Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Coconut Pie

I've got an updated, prettier post if you're interested. My recipe has changed ever so slightly but it's just as delicious!

Coco Bistro in Providenciales, has the best coconut pie ever. My sister and I were freaking out because it was so delicious. Naturally, when we got back to the States, we decided to make our own. The reason the pie was so good was because the custard was really rich but light and super coconutty, the crust had pecans in it (or so we suspect) and the whipped topping helped cut the sweetness a bit.

It took a little bit of experimentation but I think we were successful in making a pie that was almost as good as Coco Bistro's.

Ingredients:
the custard
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1-1/2 cups cream of coconut, sweetened (about 3/4ths of a 15 oz. container)
4 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
the crust
6 graham crackers
1/4 cup pecans
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
the topping
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 pint whipping cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Start by making the crust. In a zip-top baggie, combine pecans and graham crackers and crush with a meat pounder or frying pan, or even a telephone book, until it's nice and crumby. Meanwhile, melt the butter (be lazy and use the microwave like moi).

Mix the crushed graham crackers and pecans until all of the crumbs are moistened.
Pour crumbs into a pie dish (I like glass but that's just me) and press down using your fingers or the bottom of a glass until it resembles a fancy store-bought graham cracker crust.
Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes until the crust is golden and crispy. Set aside to cool while you move onto the custard.
Okay, so let's talk about cream of coconut; Crema de Coco, if you will. You might find this in the Latino food aisle of your grocery store AND/OR in the drink mixers aisle because this is the stuff you use in pina coladas. It's pre-sweetened and usually, when you open the can, you'll be met with some solidified pink-ish looking solid stuff that has the texture of shortening. Give it a stir and you'll see that there's also some clear liquid. The solid fat just separates from the liquid sometimes; it's nothing to cry about. If you want it to be uniform, you can warm up the mixture in the microwave (but NOT in the can, doy, metals in the microwave is a no-no) or on the stove. For this recipe, the cream of coconut is going to be warmed up in the milk on the stove so it's no big deal if it's separated.
Now, onto the custard! Combine the milk and cream of coconut (which I scooped out with my ice cream scoop) in a saucepan and gently stir over low heat until the the cream of coconut is dissolved and the milk is barely scalding. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a bowl, combine egg yolks, salt, sugar, and corn starch and stir until everything is combined. You'll notice that the quicker you try to stir, the more difficult it will be. That's because there's a LOT of cornstarch in there and cornstarch + liquid makes a non-Newtonian fluid. Science. It's all around us.
Take the milk and SLOWLY add it to the egg yolk mixture. Too quickly and you'll curdle the yolk so be careful. If you don't have a steady hand, you can ladle in the milk bit by bit. Whisk until smooth and then return the milky yolky not-yet-custard to the saucepan. Heat over a low flame for a few minutes, whisking continuously. All of a sudden, when the mixture comes to a boil, it will almost curdle and look like scrambled eggs. At this point, remove from the heat immediately and whisk like crazy for two minutes. Once the mixture looks pretty smooth (and no longer resembles scrambled eggs), add in butter and vanilla extract and whisk until the butter is melted and combined.
What you should be left with is a really thick and creamy custard. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, the custard should still be warm but no longer steaming. Carefully spread it into the pie crust. I like to use a big spoon to plop lumps of it down into the pie crust first and then I smooth out the top. Be careful not to disturb or break the crust. Once the custard is in the crust, place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours but overnight is better. If you're in a rush, stick it in the freezer for 1 hour.
Once the crust and custard are chilled, prepare the whipped topping. Add powdered sugar to a bowl of heavy whipping cream and beat until the whipped cream looks spreadable. Don't over-whip, or you'll end up with butter. Don't under-whip because you'll drown the pie.

After that, toast some coconut flakes. I like to do it in a little frying pan instead of in the oven because I think they toast more evenly and almost every flake gets a bit of golden color. Plus, it's easy to give the pan a little shake on the stove than it is to open the oven door, grab a mitt, take the sheet pan out, shake it, put it back in, close the oven door, and repeat. But you know, that's just me. You do what you want. After the flakes are toasted, set aside to cool.
Spoon the topping over cooled custard and spread it out and make it lovely.
Sprinkle on the toasted coconut. Make sure the whole surface is evenly covered. This helps people know it's a coconut pie. This makes it taste good and gives it a nice textural contrast.
Cut yourself, and your family and friends, a slice and marvel at how pretty and fluffy it looks, for just a second.
And then eat the whole thing and go back for seconds.
And here's the recipe page:

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