The first people to greet our family when we moved into our old house in our small North Texas town were Mr. and Mrs. Burrows. Mrs. Burrows knocked on our door holding her Homemade Chocolate Pie, still warm from the oven, and piled high with meringue. It didn’t last through the day with our large family!
Mrs. Burrows’ specialty was her Chocolate Meringue Pie and her Homemade Angel Food Cake with Lemon Glaze Frosting. She baked them by memory, without a recipe, as she had baked them 100 times before and knew it by heart.
Our family has such wonderful memories of our days spent in this town. It was a town filled with wonderful cooks, huge gardens, hot corn bread fresh from the oven, wonderful pies and cakes, and all made from scratch. Our town, like most North Texas towns back in the day, was a town whose economy was originally built on cotton. The whole country side was filled with small farms. Most were share cropping farms where the farmers didn’t own the farms they worked. They were furnished a house and seed and worked for a percentage of the profits at the end of harvest. These families worked the land and lived off of the land. They grew large gardens, canned their food, had a cow for milk, a hog to fatten for meat, or a calf to fatten for slaughter. Some managed to get by, but many struggled to make ends meet. That was a way of life in most of North Texas and Oklahoma and this was the way of life for Mr. Burrows.
In the fifties the whole country was put on it’s heels by an insect called the “boll weevil” it decimated cotton crops everywhere. These poor farmers went from poor to dirt poor. Their crops were destroyed and many had to move from the farms and find work elsewhere. The town we grew up in was lucky as due to its type of soil, another cash crop could be grown – peanuts. Towns such as ours were all over North Texas. The town’s population was controlled by the land owners, the bank, or business owners, but the bulk of the population came from the share cropping population. If they couldn’t make ends meet sharecropping, they moved from the farms into town and worked at various jobs. Some had managed to save enough to buy a small house in town where they could retire. Most North Texans, if you pealed away a layer or two, you would find that most were just like Mr. and Mrs. Burrows with a rural farming background – the same is the case for my grandparents on my father’s side.
The Burrows left their share cropping farm and moved to town into the farm style house that sat on the right hand side of our Victorian house long before we moved to town. Mrs. Burrows sewed at the dress factory and Mr. Burrows did odd jobs until they could draw Social Security. They sustained themselves with their large garden and they leased a small piece of land outside of town where Mr. Burrows kept a hog and a fattening calf.
Mr. and Mrs. Burrows were some of our most cherished neighbors. He planted a garden like no one else. They taught us so much about gardening. She taught us so much about southern cooking and baking. She was one of best southern cooks we’d ever seen. Her pies and cakes were second to none. Her recipes were rarely written down, they were handed down from generation to generation.
Growing up the way we did, with a mother and neighbors who loved to cook, instilled in us a love for baking and all things homemade and helped develop this love of cooking that each of us girls have today.
Our chocolate meringue pie is reminiscent of Mrs. Burrow’s Chocolate Meringue Pie. It is filled with a dense, chocolate filling, that is cooked on the stove until thick and bubbly, poured into a homemade pie shell, and topped with hot meringue before being baked in the oven until the meringue is light golden brown. This chocolate pie is now served every holiday in which we all gather together and every time we eat it, we always remember Mrs. Burrow’s. The recipe can be easily doubled, and for our large family, one pie is never enough!
1 1/4 cups Sugar
1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Cocoa
dash of Salt
4 Egg Yolks
2 cups Milk
1/4 cup Butter
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Baked Pie Shell
Meringue or Whipped Cream (recipe for each to follow)
Combine first 4 ingredients in a saucepan.
Set sugar mixture aside. Combine egg yolks and milk with a fork. Stir into sugar mixture.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly.
Mixture will be ready when it thickens and boils. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.
Spoon into previously baked pastry shell.
At this point, you have a decision to make….do you want a chocolate pie with meringue, or a chocolate pie with fresh whipping cream? We have included recipes for both below!
4-6 Egg Whites (We like to use 6 for a taller meringue)
3/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Homemade Vanilla Extract
Separate eggs and place egg whites in a mixing bowl, careful not to let the egg yolk in the bowl!
Add cream of tartar.
Beat on high speed with an electric mixer until just foamy.
Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Beat until stiff peaks form and sugar dissolves (2 to 4 minutes)
Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.
Beat well. Spoon beaten meringue onto hot chocolate filling and seal to edge of pastry.
With your spatula, make peaks in your meringue.
Bake meringue topped pie in a 325 degree oven for 25 to 28 minutes.
Meringue recipe makes 1 pie.
Some prefer fresh whipped cream on their pies so if you prefer to go this route, bake your pie shell, fill it with your cooked chocolate filling, and top your pie with fresh whipped cream prior to serving.
Fresh Whipping Cream Ingredients:
1 large carton Heavy Whipping Cream
1/4 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Homemade Vanilla Extract
Add chilled Heavy Whipping Cream to chilled mixer bowl and begin whisking on medium speed. Add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and continue whipping until soft peaks form. Add vanilla and whisk to incorporate.
Top each slice of pie with a dallop of whipping cream and serve.
Chocolate Meringue Pie + Chocolate Cream Pie = DELICIOUS!