March 31, 2011
A couple weeks ago, I reported on my first-ever attempt at making a Coconut Cream Pie. That had turned out pretty good, but I was pretty sure I could improve on it. The thing I'd been most disappointed with the first time around was the crust. It had tasted good, but it had been overly crumbly. I also wondered if perhaps I could maintain a big, satisfying flavor while cutting down a bit on fat and calories. Not that the pie would be super-healthy no matter what I did, but every little bit can make a difference.
In regard to the crust, I'd recently made a Lemon Custard Pie featuring a variation on the famous Cook's Illustrated "vodka pie crust" recipe. That variation - adding some lemon zest to the pie dough - had turned out great, so I thought I'd try something similar here, but since shredded coconut isn't as flavorful in small amounts as is lemon zest, I decided to instead add a bit of coconut extract. I was concerned this would have a negative effect on the dough - even the base recipe makes for pretty moist dough - but I decided to try it anyhow.
In regard to reducing the calories, while I had that in mind, the way I ended up actually doing it happened by accident. The recipe I'd used last time, which was closely based on one from Cook's Illustrated, had called for some butter to be stirred in to the coconut cream filling right at the end, once it is taken off the heat but before it is poured into the pie crust. As sometimes happens in our kitchen, I got busy doing too many things at once, and I forgot to stir the butter until after I'd already poured the filling into the crust. After considering options, I decided to just roll with it and see how the filling turned out, as I figured anything else I might try at that point was certain to ruin the pie.
As it turns out, both changes worked out fine and dandy, and together they made for a better pie. The dough wasn't noticeably more moist than it had been without the bit of extract, and it cooked up into a light, crispy crust with a hint of coconut flavor. The filling also turned out great, with wonderful texture and flavor; the butter wasn't missed at all, and the pie sure didn't hurt for flavor. In fact, this pie had better flavor than the first one had, in every way. I ended up adding an additional bit of coconut flavor by using coconut extract in the whipped topping instead of vanilla.
So, while the first recipe I posted is still an adequate one, this one is better in every way. This is the one I'm going to be going with in the future, and if you're interested in a delicious and satisfying Coconut Cream Pie, I'd recommend you try it out for yourself.
Jeffrey's New and Improved Coconut Cream Pie
yield = 8 servings
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 1/4 ounces)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/4 solid vegetable shortening, cut into 2 pieces and chilled
2 tablespoons vodka, chilled
2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract.
17 1/2 ounces coconut milk (one 13.5 ounce can + 1/2 cup)
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon coconut extract
1/8 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (cold)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/4 cup sweetened, shredded coconut, toasted in a
small skillet until lightly browned and cooled
Add 3/4 cups flour, sugar and salt together in a food processor until combined. Add butter and shortening and process until dough starts to collect in uneven clumps (there will be some very small pieces of butter remaining). Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around the processor blade. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse until combined. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
Sprinkle vodka, water and coconut extract over dough. Use a rubber spatula in a folding motion to mix, pressing down on the dough until it sticks together (it will still be a bit tacky). Flatten dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour (or up to 2 days).
Lightly spray a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray (preferably a variety designed for baking). Lay out overlapping sheets of waxed paper and generously flour the wax paper. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on the waxed paper, making a 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Lift waxed paper and carefully tip it downward so one edge of the dough touches the outer rim of the pie plate, then carefully flip it so the dough settles onto the pie plate with a bit of overhang on all sides. Ease dough into the pie plate by gently lifting the edge with one hand while carefully pressing the dough into place with the other. Refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes. Adjust oven rack to lowest position. Place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack and heat oven to 425 degrees.
Trim overhanging dough to 1/2 inch beyond the lip of the pie plate. Fold overhang under dough so the folded edge is flush with the edge of the pie plate. Press tines of a fork against the dough to flatten it against the rim of the pie plate, or flute it using fingers. (If the dough has started to get warm or to soften, refrigerate again until firm, about 20 minutes).
Line crust with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights, rotate the pie plate and bake until the crust is golden-brown and crisp (5-10 minutes). Remove pie plate from oven, transferring it from the baking sheet to a wire rack.
Add the coconut milk, whole milk, shredded coconut, 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar and salt to a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar and prevent burning.
In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks, cornstarch and remaining sugar (1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) until thoroughly combined. Gradually ladle 1 cup hot milk mixture over the yolk mixture and whisk to combine. Continuing to whisk constantly, gradually ladle the remaining milk mixture to the yolk mixture.
Return mixture to saucepan and cook the mixture thickens and reaches a boil, whisking constantly. (You know it's boiling if you briefly stop whisking and large bubbles quickly burst on surface. The mixture must boil to thicken properly). Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and coconut extracts and nutmeg until fully incorporated.
Pour hot filling into cooled pie crust; smooth surface with a rubber spatula. Tightly cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap against the surface of the filling, and refrigerate until firm (at least 3 hours).
Chill mixing bowl and whip attachment of stand mixer in freezer for a few minutes. Beat cream, sugar and coconut extracts until soft peaks form. Top pie with whipped cream, shaping into peaks, then sprinkle with the browned coconut. Cut into slices and serve.