Pi Day pie #8: Chocolate-almond meringue finale.

Of all the Pi Day pies I have offered to you here, I'm pretty sure this one is my favorite. It has a fabulous mix of flavors (sparingly sweet chocolate, almonds, a hint of cinnamon) and textures (creamy custard in a crisp meringue shell).

And, since people have been telling be that pi are squared, this one is, too.

Meringue shell:

Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper.

Beat 6 egg whites and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar until foamy. Continue beating at high speed while gradually adding 1 cup granulated sugar. Keep beating until the whites are glossy and form stiff peaks.

Fold into the egg whites 1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds and 1 tablespoon amaretto (or 1 teaspoon almond extract). With a rubber scraper, carefully spread egg white mixture evenly over bottom and sides of pan.

Bake at 300 oF for about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.

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Chocolate custard filling:

In a small saucepan, gently heat 2 cups cream with 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate and 1 3/4 tablets (about 5 ounces) Mexican chocolate like Abuelita or Ibarra (or substitute 5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips). Stir constantly during heating, until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is uniform.

In a small bowl, lightly beat 6 egg yolks with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1tablespoon amaretto (or 1 teaspoon almond extract). Add about 1/2 cup of the chocolate mixture and beat to incorporate, then transfer the egg yolk mixture to the saucepan with the rest of the chocolate mixture and stir well. Keep stirring over medium-low heat until the custard starts to thicken up.

Remove custard from heat and strain. Do not strain warm custard directly into meringue shell! You will end up with something that looks like this:

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It will be moderately tasty, but the textures will be compromised. Plus, its visual appeal will not be all that it could be.

Instead, strain the custard into a bowl and put the bowl in the fridge to cool.

When the custard and the meringue shell have cooled completely, carefully spoon the custard into the shell, smoothing the top with a rubber scraper.

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Garnish with sliced almonds, if desired, and serve with whipped cream.

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