I feel like San Gabriel Valley, with its streets dotted with Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Spanish, and maybe English signs, is not like most of the rest of America. In addition to having good Mexican and Chinese food whenever we wanted, we also had a good deal of Marie Callender’s pies.
A few months out of the year, Marie Callender’s would have pie sales where all the pies were a flat price, and during strawberry season we would stock up with strawberry pies for a special price, too. In retrospect, the bright red syrup that accompanied those pies probably had tons of food coloring in it. I have good memories of seeing the signature Marie Callender pie box in the fridge, and whenever we had some pie, I would have a slice for breakfast! 🙂
Our family had its favorites that we got all the time- lemon cream cheese and Kahlua, as we affectionately called it. I learned, much later on, that Kahlua was the name of the liqueur that gave it its flavor. The Kahlua cream cheese pie, with its chocolate cookie crust and elusive filling, got me every time, and it was definitely my favorite! I remember often eating it layer by layer.
I would start with my least favorite part- the sour cream topping, then I would scrape at the cheesecake part to reveal the naked crunchy chocolate cookie crust for last. Sometimes, someone would make an imperfect slice that would leave some crust behind- jackpot.
The sour cream fudge drizzle topping was only okay to me at the time, but thinking back, its semi-tartness made it perfect to accompany the remaining cheesecake below it.
Recently, my sister called me up and asked if I had a good recipe for Kahlua. Not having tried to make it since my college days, where I only made the cheesecake part (who needs sour cream, anyway? Just kidding!), I told her I wasn’t sure but started hypothesizing about what re-create our childhood taste memories. We decided that we’d make it together when I visited her!
So, the first pie was a joint effort by the Tsui sisters, which was a bunch of fun! We worked side by side, each taking over a different task, and tasting and making judgment calls as we went along (I took notes on the recipe).
We didn’t have sour cream, so we used Greek yogurt. I think it is just as good with the Greek yogurt, if not better, but you can decide..After two versions, I am quite happy with the recipe. y.
Even if you have never had the sweet experience of eating a slice of Marie Callender Kahlua Pie, I guarantee you will be a fan of it once you taste this. So. Make some pie and eat it, too.
1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs (requires about 16 cookies)
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 Tbsp sugar
Pinch of salt
This makes a rather thin crust. If you want more crust like at Marie’s, use 3/2 the recipe: 1 1/2 cup crumbs, 3/8 cup butter, and 3 Tbsp sugar.
16 oz (2×8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
3 Tbsp Dutch-process (preferred) or natural cocoa powder, sifted (optional)
1 tsp espresso powder (optional)
3/8 cup coffee flavored liqueur, like Kahlua or Cafe Granita
1/4-1/2 tsp gelatin + 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup sour cream
Fudge sauce drizzle (optional, but lovely)
3 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp sugar
1/8 cup cocoa powder (Dutch-process or natural)
1) Preheat oven to 325F. Combine crust ingredients together evenly. Press into a 9 inch pie tin.
2) In a large mixing bowl, mix cream cheese until it is loosened and creamy. Add sugar and first egg, and mix until the egg is well-incorporated. Add the next egg and mix until it is even. In a separate bowl, dissolve cocoa powder, espresso powder (if using), and Kahlua together until the powders are well-dissolved in the Kahlua. Add the Kahlua to the cream cheese mixture, mixing gently until combined.
3) Pour filling into the crust and smooth the top. Carefully rap the pan (or drop from a short short distance) on the counter to get rid of any trapped air bubbles in the middle.
4) Bake in a water bath for 40-45 minutes, or until the cheesecake has set but the middle is still jiggly. Take both water bath and cheesecake out of the oven.
5) Remove the cheesecake from the water bath, and cool on a wire rack. .
6) While the cheesecake is baking, prepare the fudge sauce and gelatin for the yogurt topping (if you are using that):
A) Whisk the ingredients together.
B) Without covering it, bring to a boil while whisking, simmer for 2 minutes, then turn the heat off.
C) As it cools, it should thicken even more. Make sure it is completely cool and thickened before you use it. How do you know if it is thick enough? It should be quite sticky and hard to scrape the bowl clean with a spatula! If not, reduce a bit longer, then cool again. Syrup that is too runny will produce smeared fudge lines, but syrup that is the correct consistency will make pretty pretty lines.
If you are using Greek yogurt, continue following directions. If not, skip to step 9).
7) Make the topping by sprinkling gelatin into 2 Tbsp* water. Let it stand on the stove while the cheesecake bakes- this will dissolve the gelatin.
8) Stir the gelatin into the yogurt, and mix well.
9) Pour the yogurt mixture or sour cream onto the surface of the cheesecake, using a spatula to carefully smooth out the surface. Use a skewer or toothpicks to pop any air bubbles.
10) Put the fudge sauce in a ziptop sandwich bag or make a parchment paper cone, cut the tiniest opening possible, and pipe in straight lines across the topping.
11) Use a skewer or butter knife to drag the topping in lines perpendicular to the ones that were just piped. For best results, clean the skewer/knife in between draggings 🙂
12) Refrigerate overnight to allow the topping to set, for best results.
-If you use 1/2 tsp gelatin, use 2 Tbsp water. If you want a slightly runnier yogurt topping, use 1/4 tsp gelatin and the same amount of water.
-Neuchatel cheese can be substituted with no problem.
-The original version is lighter in color and I’m sure has no cocoa powder nor espresso powder in it, but I like the mocha boost that these two bring- do as you wish and leave them out if you want.