ingredients, not amounts. And he makes darn good food.
So he found himself a bit intimidated by pie, which is why he asked me, the baker, to come make sure the recipe he chose turned out.
That was not only because he’s super competitive and wanted to create a great pie for the auction but also because he chose a family recipe, one his grandmother and mother made only for special occasions. I was only too happy to give the fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants cook a lesson in pie dough and patience.
So, the only source I can give you for this week’s recipe is Ruth Strunk, Adam’s mom. I can’t tell you if she would have considered herself a cook or a baker, but I can tell you after this experience that she could make one mean pie.
Ruthie’s Chocolate Pie
- 9- inch pie shell baked
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 2/3 cups milk we used whole
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 egg yolks beaten
- 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate we used Ghirardelli
- 3 egg whites
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- Pre-bake your pie shell and place it to the side for when the filling is complete.
- In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, milk, salt, butter and vanilla. It doesn’t have to be perfectly combined, just mostly mixed together and set aside.
- In another bowl, beat your egg yolks and set aside.
- Heat a double boiler and melt the chocolate in the top, being careful to stir it constantly so it doesn’t burn.
- Once the chocolate is melted, add the sugar mixture and continue stirring with a whisk for 10 minutes in the double boiler.
- After 10 minutes, add about one cup of the chocolate to the egg yolks, beating them together, then add the egg mixture to the double boiler, continuing to whisk constantly for another five minutes.
- Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool for about five to 10 minutes, then pour it into your prepared pie shell, smoothing it out evenly, and set it aside.
- For the meringue, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Add the egg whites to a mixing bowl and beat until they are very stiff. Add in the sugar, baking powder and salt and beat again. Spread the meringue over the top of the filling. Using a knife, create some peaks in the meringue to create a nice pattern when it browns.
- Bake until the meringue is light brown. (I think ours took about 10 minutes. Just keep watching it.)
- Refrigerate the pie until you’re ready to serve it.
According to Adam, we managed an excellent recreation of his mom’s classic, and it was delicious—perfectly chocolatey without being too sweet.
We didn’t earn the highest bid at the auction, but Adam’s pie still managed a very nice sum and got great reviews.
I don’t think Adam is quite ready to turn in his reporter’s notebook for a rolling pin, but I do think he’s less nervous about pie crust. Now, if I can just get him to pay attention to what he throws in the pan while cooking, I might have a few more great Stunk recipes to share.
This piece first appeared in print on Aug. 19, 2021.
Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.