Coconut Cream Pie

A couple of weeks ago Mike brought home a coconut from the grocery store. This is not an everyday occurrence, in fact, it's the first time we've ever had a fresh coconut since we've been married (over twelve years now).

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Why did my husband just decide to bring a coconut home out of the blue?

It's actually a sweet reason. He and Hayley watch a lot of the survival shows together. It's their 'thing' and has been for years. They stay up all night, munching on assorted junk food while watching people near starve on things like grubs and the occasional coconut. So, when he saw the coconuts on sale for $2 a pop he decided he and Hayley just had to try one to see what it was like. They'd heard the people on tv just rave about how good they were and how sweet the juice and meat tasted. So home it came. It was already shucked and all they had to do was crack it, drain the juice, and remove the meat. *this is a great step-by-step guide that shows a few ways to do just that*

Now if you've never had fresh coconut or tasted unsweetened coconut you might be expecting it to be really sweet. It's not. There's a slightly sweet taste but in our over sugerized world, the sweetness is often lost because our tastebuds are used to explosive sweetness.  Which is why when people who have been stranded in the wilderness or wherever come across one after having very little to eat for days they think it's the best thing since sliced bread.

Hayley and Mike, however, were less than impressed.

Which left me with about half a pound of raw coconut meat that needed something done with it.  I just couldn't throw it out. It would have been such a waste.  Instead, I turned to google to see what I could do with it outside of the standard coconut cake. I decided on making a homemade coconut cream pie (recipe is below).

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First I figured out how to shred it. Let's just say I'm so thankful for my food processor it made what could have been a tedious activity simple, loud but simple. The recipe called for one cup of unsweetened shredded coconut and I knew I'd want at least one cup of sweetened coconut to toast as a topping.  Which left me with a lot of shredded coconut meat. I decided the best course of action was to dry it out so I could freeze it for future use.  While it dried in the oven I took one cup of the unsweetened shredded coconut added some sugar water to it (recipe for it below too) and left it to dry on the counter so it could be toasted later.

Once all that was done I set to the task of making my pies. It took altogether about an hour to make. I should have made them the night before so the pie had enough time to properly set but that's not how I roll. Instead, the pie went in the fridge about five hours before we sat down to eat our Fourth of July meal with the family. Thankfully no one was in a rush for desert and by the time we did eat it was nearly set.  It was so good no one cared and there was just enough pie left to send Granny home a couple of pieces.  I think coconut cream pie may become a Fourth of July tradition now and it's all thanks to Mike and Hayley's bonding over survival shows.

Now for the recipes!

How to sweeten unsweetened coconut.

In a small pot bring 1/4 cup of water to a boil. Stir in 4 tsp of sugar until dissolved then stir in 1 cup of unsweetened coconut stirring until all the coconut is thoroughly wet. At first, it will seem like there is no way that that small amount of water is going to work but keep stirring. I promise it will! Once it's all nice and coated spread the coconut out on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and let air dry. Once dried you can use as-is or you can toast it in the oven at 325 for about 5-10 minutes. Remember that toasting sweetened coconut requires a close eye because the sugar on it will cause the coconut to brown faster and it can go from just right to uh-oh in a matter of seconds. Not like I know or anything *averts eyes*

And now the moment you have all been waiting for how to make...

Homemade Coconut Cream Pie


Ingredients:
(This will make two pies, with a tall whipped cream on top of the custard. If you like less whipped cream cut the ingredients in half for that part of the recipe and make just one pie instead. You can just freeze the other pie shell for use later.)

Pie Crust:

1 cup very cold butter cut into small cubes
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp of sugar
2-4 tbs of ice-cold water. *this is to make the dough firm, YMWV*

Coconut Cream Filling:

2 cups coconut milk
1 cup milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut *if you don't want to go through the process of using a fresh coconut store-bought is just fine*
3 lightly beaten egg yolks
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp pure almond extract

Vanilla Whipped Cream Topping:

2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 tbsps powdered sugar

Directions:

Pie Crusts:
  1. Sift together flour, sugar, and salt into a large mixing bowl or into a food processor.
  2. Cut in the cold butter using a pastry blender or a food processor until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
  3. Add 2 tbs of the ice-cold water and using just your fingers work into the dough until it holds together with squeezed with fingers. If it's not doughy enough add up to 2 more tbs of ice-cold water, 1 tbs at a time. Work the dough as little as possible, the less you work it the flakier it will be. You can also use the food processor for this, just use the pulse once or twice and test by squeezing the dough together.
  4. Once the dough is ready, lightly flour your counter (or use a nonstick baking mat) and turn the dough out onto the surface. Separate into equal balls and form each into a 3/4 inch disk then wrap tightly in plastic wrap for at least one hour. You want the dough to feel firm to the touch. 
  5. Unwrap the dough one at a time and place on to a floured work service (I like to use wax paper under my flour to help keep the dough from sticking and it helps with cleanup) and roll each dough disk into a 14-inch round. Gently lift and place into a 9-inch pie plate (do not grease pie pan). Trim and crimp edge to your liking. Then place back into the fridge until chilled, about an hour
  6. Beings this is pre-baked filled crust, poke holes liberally on bottom and sides of crust. 
  7. Bake at 400F for 12-15 minutes, or until crust is just golden brown. 
  8. Let cool completely before adding the cream filling. 

Coconut Cream Filling:
  1. Scald the milk in the microwave. (This helps prevent scorching) Using a microwave-safe dish microwave the milk for 30seconds, then whisk and repeat until milk is near-boiling. Takes about 2-3 minutes
  2. In a medium saucepan combine the flour, sugar, salt, and coconut and mix. 
  3. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks and set to the side
  4. Over medium heat slowly add 1 cup of the scalded milk to the coconut mixture, whisking constantly. 
  5. When the mixture starts to thicken, slowly add another cup of the milk, whisking constantly until it thickens again, then add in the last cup of milk and continue to cook over medium-low heat until the mixture begins to lightly thicken. Remove from heat.
  6. Take 1/2 cup of heated milk and coconut mixture and slowly but steadily add it into the egg yolks, whisking the entire time. (this prevents the eggs from cooking ...no one wants scrambled eggs in their pudding). Pour the egg mixture immediately back into the pot, whisking constantly.
  7. Place saucepan back onto medium-low heat and continue to cook for another two to three minutes until it reaches a pudding consistency. This should be just before it starts to boil. 
  8. Stir in the butter, vanilla extract, and almond extract. 
  9. Let the pudding cool for about 20 minutes, then pour into the two pies shells. Cover the pie shells and place in the fridge for a minimum of 8 hours but overnight is best. 

Vanilla Whipped Cream Topping:
  1. Combine the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract into a bowl or mixer and beat to soft peaks. 
  2. Spread onto top of the cream pies and garnish with toasted coconut if desired. Serve immediately. 

This pie will stay good in the refrigerator for two to three days. 
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