Let’s journey back to the mid-nineteen hundreds, with another variation of Blum’s coffee toffee pie. My sister Maureen, who is a kitchen genius, created countless desserts, with this famous pie’s receipt as a basis; we served these in our family restaurant high in the Rocky Mountains, at the east entrance to Montana’s Glacier National Park, during its 50-plus years of operation.
While in San Francisco for my rare eye operation in the late 1960s, my bold mother asked Blum’s for their coffee toffee pie receipt (see 2017/08/21), which my sister expanded on over and over again; this exceptional mint pie is just one of the exquisite results of her ingenuity. She made it with crème de menthe for the extensive dessert bar in our dining room; I, however, employ peppermint essential oil, which is healthier and more economical.
Many visitors arrive at my blog in search of information pertaining to Blum’s, which left its indelible mark on the history of San Francisco and American cuisine. Before it closed in the 1970s, it was an upscale restaurant, serving exquisite desserts, candies, and lunch items. I recall being fascinated with a pin-wheel sandwich there, which I saw with my one unbandaged, post-operative eye. The swirling of white and dark bread was new and stunning to me back then.
The early ‘60s saw the ushering in of high-end cuisine for the growing middle class; this was introduced by Julia Child, teaching French cooking techniques; she became established in the kitchens of America, due to Jacqueline Kennedy’s placing a French chef in the White House. This decade’s middle class had the money, as well as the developed acumen, to learn involved French cooking from Child, with all its vast richness-butter and more butter, cream, eggs, cognac. 1
My mother, however, was busy following Time-Life Books Foods of This World, creating foods of France and many other countries (see my 1960s French dinner, 2016/05/30). This extensive sequel came out in 1968, as a result of the changes that Child had produced in the American palette.
Other food movements were rising along with this adoption of the gourmandise; one was the growth of fast food. While we were spending three winters in Tucson in the early part of this decade, my parents took us kids out for hamburgers on their nights out with friends; we always preferred the burger at JB Big Boy-founded in 1961-over that of McDonald’s. 2
McDonald’s first opened its simple hamburger restaurant in 1948; nevertheless, it was with a building renovation in 1952 that they created the concept of fast food. 3 Likewise in 1962, their openness to change brought about fast seafood; this transpired when franchise owner Lou Groen creatively placed a Fillet-O-Fish sandwich on his Cincinnati menu. He had a desperate need to increase his dwindling business, due to the meatless practices during the 40-day Lenten period, of the this Catholic-heavy population in southwest Ohio. With this innovative addition being accepted by headquarters, a new era of experimentation and menu expansion took place for McDonald’s, as well as fast food as a whole. 4
Yet another trend in food was birthed in the 1960s; social unrest was on the rise, which my family was highly aware as we walked the streets of San Francisco, during my eye operation. This brought about a generation devoted to Birkenstocks and bean sprouts that popularized vegetarianism and cooked-from-scratch foods. (I, myself, produced much homemade granola in the late ’70s, during my personal reliving of the hippie movement.) 5
There seemed to be an apparent schism take place with the birthing of both gourmet and hippie food in America-while fast food was also growing ever predominant during these tumultuous years. Nevertheless, all three of these food trends are still found to be thriving in our present day society, which has witnessed even greater diversity and imagination in its ever expanding movement of food, in the years leading to 2019. American ailment, which was previously boring, is extremely exciting presently! 6
Chocolate Mint Pie, a variation of Blum’s Coffe Toffee Pie Yields: 1-10″ pie. Total prep time: 1 1/2 hr, plus 1/2 hr for cooling/ active prep time: 1 1/4 hr/ baking time 15 min.
Note: this is best kept in the freezer for long-term use, cutting off pieces as needed; serve partially thawed for a favored ice cream-like texture.
1 c flour (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached white flour is high quality.)
1/2 tsp salt (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt can be purchased at Costco.)
3/4 c butter, softened
1/4 c brown sugar, packed down (Organic is best; available sometimes at Costco and always at Trader Joe’s.)
3/4 c walnuts, chopped fine
2 oz Baker’s unsweetened chocolate, plus extra for garnish
1 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c cane sugar (Organic is ideal, best buy is at Costco, also available in a smaller quantity at Trader Joe’s.)
2 lg eggs, at room temperature (If sensitive to raw eggs, may use pasteurized eggs for extra safety, which are available at some grocery stores.)
Peppermint essential oil, or mint flavoring of your choice
2 c heavy whipping cream (Must be heavy, to whip properly.)
1/2 c powdered sugar (High quality organic is available at Trader’s.)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Few drops of green food coloring
1 c heavy whipping cream (Organic is important for health; available for $3.29/pint at Trader’s.)
8 oz (1 1/3 c) semi-sweet chocolate chips (Trader’s carries some of high quality.)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Combine flour and salt; blend in a scant 1/4 c butter well with a fork until mealy in texture.
- Mix in brown sugar, chopped walnuts, and 1 oz chocolate, grated with a sharp knife. Add water and vanilla; blend well.
- Butter a pie plate generously; press pie dough in a well-greased pan firmly with fingers. Bake for 18 minutes, or until light brown; begin cooling on a rack, for about 10 minutes, finish cooling in freezer (see photo above).
- Chill a bowl in the freezer for whipping the cream (the whipping of cream is greatly facilitated when utensils are ice-cold).
- Melt remaining 1 oz of chocolate over med/low heat, watching carefully as not to burn. Set aside and cool to room temperature.
Make ganache, by bringing 1 c heavy cream to a very low simmer, over med/low heat (should be very hot-steaming-not boiling). Add 8 oz chocolate pieces and continue to cook, beating with a wire whisk, until mixture is glossy/shiny. Remove from heat, add vanilla, set aside. See photo.
- Check to make sure 1 oz melted chocolate (above) is still in liquid form; if hardened, gently add a little heat, being careful to melt it only, but not get it very warm. Beat 1/2 c butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add 3/4 c cane sugar, beating well with each small addition.
- Add 1 egg-must be room temperature-mix on medium speed for 5 minutes. (The following makes this preparation foolproof: it is important to have ingredients at room temperature, for if your kitchen is either really hot or cold, this mixture may curdle. You can easily correct this: if it curdles or breaks because it is too hot, make the addition of the second egg a cold one, directly out of the refrigerator, to bring the filling back to its full volume. If the
butter/sugar/egg combination is too cold and curdles, warm the chocolate a little and mix this in before adding the second egg; then, follow the directions for beating. Ideally when done, this should be like fluffy whipped butter or soft whipped cream, providing ingredients are room temperature, in a moderate kitchen. In this way, you will never fail with this recipe!)
- Add second egg and beat for 5 more minutes, see above photo.
- Blend in cooled chocolate and several drops of peppermint essential oil, or to taste.
- Clean and place beaters in freezer for ease in whipping the cream.
- Fill the bottom of the cold pie crust with a layer of ganache, freeze ganache in shell for 10 minutes, see photo above. (May have to slightly warm ganache at this point, for easy pouring.)
- Meantime using frozen bowl and beaters, beat cream until it starts to thicken; add powdered sugar and several drops of peppermint essential oil, or to taste, and few drops of green food coloring. Continue beating until stiff; set aside.
- Place filling on top of chilled ganache in pie shell; return to freezer for 30 minutes; see photo.
- Cover pie with whipped cream and garnish with drizzled ganache-may have to warm slightly for easy drizzling. Top with chocolate curls, made with a sharp knife.
- May serve now, or freeze for future use. When frozen, cover well with plastic wrap for storing; cut pieces as needed. Serve partially thawed for optimum pleasure.