Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Pieathlon the Third: Chocolate "Pie"

Guess what today is!

I was really excited about this. After all, last year we at A Book of Cookrye got rhubarb and strawberries. Granted, the year before we got an utter travesty of food, but that was a thrilling, frightening adventure. This year's recipe is perfectly timed, for we at A Book of Cookrye have been eating way too much spaghetti and brownies! And what should we receive this year to make but a lovely, slimming dessert from our friendly friends at Weight Watchers?
This recipe comes to us courtesy of Surly over at Vintage Recipe Cards, who sends it with this note:

I'm a horrible person. We know that.  Which is why I will not apologize for this submission.

This recipe looks relatively innocent. What could she have to not apologize for when sending it? It kinda looks like frozen pudding with some blobs of Cool Whip dumped on top. How bad could it be?
Chocolate "Pie"
 2 slices enriched white bread toasted and made into crumbs
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
Artificial sweetener to equal 6 teaspoons for sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
2 medium eggs, separated
2 cups skim milk
1 tablespoon chocolate extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon imitation butter flavoring
Green and red food coloring

 Press crumbs on bottom and sides of 8-inch pie pan. Bake at 350°F, 10 minutes, until browned. Cool.
Combine gelatin, sweetener to equal 4 teaspoons of sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in saucepan. Beat yolks slightly; mix with milk. Add yolk mixture to gelatin mixture. Cook over low heat stirring constantly, until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in extracts, butter flavoring, and food coloring to make mixture chocolate brown. Cool, stirring occasionally. Spoon into crust. Chill until set.
Beat egg whites until frothy. Add remaining sweetener and remaining salt. Beat until mixture stands in peaks. Spoon on pie in 4 equal mounds. Broil until meringue is lightly browned. Serve at once or well chilled. Divide evenly. Makes 2 servings.
(Weight Watchers® Members: Supplement as required.)

 Copyright © Weight Watchers International, Inc. 1974. All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A.

Thank you, Surly of Vintage Recipe Cards. I hope your Transparent Pie that you get to make is every bit as divoon as I know this is going to be! Meanwhile, I sent an awesome vintage fish pie recipe from Pan Am Airlines which Bittersweet Susie gets to make. And in return, I get Weight Watchers.
For the record, I did in fact make this with two friends. I did not go into this alone. However, no one else was willing to taste this thing. Let's have a look at the beginnings of this recipe: the crust. Take a good look at these perfectly innocent pieces of toast because that's the last time this recipe's going to look any good.

The recipe tells us we are to make the toast into crumbs. As anyone who's eaten toast knows, the inside of it remains soft and therefore unsuited to crumbification. This is because no one likes starting their day with utterly desiccated bread rocks. However, since we had perfect toast, this was the best we could do when attempting to pulverize it.

Behold our utter failure of attempted breadcrumbs. It's at this point that someone pointed out that we ought to veer off-recipe and add a third bread slice since it might cover the taste of the pie.

Now, at this point we're supposed to bring out a lot of fake sugar. We at A Book of Cookrye, being cheap, would like to thank our friendly local gas station for their generous donation toward making this alleged pie.
To anyone working for Community Coffee: I know you're dying to work out a sponsorship deal, so feel free to contact!

All right, while the bread shards are in the oven, let's get down to the gelatinized business.

You know, I have to register surprise at who brought this recipe into perspective. When I first got my assignment, I looked at it and thought "Oh dear God no...". Then Our Mom of Cookrye saw it and thought I had been dealt a great injustice. It took one of my friends to read the recipe and point out that all we're doing is making sugar free Jello. Granted, we're doing it from scratch instead of just buying a packet and using milk instead of water, but maybe they didn't have sugar free Jello in the 70's. Besides, if you don't think about what went into it, the pot looks like a perfectly normal custard in the making.

Meanwhile, the bread in its requisite baking time had hardened to the point where an aspiring cook could actually turn it into bread crumbs. However, the recipe doesn't say to further pulverize it, so in the spirit of "whatever, this will probably be terrible anyway," we left them gloriously intact. If you squint your eyes and use the extra-strong beer goggles, it kind of looks like terrazzo. That's right, the best thing we can say about this pie so far is it looks fit for stepping on.

Meanwhile, the food coloring was bleeding all over the pie filling. Now, you may notice that this pie calls for chocolate extract rather than cocoa powder or melted chocolate. Does anyone ever use chocolate extract? The last time I ever saw a bottle of chocolate extract, it was lurking in the kitchen cabinets under a thick dust layer- and that was when I was in high school. Once my devious friends and I decided underage drinking was awesome because all those DARE people in high school told us not to, and furthermore that most extract is somewhere between 30-50% alcohol and they don't card you at the register, that bottle and a few of the larger bottles of bulk vanilla were expended in the name of teenage rebellion. (For the record, adding it to Diet Coke is no worse than your overpriced well whiskey. Also, we never drove.)
Anyway, we couldn't find the stuff anywhere. We looked online and found the only store selling it nearby was Sur La Table, which we remember as being one of the places to outfit your kitchen you'll never use back in the 90's. They charged over $8 a bottle. Driving to different groceries was such a drawn-out and futile endeavor that we took to calling all the stores within a reasonable drive- nothing. We wondered if we could somehow combine vodka and cocoa powder to fake it, so we looked up how to make our own chocolate extract. What should come up but someone saying how to make the very thing! However, I gave up as soon as I saw one of the requisite ingredients was "crushed raw cacao nibs." We ended up going to a hoity-toity grocery store and spending $5 on one dinky little bottle in the name of a crappy pie. 
The red food coloring is bleeding all over the pie.

At this point, we reach what I thought was the funniest part of this whole recipe. We're supposed to dump in red and green coloring to turn this pie a "rich chocolate brown." Don't ask me why we ended up with this charming shade of blue-ish purple that is perfect for bathroom tile.

Further attempts to turn this brown ended up with... well, an even better shade of bathroom tile. Seriously, this is a color I would want to gaze upon while experiencing sweet relief and feeling the gentle breeze from a window that needed opening.

All right, let's dump this gelatinized mess into the pan of violated bread and see how it sets!

This pan of... stuff sat in the freezer for 45 minutes, followed by two hours in the refrigerator when it started icing over before it actually congealed. After two hours didn't set it (it didn't even get kind of syrupy like gelatin is supposed to on its way to turning gelatinous), we said "fuck it" and decided to plate it. I gotta say, the sarcasm quotes in the recipe name turned really useful when we served up a "plated" "slice" of chocolate "pie."
Pictured: a "plated" "slice" of Chocolate "Pie."

You may be expecting at this point some horrified notes about how utterly dreadful this tasted, but actually... it wasn't too terribly bad. It wasn't at all good, but it wasn't utterly disgusting. More than anything, it tasted like toast and artificial sweetener. Yep, the toasted bread flavor seeped into the "pie" in its extended refrigeration time and overpowered the various extracts. Given a lot of people put a packet of fake sugar on their toast, it's not too terribly odd a flavor combination, though having it in liquid form was very strange. Don't get me wrong, the most anyone ate of this was a tiny spoonful, but it was not the horror I expected it to be either.
I think that was the point of most diet dessert recipes. They were a pain in the ass to make, came out a funny color, tasted bland with unnerving chemical undertones, and made you the dieter decide you didn't really need dessert anyway.
Thank you for joining us for another edition of the Pieathlon! Be sure to see what everyone else made!

Yinzerella at Dinner is Served 1972 made Peanut and Beer Pie (She also organized the Pieathlon!)
Poppy at Grannie Pantries made Lemon Meringue Pie
Kelly at Velveteen Lounge Kitsch-en made Heidenische Kuchen (Heathen Cake)
Gregg at Recipes4Rebels made Fluellen's Pie
Taryn at Retro Food for Modern Times made Lemon Potato Pie
Silver Screen Suppers made Crème de Cacao Pie
Battenburgbelle made Fatty Arbuckle's Delight
John the Hedonizer at The Food and Wine Hedonist made Fidgety Pie
Bittersweet Susie made Star Gazy Pie (This is the recipe I sent!)
Ruth at Mid-Century Menu made Brandy Apple Pie
Surly at Vintage Recipe Cards made Transparent Pie
Erica at Retro Recipe Attempts made Mai Tai Pie


  1. Oh wow, this is hilarious. I mean, diet "pie" was never going to be great, but purple? You clearly had fun :)

    1. Thank you! It was a lot more fun than I expected.

  2. Funny and horrifying! The toast looks great! :-)

    1. Thank you! It was nice to see at least part of the recipe go the way the instructions claimed it would.

  3. Ha! I love it. I'm glad I'm not the only one whose recipe failed to set up, too. You are not alone.

  4. It came out purple! So excellent.

    1. It did and I don't know why. Now I want to make purple chocolate pie that's actually good.

  5. First off, I'm glad to see another post from you! I'll admit... with no posts for so long, I WAS a little bit worried. :P

    Second of, oh goodness! I think this is what the kids refer to as a "hot mess." I mean, PURPLE! I bought some Easter hot chocolate once that was purple, but I don't think Springtime festiveness was what this recipe aimed for. I wonder if chocolate extract was cheaper back in the 70's than cocoa powder? These days, considering all the health benefits unsweetened chocolate is touted to have (to the smug satisfaction of chocoholics everywhere), I'm sure they'd just dump in cocoa powder and be done with it.

    My boyfriend's mother (if your husband's mother is your mother-in-law, is your boyfriend's mother your mother outlaw?) makes a diet chocolate cheesecake with Neufchatel and Splenda that's actually pretty good. Cheesecake is really pie, so I think I'll stick to that...

    1. Thank you! That's very kind of you.
      I don't know if chocolate extract was cheaper or if they thought cocoa powder had too many calories. Either way, you could barely taste it. Cocoa powder in this might make a decent diet gelatin if it set (and if you're into that sort of thing).
      And that cheesecake does sound really good. I have yet to meet anyone who can taste the difference between Neufchatel and cream cheese anyway.

  6. Whew, glad your back :)

    1. Thank you! It's a real compliment to be missed.

  7. I laughed so much over this post here in England. I learn so much during Pieathalon, mostly about life in different countries - "a lot of people put a packet of fake sugar on their toast"- WHAT?! Love the fact that you pinched teeny packets of artificial sweetener from your friendly local gas station - I picture this like some kind of gang swoop like in an early Tarantino movie. I guess the savings you made on this might make up for the exorbitant price of your chocolate extract. I had such fun reading this. I almost wish I'd been there to taste this pie - Jenny at Silver Screen Suppers x

    1. Thank you! Glad to be of amusement and international education!
      You may imagine a gang-swooping sugar packet heist, it's definitely more entertaining than the reality. Though you didn't miss much in not tasting this. It was neither good nor terrible enough to be fun. Though the soggy bread pieces made the "pie" produce an awful glorping sound when we poured it into the "plate."

  8. was so quiet in the office today and I started reading this. I had to leave and go and hided in the bathroom I was laughing so loudly and so uncontrollably. Thank the Lord the tiles in there weren't purple because I would still be in there sobbing with laughter! You made my day! Taryn (retrofoodformoderntimes) xx

    1. Thank you! It was a lot of fun perpetrating this thing, too.

  9. Replies
    1. Yep. In the name of period-correctness, I didn't even get Splenda which might not have been so metallic and chemical-tasting. So you just know how good it was!

  10. I mistook the toast crumbs for gold leaf for just a second. Just... Just a second.

    1. When you're on a punitive diet like old-school Weight Watchers, eating metal flakes might not be so bad.