Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Coconut Cream Pie

This past weekend we went to visit our family in the country.  We spent a lovely afternoon sitting on my aunt's deck snacking on vichyssoise and pasta salad with homegrown vegetables, staying out of the range of my cousins water guns (or attempting to anyways) and generally enjoying ourselves.  And then it was time for dessert.  When we suggested this get together, in order to sweeten the deal, I offered to make my coconut cream pie.  The beauty of this pie is that you can make it ahead of time, and it is super easy to make it gluten free without sacrificing the taste or the texture of the crust.  If you don't have any gluten restrictions feel free to replace the brown rice flour and the cornstarch with regular flour, which is what the original recipe calls for.  This pie is not difficult to make, but it DOES require some advance planing, the crust needs to chill out in the fridge on two separate occasions and all the components need to cool entirely before you can put them together.  But it is worth it, I think my uncle put it best, he took one bite looked up and said "Damn, that's good pie." 
Pulse the dry ingredients for the crust, I always find the descriptions of what the crumbs are supposed to look like somewhat unhelpful, but basically you want the butter chunks to all be broken up.

Then you slowly add the water, the dough will not turn into a nice cohesive ball, but when you smush it with your fingers it will hold together.  When it has reached this stage you chill it in plastic for an hour.

After it has taken a nice rest in the fridge, press it into the pan, don't even bother trying to roll it out, especially with the brown rice flour in the crust.  Then you have to chill it again before you bake it.  After you bake it it will have a nice toasty brown color.

Meanwhile you can start in on the custard.  Mix up the eggs, sugar and cornstarch so they can come up to room temperature while the milk heats up, I have a theory this helps when you temper them although I have no idea if that is actually true.

Then you heat up the milk with the coconut and vanilla bean (if you don't have vanilla beans you can substitute a splash of vanilla extract).  Next you temper the eggs and add them back into the milk so that they don't scramble.  And then you whisk.  And whisk.  Every time I feel like it is taking forever and maybe something went wrong and it is never going to thicken properly and right around that point it always comes together and starts looking more like pudding and less like milk with coconut floating in it.

When it is properly thick, cool it down over an ice bath.  This is delicious just as it is at this point, but it is even better in the pie crust.  Refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

The day you are going to serve it pour the custard into the crust and put plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard until right before you serve it.  

Top the custard with a thick layer of whipped cream and liberally sprinkle with the toasted coconut and white chocolate shavings, slice and enjoy! 

Coconut Cream Pie (I have no idea where I found this recipe, but whoever I got it from adapted it from Tom Douglas's Seattle Kitchen and I adapted it from theirs to make it gluten free)

For the coconut crust:
1 cup + 2 tablespoons brown rice flour
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup cold butter, diced
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup ice water, more if needed

For the coconut cream:
2 cups milk
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 vanilla bean, split with the beans scraped out
2 eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch 
1/4 cup softened butter

For the whipped cream:
half pint of heavy cream
sugar to taste

For the garnish:
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted
2 oz. white chocolate, shaved

Making the crust:
Blitz everything but the water in a food processor until the mix resembles small pebbly crumbs.  Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing in between additions, until the dough holds together when you press it with your fingers.
Dump dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, wrap it up and pop it in the fridge for an hour.
Lightly grease a 9 inch pie pan and press the dough in, evenly covering the bottom and sides of the pan. Pop it back in the fridge for another hour.
Cover the crust with tin foil and fill with pie weights or dry beans and bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden.  Remove the foil and weights and continue baking for about 10 more minutes to lightly brown the center.
Cool completely.

Making the coconut cream:
Whisk together the eggs, sugar and cornstarch and set aside.
In a medium saucepan combine the milk, coconut and vanilla bean (seeds and pod) and bring almost to a boil, over medium-high heat.
Scoop out about 1/3 cup of the hot milk mixture and add to the eggs, whisking constantly.
Slowly pour the warmed up egg mix into the saucepan with the rest of the milk, whisking constantly.  Whisk over medium-high heat until the custard is very thick and starts to bubble, about 8 min.
Remove from heat and whisk in butter and take out the vanilla pod.
Cool custard over an ice bath, stirring occasionally.  When cool, put plastic wrap directly on the surface to stop a skin from forming and pop it in the fridge until you are ready to assemble the pie.

Making the whipped cream:
With a whisk or mixer whip the cream with sugar until it forms soft peaks.

Making the garnish:
Toast the coconut on a cookie sheet at 350, stirring it every few minutes until most of it is a light golden color and all of it is crispy.  Careful, it burns easily.
Make the chocolate shavings with a veggie peeler.

Assembling the pie:
The various components can be made a day ahead of time, but don't assemble them until the day you want to eat the pie, and don't do the whipped cream and garnishes until right before serving.  Put the filling in the crust, top with the whipped cream right before serving and then sprinkle the whipped cream with the toasted coconut and white chocolate.

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