Mar 2011

Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut Cream Pie

I’m as predictable as they come when it comes to desserts. Presented with a menu of sweets at the end of a meal, I always end up choosing the one featuring salted caramel or seasonal fruits. Recently though, I’ve branched out beyond the usual and opened my heart to coconut. I don’t know whether I’ve been influenced by my Vietnamese roots or the transformative Roasted Coconut Cream Torte I sampled at Extraordinary Desserts a few months ago, but these days, I can’t resist anything cool, creamy, and heavy on the coconut.

Haunted by a most heavenly coconut cream tart that I recently indulged in at San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery, I felt compelled and inspired to bake my own coconut cream pie. As good fortune would have it, this month’s Cooking Light magazine featured a lightened up recipe that promised to be nothing less than completely satisfying. Low-cal desserts aren’t usually my thing, but this recipe sounded perfectly well-rounded.

The finished product hit all the notes that I demand in a great coconut dessert—it was fragrant, smooth, distinctly coconut-y, and transported me somewhere tropical and warm. Next time around, I’m painting the bottom of the crust with a thin coating of chocolate to truly capture the Tartine experience at home.

For crust

  • 1/2 package refrigerated pie dough (such as Trader Joe’s)
  • Cooking spray

For coconut filling

  • 2 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 cups flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons butter

For meringue topping

  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup flaked sweetened coconut, toasted

Prepare crust

Coconut Cream Pie

Preheat oven to 425°. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Fold edges under; flute by using your index finger to push the dough between the thumb and index finger of your other hand to form a “U” shape. Continue the same motion all around the pie plate.

Line dough with foil; arrange pie weights or dried beans on foil. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes; remove weights and foil, and bake an additional 10 minutes or until golden. Cool completely on a wire rack. While the oven is on, toast 1/4 cup flaked sweetened coconut. Set aside to cool.

Make coconut filling

Coconut Cream Pie

Combine milk and half-and-half in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 cups coconut. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; stir seeds and pod into milk mixture. Bring milk mixture to a simmer; immediately remove from heat. Cover and let stand 15 minutes.

Coconut Cream Pie

Strain milk mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a bowl. Gather edges of cheesecloth; squeeze over bowl to release moisture. Discard solids.

I didn’t have any cheesecloth on hand, so I used a fine mesh strainer instead. The mixture was free of coconut solids, but a few vanilla bean seeds remained.

Coconut Cream Pie

Combine 2/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add milk mixture to egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly. Return mixture to pan; bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Remove from heat. Add butter; whisk until smooth. Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for 6 minutes, stirring to cool. Pour into prepared crust. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Make meringue topping and assemble pie

Coconut Cream Pie

Place 3 egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until candy thermometer registers 250°. Pour hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over egg whites, beating at high speed until thick. Spread meringue over pie. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Top with toasted coconut before serving.

Coconut Cream Pie

Yields 12 slices.

Recipe from Cooking Light, March 2011. [For Printable Recipe Click Here]

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10 thoughts on “Coconut Cream Pie

  1. I’m not so sure that this is really low-fat, once I saw the half and half. HOWEVER, I don’t care! I’ve been craving this kind of pie, and your photos are so inspiring to just scratch my coconut lust itch. The meringue is beautiful, and how lucky for you that you got that first cut piece out beautifully– there’s an art to that.

  2. Foodiewife – “Lower” fat would probably be more accurate! Coconut cream pie usually has about 30 (!) grams of fat in a slice. Cooking Light shaved it down to 11 ;-). Scratch that itch! Make some pie!

  3. I just know I would love this, especially with a layer of dark chocolate just as you say, I can’t resist meringue either. Looks fantastic

  4. Dang. The next time you make that (with the chocolate layer!), invite me over please? I’ll bring you some quinoa salad! Maybe some braised kale too if you ask nicely… 😉

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