Coconut Cream Pie

I love baking, in case that hasn't been obvious. When Thanksgiving comes around, I get my apron ready for a full day and a half in the kitchen. This year, we were celebrating at my sister's house. She and I stayed up late the evening before prepping all the dishes, and I focused closely on a dessert buffet. Of course Pumpkin Pie was the star of the show, but in addition I made an Almond Cream Pie and at the last minute, with one more open pie dish remaining, decided on Coconut Cream Pie.

Coconut Cream Pie is a delight - the coconut shavings mix in with the filling for a soft, creamy dessert. I have it every few years, really, since this isn't your typical holiday pie and the rest of my dessert experiences tend to come from my own baking (and I hadn't made it to this one yet).


The filling was very pudding-like, as far as ingredients go, however my experience has been with a flour, sugar, and milk mixture or tapioca and milk as the base. This one called for cornstarch and sugar. Cornstarch and tapioca are both thickeners.

I had glanced at a pie recipe (I've made my share of puddings and pies, but you never know what unique specifications certain recipes have), and they used half and half and egg yolks for the filling. Rather than half and half, I used milk and heavy cream, and since I had used egg yolks for another recipe, I already had egg whites set aside. I whisked the eggs into the milk mixture, then slowly  mixed the liquids into the saucepan. Cornstarch clumps easily, so I took it slow and made sure everything was well blended. I heated the stove to medium, and kept stirring as it gradually warmed up. Mine did not quite reach a boil, but it did bubble and began to thicken quickly. I actually added about 1/4 cup more milk to thin it out slightly and pulled it off the heat. I then stirred in the butter, cinnamon, shredded coconut, vanilla and almond extracts, and covered it with plastic wrap so it could rest. The plastic should directly lay on the pudding.



After letting the filling rest for a few more minutes, I spread it into a graham crust (I was taking on enough this year without making crust on top of it, so I used a pre-made crust). Though I'm sure a standard dough crust would have worked fine for this, I felt graham was a more appropriate flavor.



Once the filling was completely cooled, I spread some whipped cream on top, made by beating heavy cream with my mixer for 1-2 minutes, then adding some powdered sugar and vanilla). I put the oven on low heat and toasted some coconut flakes for 5-7 minutes, then sprinkled those on the top.



Cookies, pies, and holiday drinks. Wait, there's a turkey, too? We made quite the celebration for Thanksgiving this year. Not only did the pie turn out beautifully, the filling was rich and creamy. I just loved it. The lightness of this pie made a good contrast to the heavy main course and sides of dinner. The cinnamon added a fall touch to the flavor, and the slight hint of almond from the extract made the flavor more complex. This recipe will be perfect for the holidays or an outside party once summer returns!

Coconut Cream Pie

Ingredients: 

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 egg whites
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup whipped cream
Toasted coconut flakes

Instructions:

Mix cornstarch and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Whisk together milk, cream, and eggs. Slowly add milk mixture to saucepan, then heat to medium. Simmer constantly, cooking until boiling or mixture thickens to a pudding consistency. Stir in butter, cinnamon, coconut, vanilla and almond extracts, then lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Rest for 30 minutes, then add to prepared crust. Allow to cool, then top with whipped cream and toasted coconut flakes.

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