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For many people “Silk Chiffon” is the song of summer. In it the American indie pop band MUNA, with the help of Phoebe Bridgers, sings about holding a lover tight. “Silk chiffon. That's how it feels, oh, when she's on me.” That word, silk, is visceral, evoking a softness unlike any other. So for a pie to be called silk, there is a certain textural expectation that must be met.
And French silk pie really delivers. With its signature chocolate-mousse-like filling, French silk feels weightless. It’s as ethereal as its namesake. I know I'll still be blasting “Silk Chiffon” on my kitchen speakers as fall rolls in—and I’ll still be eating what I’ve been calling the dessert of summer these past few months—this cloudlike no-bake French silk pie.
While the name implies otherwise, French silk pie is an American invention. The iconic chocolate mousse filling set inside a pie crust with whipped cream and curled chocolate shavings was born from one of the nation’s most intense baking competitions. Maryland-based contestant Betty Cooper introduced the pie in 1951 during the third annual Pillsbury Bake-Off competition. And while the term “French” might have simply been a stylistic choice, the term silk accurately brings to life the smooth and dreamy texture of the pie’s chocolate filling. Nowadays the pie can be found next to nostalgic cherry pies and tall banana cream pies in glass cases, on diner menus, and in restaurants throughout the United States. (I personally grew up eating it at Bakers Square, a small restaurant chain throughout the Midwest.) The pie is a master class in texture, and one that deserves a spot in every pie lover’s rotation.
To achieve the remarkably light texture of the filling, you’ll need to call a team of whipped ingredients into action. First, you’ll whisk a combination of eggs and sugar together over a double boiler. This dissolves the sugar, heats the eggs to a safe eating temperature, and incorporates air bubbles into the mix. The eggs are more easily able to take on air as they warm, which creates a thick and ribbony texture—almost as if you were making the base of a sponge cake. You’ll melt the chocolate directly into the warm eggs, then combine the mixture with butter that you’ve fluffed up in an electric mixer. Finally, it’s time for whipped cream—you’ll fold that in to lighten the filling even further. The final texture? That’s right, it’s silk.
While the filling is often secured inside flaky parbaked pie crusts (diner-style, if you will), this version sets it inside of a no-bake Oreo crust to double down on the chocolate flavor—and to make pie prep significantly easier. You just combine melted butter with crushed Oreos and press the mixture into a pie plate. Topping the pie with large pompador-like dollops of whipped cream and dramatic curls of shaved chocolate brings the drama. Even if you’re not competing for any sort of medal, this is the right time to gild the lily.