If you’ve ever spent an exciting afternoon reading recipe reviews online, you’ll know that ingredient substituting is a popular pastime. In the name of dietary restrictions, health improvements, pantry limitations and preferences, cooks tinker.
Some of these substitutions are minor: a spoonful of coconut oil steps in for a pat of butter. Other times, recipes are so transformed that the final ingredients list is a distant relative of the original. Crackers are used in place of apples to, say, create an abominable version of pie. Which, incidentally, isn’t far off from what I’m about to do.
Because today’s chocolate pie is made with, and please be patient with me here, tofu. Yes, it sounds weird. And yes, it feels a little weird to make too. And no, it’s not healthy per se, though it skips the butter, eggs and cream that are called for in a more traditional chocolate pie.
So, why bother?
First, it’s simple. The crust and the filling are made almost entirely in a blender or food processor. But a lot of good, tofu-free desserts are easy to put together, so let me share a few more of its virtues.
Second, it can accommodate just about any dietary restriction in the book (dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free, nut-free and so on), making it easy for you to accommodate your dietarily-restricted pals. And that’s awfully nice.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly in the case of pie made with tofu: the taste. As a regular tinkerer, I consider a fair result to be one that makes up for any loss in taste with whatever’s gained by the substitution (convenience, healthfulness, friendship, etc.). A good result bumps the tastiness quotient to be on par with the original. And then, on occasion, there’s alchemy: An end result that’s so delicious a new creation that you’ll make alongside, or instead of, the original.
There, in the class of alchemy, lies the chocolate pie. It’s cool, smooth and intensely chocolatey. An unsuspecting eater would never know that it contains tofu, though that’s what’s responsible for its impossible lusciousness. Good chocolate is the key to a good result, since it supplies the bulk of the flavour. But feel free to tinker (of course) and incorporate other flavours as you see fit. Coffee and citrus wouldn’t be amiss. But the tofu, well, that’s non-negotiable.
Vegan Chocolate Pie
Makes 1 9-inch pie
Adapted from food52.com and foodnetwork.com, and introduced to me by Jess
Note: The silken tofu that I found came in 3/4 lb packets. If you don’t want to have to buy two packets to make up the full pound called for in the recipe, you can scale all of the filling ingredients down by 25% (making for 3/4 lb tofu, 1.5 cups of chocolate chips, 0.75-1.5 tbsp maple syrup, 3 tbsp almond milk, 1.5 tsp vanilla extract). It’ll result in a slightly less full pie, but not detrimentally so!
2 loosely-packed cups of chocolate wafer cookies (or 12 single graham cracker squares)
1 tsp brown sugar
1 large pinch of salt
2-3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 cups (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 lb of extra-firm silken tofu
1-2 tbsp maple syrup (to taste)
1/4 cup almond milk, cold espresso or orange liqueur
2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a food processor or blender, pulse the cookies, sugar and salt until you’re left with fine crumbs. Drizzle in the coconut oil and pulse again until the mixture is evenly moistened.
3. Dump the cookie mess into a 9-inch pie plate. With your fingers or the back of a spoon, firmly press the crumbs so that they evenly cover the base and walls of the pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until it looks dry in the centre. Remove the crust from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Now turn off your oven – you’re done with it!
Directions: Filling & Assembly
1. Melt your chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a small pot of simmering water, until completely smooth. Let cool.
2. In a food processor or blender (make sure it’s crumb-free!), pulse together the melted chocolate, tofu, maple syrup, almond milk (or whatever you’re using) and vanilla extract until smooth.
3. Pour into the cooled crust and let chill for 2.5-3 hours, or until the filling is firm (if you’re low on patience, pop it in the freezer for an hour instead). Slice and serve!