It’s been rumored that you cannot make your own Cream Pie recipes ahead of time and freeze them because they will become watery and separate. This is not entirely true. Here is our tried and true recipe and follow up directions to show you HOW to properly make your own make-ahead chocolate cream pie.
Chocolate cream pie is a thick, rich, custard-like chocolate filling made of eggs, milk, butter and vanilla. The hot custard is then poured into a prepared pastry or graham cracker pie shell.
Chocolate cream pie filling can be made ahead of time and frozen, but it must be vacuumed sealed and thawed in the fridge before using, else the custard will become watery and separate.
How to make Chocolate Cream Pie
Before I start any recipe, I gather all of my ingredients. I know that some cooks don’t do this, but I hate the idea of getting in the middle of a recipe and then having to figure out a quickie substitute because I don’t have a necessary ingredient.
As you can see, a number of the ingredients shown above are generic brands. However, with that said, some things shouldn’t be generic, like using a decent quality baking chocolate. If you use cheap chocolate, your pie will taste like cheap chocolate. I’m using Baker’s brand chocolate.
Separate the egg yolks and place them in a small shallow dish. Be careful not to get any of the whites in with the yolks or you’ll see and tastes them in your finished pie. Egg whites turn into stringy strands of cooked egg, not very appetizing!
Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heavy 2 qt saucepan, whisking the ingredients to thoroughly blend them together. This ensures that there aren’t any lumps in the sugar or cornstarch. Add in the cold milk, whisking continually and turn the burner on to medium heat.
Add in the chopped up unsweetened chocolate pieces. The smaller the pieces, the easier it is to incorporate into the mix. I have a tendency to store my baking chocolate supplies in the freezer (for longevity). If you do the same, be sure to take the chocolate out at least an hour prior to preparing the recipe so it has time to come to room temperature.
Continue cooking the mixture over medium heat,
this part can take a few minutes, just keep stirring…
until it comes to a rolling boil. Boil for exactly 1 minute. The photo below shows it at the beginning of a boil, that’s not a rolling boil yet!
Remove from heat, pour approximately half of the mixture in the beaten eggs, mixing (fast!) and thoroughly. This process is called tempering and it prevents the egg from prematurely cooking in the pie filling. Pour the tempered egg/mix back into the saucepan.
Bring the mixture back to a boil for 1 full minute, stirring constantly. This is the part that finishes cooking the eggs and helps prevent the pie from becoming runny or weeping.
Using this method ensures that the filling is cooked long enough so that it properly coagulates (at 160F), but failure to stir during this process is what keeps the temperature down and prevents over-cooking the custard. Proteins break down in overcooking, which causes weeping.
Remove from heat, stir in butter and vanilla, mixing well.
Place on a cooling rack for 16-18 minutes. Do NOT cool for too long as a film will form on the top of the filling.
At this point, it can be poured into a prepared pie crust, either graham cracker crumb, or pastry crust, as desired. Or, if you’re making this ahead of time to freeze, carefully spoon into a vacuum seal bag. It’s quite helpful to fold down the top of the bag to prevent a mess from getting on the edge of the bag, preventing a good seal.
Vacuum seal the warm filling, try to remove as many air bubbles as possible. Label it as pie filling and toss it into the freezer.
How to Freeze the Cream Pie Filling
I prefer making the filling and freezing it for several reasons. The first being that during the holidays it seems like everyone has their favorite pie request, cream pie bites, chocolate cream, coconut cream, apple, blueberry, lemon meringue, etc.
I always try to accommodate all the members of my family and make their favorite. By making the cream pie fillings ahead of time, I divide the filling into three bags, to make 3 smaller (2-person) pies.
How to Use Frozen Cream Pie Filling
To use the filling, remove it from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator overnight to thaw it completely before use.
DO Not attempt to thaw this on the counter top- for several reasons- it contains milk, butter, and eggs (which can spoil), thawing on the counter will cause the filling to separate, ruining it entirely.
Don’t try to speed up the process by placing the frozen sealed bag in cold water, as once again, this will cause the filling to separate as fast as a Hollywood marriage.
Make-Ahead Chocolate Cream Pie
- Mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heavy 2 qt saucepan stirring well, add in cold milk, whisking continually over medium heat.
- Add 2 oz chopped up unsweetened chocolate. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a rolling boil. Boil for exactly 1 minute.
- Remove from heat, pour approximately half of the mixture in the beaten eggs, mixing (fast!) and thoroughly. Pour the tempered egg/mix back into the saucepan.
- Boil and stir 1 full minute.
- Remove from heat, stir in butter and vanilla, mixing well.
- Place on a cooling rack for 16-18 minutes.
- Carefully spoon into a vacuum seal bag. Vacuum Seal the Warm Filling, removing as many air bubbles as possible.
Thaw in the fridge
To Use the filling, remove it from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator to thaw completely. One full-size package of pie filling takes approximately 6 hours to thaw completely. Of course, this is entirely dependent on the temperature of your fridge!
Prepare your favorite pie shell (prepared pastry shell, phyllo shell, or crumb crust, as desired. Gently knead the sealed bag for a moment, Cut off the corner of the bag and pipe into the pie shell.
Smooth the top, Add fresh stabilized whipped cream! Garnish with chocolate curls, if desired.
Chocolate cream pie is a custard filling of milk, eggs, and butter, therefor, once it has cooled thoroughly at room temperature for 2-4 hours, the pie should be put in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.