Pie-a-Day #33: Coconut Cream Pie

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Since I started this pie project the overwhelming number one request has been Coconut Cream Pie.  Which was fascinating to me because I don’t think I’d ever eaten a whole piece of Coconut Cream Pie in my life.  But because of my fear of cornstarch I waited.  Waited until I could feel confident in creating a cream with good flavor and proper texture.

The little tweaks that people make in their own pie recipes is fully evident in coconut cream.  From milk to cream to half-half the liquids vary with coconut milk, of course being the most intriguing to me.  As for thickening, for 3 cups of total liquid, the cornstarch went from a low of 2 ½ tablespoons to as much as a ¼ cup. While the enriching egg yolks made an appearance of a paltry 2 to a considerable 6.  Sugar was as high as 1 full cup to as low as ½ a cup.  That’s the fascinating thing about pie.  People tinker until the parts come together in a whole that harmonizes with ones own taste.  And then there is the occasional appearance of coconut extract and the question of shredded coconut in the filling.  Should it be sweetened or unsweetened coconut?  Toasted or not?

Crusts vary from simple flour and vegetable shortening to the extra luxe of butter and shredded coconut.  I opted for ground Nilla cookies with shredded coconut and melted butter.  When it bakes the smell fills the house.

So here are my choices:

1 can Coconut Milk or Cream + enough half-half to equal 3 cups
4 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups toasted unsweetened dry coconut

Heat the coconut milk and half-half together.  Mix the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch together in a heavy bottomed pot.  When the milks are hot add just a bit to the yolk mixture to “temper” it so the eggs don’t scramble.  Over medium heat continue to add the hot milk stirring or whisking the whole time. When all the milk is added continue cooking and stirring as the mixture thickens.  One the mixture starts to bubble allow it to cook for an additional minute or two.  Turn off the heat and add the butter, whisking to mix.  Then add the toasted coconut.  Scrape the mixture into a bowl and place cling film directly atop it to prevent drying.  By the way, I like to have my pot on a “flame tamer” to prevent the pot from scorching on the bottom and I always use a wooden angled stirrer so I can make contact with the whole pan, including the edges.

Once the coconut custard is well chilled pour it into the baked crust, top with an extravagant amount of whipped cream and garnish with toasted coconut.