Coconut Cream Pie
I’ve had Coconut Cream Pie on my mind and I finally got around to putting one together that I love. It is different than the typical Coconut Cream Pie for several reasons. First, instead of relying on coconut extract for the punch of coconut flavor, I have tried to layer on real coconut wherever possible. To wit, I use Coconut Milk in the custard along with heavy whipping cream, sweetened coconut in the custard, and toasted sweetened coconut on top. I made a version previously using coconut extract and found the flavor to be a little too artificial. I felt like I was eating something with a hint of Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen. That is not something I look for in a pie. So, I put real coconut wherever I could and I think it is much better now.
The other way in which it is a little bit unique is that I prepare the custard in a blender. If you remember Betty’s Buttermilk Pie, the filling was whirled up in a blender before baking and it was extremely easy. I wanted to carry on the “easy” part for this pie, so instead of mixing in two bowls and slowly adding the cream to the egg yolks in the saucepan, I put all of the custard ingredients in the blender and blended them perfectly before putting it all in the saucepan to cook and thicken. This also allowed me to use sweetened coconut in the filling; however, it is chopped so finely that you hardly notice it is there. The custard is thickened with a bit of cornstarch, and cooks into a nice pudding that is then cooled and spooned into a cooled crust.
I make my own crust, using good butter and leaf lard. I like making my own crusts. But if crusts fill you with fear and trepidation, by all means buy a pre-made crust, either frozen or the refrigerated kind that you can put into a pie plate and crimp yourself. Fear of crust should not keep you from making pies. A pie made with a store bought crust is still a HOMEMADE PIE in my book. You need to start somewhere, and let’s be honest. A store bought crust can knock several hours off of this process. One other note, pie crusts made with lard do not behave like shortening crusts. They turn out very organic and homey in appearance. If you need a perfectly decorative crust, consider using shortening. I don’t think you can beat the flavor of a lard crust. That is my personal preference. And your pie should be your pie. Do what works best for you…just make pies.
You will need the following supplies: parchment paper, pie weights, a 9” pie plate, a blender
Crust (1 crust):
1¼ cups all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons leaf lard, very cold
4 tablespoons butter, very cold
4 to 6 tablespoons water, very cold
4 egg yolks
1 ¼ cups coconut milk
1 ¼ cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup sweetened coconut
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened coconut
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, salt, lard, and butter until it is crumbly and the fat bits are the size of peas. Add about 5 tablespoons of the cold water and briefly pulse three times to distribute the water. Remove the dough to a large bowl and add only as much additional water as is necessary for the dough to hold together when you squeeze a handful of it. Divide the dough into two equal portions and shape them into flat disks. Wrap in plastic wrap or place into a re-sealable plastic bag. Once in the plastic, form the disks with your hands so as to heal up any cracked edges. Place the disks in the refrigerator to rest for at least one hour. Alternatively, you can do the entire food processor portion by hand, using your fingers to work the fats into the flour.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out the dough to fit your pie plate. This is enough dough for a 9” pie. Place the dough into the pie plate and crimp the edges as you desire. Place the pie plate in the refrigerator to rest for at least 10 minutes. Place a sheet of parchment paper gently into the crust, and place pie weights (or dried beans) into the crust. Bake the crust with the weights for 20 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and carefully remove the weights with the parchment. Return the crust to the oven and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the crust is golden and fully cooked. The crust will not be going back into the oven, so it needs to be fully cooked at this point to avoid a soggy bottom. Allow the crust to cool completely.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Separate the eggs and place the yolks in the blender. Retain the whites for another use. Open the can of coconut milk and mix the solids back into the liquids completely. Using a liquid measure, add 1¼ cups of coconut milk to the blender along with 1¼ cups of heavy whipping cream. Add the coconut, sugar, cornstarch, and salt to the blender. Blend for at least two minutes. Check the filling to ensure that the coconut bits are barely visible before proceeding. Scrape the sides of the pitcher and blend for another minute if necessary. Pour the filling into a saucepan with a heavy bottom and cook over medium low heat, whisking constantly. If the filling begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low. Continue to cook until the custard thickens significantly, approximately 9 to 10 minutes total. The custard should begin to thicken at about 4 minutes. Whisk the entire time to avoid lumps.
4. Remove the filling from the heat and add the butter and vanilla extract. Stir until the butter has melted completely. Pour the filling into a bowl (an extra pie plate is ideal) and place plastic wrap directly on the surface. Allow the filling to cool for at least 20 minutes before proceeding. Pour the filling into the fully baked crust and spread it evenly. Place plastic wrap directly in the surface of the custard again and place the pie in the refrigerator to set for at least 4 hours. (Do not top with whipped cream until the pie has chilled and set completely. See step 6.)
5. While the oven is still hot, toast the coconut. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet in a thin layer. Bake at 375 for 2 minutes. Using a spatula, carefully redistribute the coconut, moving any browning bits to the center to avoid burning. Cook for an additional 2 minutes and again, stir the coconut with a spatula. Continue to bake and stir at 1 minute increments until the coconut is toasted and golden brown. Remove it from the oven and place it on a plate to cool. Hold until the filling has set. (Coconut goes from perfect to burnt very quickly. Watch closely in the last few minutes.)
6. Just before serving, whip 1 cup of heavy whipping cream until thickened. Add the confectioners’ sugar and continue whipping the cream until it is thick. Remove the plastic wrap from the pie and spread the whipped cream on top of the custard. Sprinkle the toasted coconut on top. Keep the pie in the refrigerator until just before serving time.
Buy full-fat, regular, canned coconut milk. It is often in the Asian section of the grocery store. The solids separate from the liquids so pour the contents of the can into a bowl and whisk them back together before measuring.
Have you tried my homemade vanilla extract recipe yet? It is easy, the flavor is wonderful, and it is a fun gift, too.
This recipe has just enough whipped cream for a nice one inch layer. If you want a taller pie, by all means, make more whipping cream.
If you are also in a PIE kind of a mood, make sure to visit these other posts: The Quintessential American Apple Pie, Love Pie, Chocolate Cream Pie, Betty’s Buttermilk Pie And, if you want to know more about baking with leaf lard, here is a primer on rendering your own lard for pie crusts (and a million other tasty things). For a more thorough treatment on making crusts, read the above mentioned Apple Pie and Chocolate Cream Pie posts.
I always double the dough recipe and make 2 crusts because I like having a spare. Then if everything turns out perfect…I can make an extra pie if I want to. That is just how I do it. Feel free to double the dough recipe.
I’m going home to Wichita Falls this week to get ready for my fundraising talk for the Wichita Falls Symphony League. Watch for me on KAUZ TV noon news on February 22nd…and wish me luck) The event will be at the “Kemp at the Forum” on February 28th. If you happen to be in town, consider joining us. It is a great cause, and it is going to be a lot of fun. I will be giving away a dozen or so signed regional cookbooks and talking about wonderful appetizers. I’m going to bring some special treats (like caviar and Texas cheeses) and give away lots of goodies like local honey (from Jerry’s Bees) and other local treats like pecans (from The Pecan Shed), seasoning mixes, and my greeting cards. Please join us if you can.