For retro desserts in New York, head West, past the impossible-sounding intersection of 10 and 4 St., to Westville. Nestled in the crooked streets is a small, humble restaurant that features pastry chef Ivy Tack’s creations.
New York magazine named Ivy’s pear-cranberry pie as one of the 8 Best Thanksgiving Pies, and her blueberry pie was a Best of New York Weekly Pick. Her crusts are magical: they’re as multi-layered as puff-pastry without a hint of sogginess or greasiness. Each flick of the fork flakes off crumbs that you want to finish with your fingers. Best of all, they’re made with all butter, not shortening or lard.
Look at the artistry in the crust!
Her chocolate cream pie with marshmallow frosting is probably the best pie I’ve had in my life. Yes, even better than pies from the New York institution, The Little Pie Company (while their products are decent, they use lard, and their crusts hunky, not crispy).
The filling has a melt-in-your-mouth smoothness that can only be achieved with the cocoa butter in chocolate. The lightly sweetened topping strikes a balance between oozy and stiff. It’s the perfect pie for the chocoholic and kid in everyone.
Other goodies include the Lil Devin (oatmeal cranberry cookie sandwiched with cream cheese frosting), homemade Oreo, Chocolate Magic Cake (double-layer chocolate cake with ganache filling), and Chocolate Fudge and Hazelnut Brittle Cake. For homestyle desserts, forget Magnolia Bakery and its offshoots: Buttercup Bake Shop, Billy’s Bakery and Sugar Sweet Sunshine. Ivy makes desserts that you wish your mom could make.
While you’re at Westville, don’t forget to try the brunch. Baked French toast with strawberries, toasted bread to soak up runny sunny-side-up eggs, and sausage are all part of the hearty fare. Service is slow but friendly.
You can also buy Ivy’s desserts at Jack’s Coffeeshop and direct from Ivy Uppercrust Pastry. Pies run $25-30, considerably more than the supermarket variety, but you get what you pay for.
In all fairness, I should disclose that Ivy is a friend of a friend. The association brought me to Westville, but the quality will bring me back. The only time I’ve met Ivy was in competition, during the annual Battery Park City apple pie contest. Guess who won?
Below is an approximate recipe for her chocolate and marshmallow pie. I’ve combined my favorite pie crust recipe (as discussed in the tarte tatin post), seven-minute frosting, and a ganache filling from a knowledgable chocoholic.
For a shortcut, substitute frozen puff pastry dough and bake according to the package instructions. Dock the dough with a fork: you want lots of layers but not the mile-high puff.
Chocolate Cream Pie With Marshmallow Frosting
Makes one 9-inch pie
For the crust:
Adapted from a Sunset magazine cookbook
You will only need half a batch for a single-crust pie.
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup (2 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 egg, well beaten
1 Tbsp vinegar
4 Tbsp ice cold water
Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Add butter and cut into flour. You may use a pastry blender, two knives or your hands. Keep smooshing the butter till the biggest pieces are pea-sized and the smallest pieces resemble bread crumbs.
Combine egg and vinegar in a small bowl and add to the flour mixture. Add water 1 Tbsp at a time, just until the crust just begins to come together. Smoosh the dough together so it forms a solid mass. You should still see large striations of butter.
Divide dough in half and press each half into a round flat disk, and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, preferably for several hours and for up to two days before rolling. This step lets the dough relax so it won’t get tough. The dough can also be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 6 months; thaw completely before rolling.
If you refrigerate the dough for more than a couple hours, let it warm up on the counter for about 15 minutes so it’s pliable. You want the dough to be cold, so the butter doesn’t melt. But if it’s too cold, it will be stiff and crack when you roll it.
Roll the dough on a floured surface (a wax-paper lined counter works well). Lean into a floured rolling pin and roll from the center out, stopping just short of the edge. Keep rotating the dough 90 degrees to ensure that it’s not sticking and to shape it evenly. If the dough cracks or tears, push it back together. If the shape is uneven, cut off a portruding piece and patch it on the short side with cold water. If the dough becomes too soft and starts sticking, slide it on top of a rimless cookie sheet and refrigerate until it firms up. It is not unusual for all these things to happen. The crust should be about 1/8-inch thick and one inch wider than the pie pan on all sides.
Ease the crust all the way to the bottom of the pan. Trim off the excess and flute the edges.
Prick the crust with a fork and blind bake (cover the shaped crust with foil and weigh it down with dried beans, rice or metal pie weights) in a preheated 425F oven for 12 minutes. Remove the foil, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for a few minutes more, until the crust is golden brown.
For the filling:
Adapted from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich
1 cup half-and-half
2 Tbsp sugar
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 large egg, lightly whisked
In a small saucepan, bring the half-and-half and sugar to a simmer. Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and stir until completely melted and smooth.
Just before the crust is done, whisk the egg into the chocolate mixture.
When the crust is ready, remove from the oven. Turn off the oven. Pour the hot chocolate filling mixture into the crust. Return the pie to the turned-off oven for about 10 to 12 minutes, or just until the filling begins to set around the edges but most of the center is still liquid when the pan is wiggled. Set the pan on a rack to let the filling continue to set.
For the marshmallow (aka seven-minute) frosting:
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Makes 2 cups
2 1/2 tbsp water
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg white
1/2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
Have the egg whites at room temperature, 68-70 F. Whisk everything except the vanilla together in a large stainless-steel bowl. Whipe excess sugar off the side of the bowl, as it will be difficult to dissolve later.
Set the bowl in a wide, deep skillet filled with about 1 inch of simmering water. Make sure the water level is at least as high as the depth of the egg whites in the bowl.
Beat the whites on low speed until the mixture reaches 140F on an instant-read thermometer. Do not stop beating while the bowl is in the skillet, or the egg whites will be overcooked. If you cannot hold the thermometer stem in the egg whites while continuing to beat, remove the bowl from the skillet just to read the thermometer, then return the bowl to the skillet. Beat on high speed for exactly 5 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the skillet and add the vanilla.
Beat on high speed for 2-3 more minutes to cool.
Spread the frosting on the cooled pie. It is best eaten on the day it is made.
210 W. 10th St
New York, NY 10014-6411
138 W. 10 St. (between Greenwich Ave. and Waverly Pl.)
New York, NY 10014-3103