Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fresh Coconut Cream Pie

Last week I was having supper at a local chain restaurant.  On the table was advertisement for their crust less coconut pie.  I looked at the person I was eating with and said "it's not pie if there isn't any crust, it's just coconut pudding!".  Well, that got my taste buds going for a real coconut pie....and I mean a REAL coconut pie!  Not the kind you make with the sweetened coconut you buy in a package and mix with some instant pudding and pour into a purchased pie shell.  No, for me it had to be the kind you make with real coconut, homemade filling and a homemade crust and meringue.  No simple whipped cream topping either, it has to be crowned with a sky high pile of meringue!

If you have never had a made from scratch real coconut pie, you haven't had coconut pie!  It takes a bit of time and effort, but oh what a glorious pie you have when you're finished.



First you will need to buy a coconut.  One of those round hairy things that has three eyes on one end.  Be sure to buy one that is heavy and when you shake it you can hear a lot of liquid sloshing around.  I will tell you that it is possible to buy I bad one.  These babies aren't high demand items and since everything is contained in a hard shell (and I mean hard), you just don't know the quality until you get it home.  Just save your receipt from the grocery and they'll replace it for you if you get one that's gross.  Yes, I know because I had that experience this time as well as on previous occasions when was making this pie. 

Once you get your coconut home, you will need to gather some tools.  You will need a hammer and a screwdriver and a couple of knives.  First you will need to punch out the eyes so you can drain the precious liquid inside.  Position the screwdriver over one eye and pound it with the hammer into the shell.  Remove and repeat with the remaining two eyes. 



Drain the liquid into a measuring cup.  Don't worry, you'll get some shell particles in it.  We'll strain them out later.  Cover the liquid and put it in the refrigerator. 

Now it is time to crack this baby open.  Take your hammer and some paper towels and a paper plate out to your driveway or other concrete surface.  Set the coconut on the concrete and give it a good whack with the hammer.  Watch those fingers!   It should crack.  If not, whack it again; repeating as necessary. to get it into manageable size pieces. 

Gather up the pieces and go back inside to remove the coconut from the shell.  Use a dull paring knife and slide the point between the shell and the snowy white flesh of the coconut.  Be careful because it is easy to stab yourself doing this step (voice of experience).  Once inserted give the knife blade a little twist to loosen the flesh.  Go around the edges repeating this process and the flesh will pop right out of the shell.  


Using a sharp paring knife peel off the brown skin from the shell side of the coconut.  Take this off carefully so you don't waste the meat of the coconut. 

During all of the prep, you will be left with somewhat dirty looking chunks of coconut.  Don't worry, give the pieces a quick rinse under some cold water to clean them up and set them aside on a paper towel to dry. 

Set up your food processor with the grating blade (or use an old fashioned box grater) load up the tube and grate away.  In mere minutes you will have a lovely pile of fresh coconut.  Spread the coconut on a cookie sheet and set aside.












Place a generous 1/2 cup of the coconut on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or so to toast it.  Keep an eye on it because once it starts turning golden, it will burn quickly!


Once the coconut is golden, remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Next Up we're going to make the filling.  We need to make this prior to baking the pie shell so it will have ample time to chill.






Coconut Cream Pie Filling

Ingredients:

Coconut Milk drained from the Coconut
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Whole milk to make 1 1/2 cups when combined with the coconut milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar
5 egg yolks
4 tablespoons corn starch
2 1/2 cups freshly grated coconut  (or whatever amount you have left after toasting the 1/2 cup for the topping)

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract 

1 tablespoon butter


Directions:

Using a saucer to catch the egg white, separate the eggs.  Place the whites in a very clean bowl.  If during the egg separating process a yolk breaks, put it aside in another bowl for use in another recipe.  You do not want a speck of yolk in the egg whites.  Cover the bowl of egg whites and set aside.  Do not put them in the refrigerator unless you are going to be chilling the filling overnight.  If you are, then refrigerate the whites, but bring them to room temperature before making the meringue.

Combine the sugar and the egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk until pale yellow and smooth.  The mixture will fall into ribbons from your whisk.  



Whisk in the cornstarch until smooth.  The mixture will thicken up slightly.



Using a strainer, filter the coconut milk into a large measuring cup.  Add whole milk to the 1 1/2 cup level.  Add the 1 1/2 cup heavy cream for a total of 3 cups.


Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the milk almost to a boil.  Temper the egg mixture with the hot milk by whisking 1/2 cup of hot milk into the egg and sugar mixture.  Pour slowly while whisking so you do not cook the eggs.  Continue to add the milk 1/2 cup at a time, whisking constantly until the mixture is warm (it will take about 1/2 the milk). 

Pour entire mixture back into the saucepan and whisk constantly.  The pudding will get very thick and bubbly.  Watch out for those bubbles because they will pop and splatter the hot pudding on you. 

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla, coconut extract and butter. 
Using a spatula fold in the coconut, mixing until well blended.


Cover the mixture with plastic wrap, pressing it down onto the surface of the filling to prevent the air from creating a "skin".  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until the filling has cooled completely.



Now let's make the pie crust.  I had a new recipe from another blog that I thought I'd try and it was a disaster.    Peering into the oven to check the baking process, I discovered the pie crust sliding down the sides of my pie plate...I yanked it out of the oven and dumped it into flour on the pastry board and began to knead.  I incorporated more flour and finally rolled it out and sprinkled on some sugar and cinnamon in hopes of salvaging the mess into something of a shortbread type of cookie.  That worked...kinda.

Had I thought through it rather than just jumping into the deep end, I would have realized that the butter to flour ratio was too high.  Obviously, someone didn't kitchen test before they shared!

I don't know what I was thinking.  Trying an new crust recipe for this magnificent pie was not one of my brighter moments....but as a result of my experience, I want to assure you, any recipe appearing on my blog it is something that has been made by me, in my kitchen and the photos are ones I've taken or have been taken by a friend during the process!  There is always the possibility of a typo, and if you see one, please  let me know so I can fix it.

This pie is so spectacular, it requires a worthy crust.  Forgetting my experimentation,  I turned to my "go to"  recipe from the Farm Journal's Country Cookbook which was first published in 1959 and again in 1972. 

Flaky Pastry for One Crust Pie

Ingredients:

1 cup sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup lard
2 to 2 1/2 Tablespoons cold water

 Directions:

Combine the flour and the salt in a mixing bowl.  Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture is the consistency of coarse cornmeal or tiny peas.

Sprinkle on cold water 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing the mixture lightly and stirring with a fork.  Add water each time to the driest part of the mixture.  The dough should be just moist enough to hold together when pressed with a fork.  It should not be sticky.

Shape the dough into a smooth ball with your hands and roll it with a rolling pin on a floured board.
Fit the dough into your pie plate.  Mine is a 9" deep dish pie plate and this recipe was the perfect amount.


Roll under the edge and crimp.
Using the tines of a fork, prick holes in the bottom and around sides. 
Bake in a 450 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until it is browned the way you like it.   Cool.




Once your pie crust has cooled and your filling is chilled it is time to start assembling the pie.
Remove the plastic wrap and pour the filling into the crust.  It will be very thick (which is what you want).  Distribute it evenly in the pie crust with the back of a spoon.  Lick the spoon (yes that is a requirement).



Crown the pie with a glossy meringue and the toasted coconut.


Italian Meringue

Ingredients:

5 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup of superfine white sugar
1/3 cup water

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small heavy bottom saucepan, over medium heat combine the water and sugar.  Swirl the pot over the burner to dissolve the sugar completely.  Do not stir. 
Increase the heat and boil to soft-ball stage (235-240 degrees F).  Be sure to use a candy thermometer for accuracy.  During the cooking process, dip a pastry brush in water and wash down the sides to keep the sugar crystals from forming and causing your mixture to turn into a lump of sugar.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the egg whites on low speed until frothy.  Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to medium and continue beating until soft peaks form.

 With the mixer running, pour the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over the fluffed egg whites.  Beat until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.

Spread the meringue over the pie, making sure you do not leave any gaps between the meringue and the pie crust.

Place in the preheated oven and bake until the meringue turns a lovely golden brown.  This will take between 12 and 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, top with the toasted coconut and cool. 


I didn't realize I had my Pepe and Penelope cookie jar in the background.  It's appropriate since I love this pie! 


Use a wet knife to cut through the meringue to keep it from sticking. 
Refrigerate leftovers....that is, assuming you have leftovers!



 ....and that is What's Cooking At Cathy's ~ Enjoy!

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My career is in IT.  Cooking and photography are among a few of my hobbies. In my spare time, which is most weekends I tie on my apron and exercise my creativity by trying new recipes and adapting them to my tastes. I also have a passion for photography that I incorporate by taking photographs to go along with the recipes I post on my blog.  
I also enjoy travel, both near and abroad. Meeting new people, new experiences and cultures and oh, not to mention the food! I hope you enjoy my blog.