Sunday, June 1, 2014

Gourmet Mud Pie (It's a real thing!)

I remember the first time I made mud pie.

My grandparents were visiting from Idaho, and it was my grandpa's birthday. I wanted to make him something special for birthday dessert, because baked goods are how I show love <3

My grandpa has this story (that I definitely have heard more than once) in which he was served an extra heaping slice of mud pie "on the house" because the former "didn't look big enough for him". In a moment of original, sentimental inspiration, I decided, how sweet would it be to make him a mud pie for his birthday!

Unfortunately, I soon realized that in its most common form, mud pie is less about "baking" than it is about "assembling". Ground-up Oreo-cookie crust, filled with store-bought coffee ice cream, slathered with jarred ice cream fudge. And maybe some whipped cream.

So began the epic ideological clash between pre-made-cutting-corners nonsense and Anelise's overachieving pastry-snob stubbornness.

First I decided that I would make the Oreo crust without Oreos because I wanted to avoid the chemicals and trans fats that go into them. I ended up having to make the crust twice because the first time I added too much butter and my "crust" looked more like soup than pie dough and I ended up adding eggs and making brownies. :/

I reconciled myself to having to buy some coffee ice cream. First I almost had to start protesting the Ralph's ice cream isle because for all their bizarre flavors I could not find a single carton of standard coffee ice cream. I finally unearthed a couple of absurdly tiny tubs that were so expensive that at that point I might as well go buy a whole mud pie. And then I took them home, and found out that one of them was half-melted, and I had to haul it back to the store and demand a replacement.

When I went to make the fudge for the top, I was sure that the type of mud-pie fudge I liked had a caramel-like texture, so I raked the Internet until I found a chocolate-caramel sauce that I thought would work, and peppered it with some roasted almonds.

Finally, my mud pie masterpiece was done.


I don't have a picture of this attempt, so you can use this as a visual.
First, it looked like a natural disaster. It was reminiscent of a muddy hillside strewn with wooden wreckage. When you went to cut it you discovered that the caramel had ossified completely. By the time you chiseled and pried your way through the exterior armor the ice cream was half-melted; and the crust, suffering now from a want of butter, refused to extract itself from the pie dish. So what I ended up serving my grandpa was an inedible hunk of chocolate-flavored granite swimming in coffee-flavored cream. (He was very polite and appreciative about it :) ).

They say that you are supposed to learn from your mistakes. Well, on this blog, I make mistakes, and you get to learn from them. :D

Here's the result.

Gourmet Mud Pie
Who ever thought mud pie could be elegant? An improved crust recipe, a springform pan, and a level top give this version a refined appearance, plus it's easier to cut! Exquisite, homemade coffee ice cream--rich chocolate ganache that takes on a caramel-like consistency when frozen--and toasted almonds, whipped cream and maraschino cherries to top make this dish complex and graceful.
This recipe makes enough for a 9-inch springform pan.


"Oreo" Crust*
1 3/4 cups white granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tbsp cocoa flour
1 pinch salt
1 cup of butter (2 sticks) (plus extra for buttering the pan)

*If you really have separation anxiety over those Oreo cookies, Trader Joes carries an Oreo-facsimile called Joe-Joes that contain all-natural ingredients. Grind about 20 of them in a Cuisinart with 3 tbsp of butter to make a quick crust.

Coffee Ice Cream (This makes A LOT of ice will probably have extra, unless your family mooches some prematurely, which is a legitimate concern.)
4 1/2 cups cream
4 1/2 cups milk
2 cups sugar
2 cups whole decaf coffee beans
1/4 tsp salt
15 large egg yolks (about 1 1/4 cups by volume)

Ganache and Toppings
8 oz semisweet, bittersweet, or dark chocolate
3/4 cup cream (plus about 1/2 cup extra for whipping)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
Slivered, toasted almonds
Maraschino cherries


1. Mix the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, and salt together in a medium-sized Cuisinart.
2. Add 1 cup of butter, melted, and mix until the dough comes together to form crumbs.
3. Butter the heck out of a 9-inch springform pan. 
4. Press the dough over the bottom and sides of the pan in a thick layer (you should have enough for at least 1/4 inch thickness all over). 
5. No baking required! Pop that in the freezer to let it cool before you attempt to add the ice cream.

Ice Cream
1. Add the cream, milk, and sugar to a pot (yes, you will need a pot) and mix until the sugar dissolves. 
2. Add the whole decaf coffee beans and heat on medium-high until the mixture begins to steam and simmer around the edges. You should notice the mixture beginning to take on a tan color. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid, and let sit for about an hour while the coffee beans steep.
3. Once the hour is up, strain the coffee beans out of the milk-cream mixture. Return the milk/cream/sugar to the pot and heat on medium-high again until it begins to simmer. Meanwhile--
4. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate large bowl until they just begin to lighten in color.
5. You may need someone's help with this step. Once the cream begins to simmer, slowly pour the liquid from the pot into the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking the yolks as you go to temper them. Once about half the cream has been combined with the egg yolks, return everything to the large pot.
6. Cook the custard on medium-low heat until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
7. Let it cool and then make ice cream in your machine.
8. Fill your springform pan (already lined with crust and frozen) with the ice cream. The easiest way to do this is to pour the ice cream directly out of your machine into the crust while it is still soft. Otherwise, if your ice cream has already frozen or you're using store-bought, zap it in the microwave to soften and press into the pan, making sure you're not leaving any holes.
9. Put in the freezer; ideally you want your ice cream to be frozen solid before you add the ganache.

Ganache and Toppings
1. Melt together the chocolate, cream, and butter in a medium-sized pan. Let the ganache cool until it is just melty enough to spread. 
2. Working quickly, spread the ganache over the top of your ice cream in the springform pan (the ganache will harden as you apply it, which actually makes it easier to build a solid layer). The ganache should completely cover the ice cream and reach the edges of the pan. Immediately sprinkle with toasted almonds.
3. Before continuing, remove the pie from the springform pan. Make sure it is COMPLETELY FROZEN (you might need to put it back in the freezer for a little bit).
4. Using an icing piping bag, put decorative swirls of whipped cream around the edges of the pie. Top each with a maraschino cherry. (Note: if you want to be able to actually eat the whipped cream and cherries, you should serve immediately. Otherwise, the cherries and whipped cream will freeze too: they'll look just as pretty, but be rock hard!)
5. I recommend leaving the pie out at room temperature for a few minutes before cutting. It will be easier to serve. 
6. Enjoy!

The crust
Steeping the coffee beans
Look at that nice color!
The final custard
The ice cream inside the crust. Notice how I filled the crust all the way up to the top with ice cream.
Notice how the ganache completely covers the ice cream and crust and goes right up to the edge of the pan.

Feel free to comment with questions, suggestions, or any other observations!


  1. It looks delicious and very professional. Did your grandfather get to taste it or did he just have to look at the pictures from afar like the rest of us??

    1. Thank you! You'd be surprised how much of a difference the cherries and whipped cream make ;) You know what, I can't remember if I ever ended up making this when he came down to visit...I'd better correct that next time!