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Chocolate Meringue Pie

2 1/2 cups milk, divided   
3/4 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar, divided
4 tablespoons cornstarch   
1/2 teaspoon salt   
4 tablespoons cocoa (slightly heaped)   
3 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
Gob of butter (about 2 tablespoons)
8 or 9-inch pie shell, baked

Heat 2 cups milk over medium heat until scalding.  In the meantime blend 1/2 cup milk, 3/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, salt, cocoa, and egg yolks.  Add to warm milk, cook until thick, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat, add vanilla and butter, pour in pie shell. 

For meringue, beat egg whites on high speed with mixer.  When they begin to foam up good, add remaining 6 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time.  When it stands in a peak, place on top of pie and bake in 350 degrees oven until brown.

Coconut Cream Pie: Leave out the cocoa and add coconut when you add the vanilla and butter.  Top meringue with coconut.

Banana Cream Pie: Leave out the cocoa, place bananas in bottom of crust, fill with about half the filling, more bananas, and finish with filling.

Plain Cream Pie: Leave out the cocoa.  Sometimes, I want one cream pie and one chocolate pie, so I double the recipe, leaving out the cocoa, fill the crust for the cream pie, and add either semisweet chocolate chips or unsweetened chocolate to the remainder to make a different chocolate pie.

Peanut Butter Pie: Make cream pie filling plus 1 or 2 tablespoons peanut butter until it looks and tastes right.

Contributed by A Collection of Recipes from the Best Cooks in the Midwest (Missouri)

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