[Photograph: Sarah Baird]

While a white Christmas complete with snow angels, eggnog, and Bing Crosby crooning on the stereo is undeniably a magical experience, few things are more disheartening than waking up to a blanket of the fluffy stuff on a morning in early March. When snowflakes start falling at a time in the year when everyone is antsy to lose their trench coats and earmuffs, the only way to cope is through sweet indulgence—or moving to Hawaii.

Even if you live in a place where the closest thing to a snowman is a snow cone, this Mexican Hot Chocolate Pie will tickle your senses and warm your taste buds in a way that will have you dreaming of a nice, warm mug of cocoa and a roaring fire. (Full disclosure: I live in New Orleans, wore shorts to the farmer's market this morning, and would eat this pie in the middle of July in Jackson Square.)

The dessert has a deep, robust chocolate flavor, and relies heavily on a high-quality dark chocolate to properly balance out and compliment the spices. I recommend Sharffen Berger Unsweetened Pure Dark Chocolate, which has hints of nuttiness and caramel to add a more complex flavor to your pie, but any quality dark chocolate suitable for baking will work.

Tempering the cream and chocolate should be the piece of the recipe that requires the most painstaking attention: whisk constantly and remove the mixture from the heat just when it is warm and completely melted. If the chocolate becomes too hot, the likelihood increases that the cake will have notes of bitterness and a sticky texture.

Playing with the ratio of spices inside the pie can help determine the prime level of heat that you are seeking, and will ensure that you aren't rushing for a glass of ice water after each bite. In its current state, the pie recipe has just the optional amount of balanced kick from the ancho, chipotle, cinnamon, and ginger, but feel free to up the ante if you want to play with a little fire. Hungarian paprika can also be added to give the dish a smoky, seductive undercurrent.

The most important means by which to get just the right texture is to carefully watch the clock. Removing the pie from the oven at about thirty-five minutes—when the edges are puffy but the center still has a bit of jiggle to it—will leave you with a creamy, custard-like consistency. If you bake the pie for five-to-ten more minutes, the center will firm into fudgy decadence. It's a win-win situation, so try the pie both ways to see which one you prefer.

Get the Recipe

Mexican Hot Chocolate Pie »

About the author: Sarah Baird is a writer, editor, and petit four aficionado living in New Orleans, Louisiana. She likes planning elaborate dinner parties surrounded by her collection of dwarf citrus trees. You can read her latest musings and about her various misadventures on her website: hellosarahbaird.com or follow her on Twitter: @scbaird.


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