Coconut Cream Pie

I've always loved coconut ever since I was a kid. I loved eating Mounds or Almond Joys, mainly because they're so good but also, I now realize, because my mom always loved them so much. Another favorite of hers was coconut ice cream from The Sunday School on Cape Cod, which I also loved (but not more than black raspberry). Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like coconut is a big flavor contender in grocery shelf products. I love chocolate covered coconut Luna Bars, the occasional coconut gelato from Whole Foods, and the even more occasional coconut sno-ball. This is partly why I've always wanted to try coconut cream pie. I feel like I struck gold with the very first recipe I tried from Joanne Chang's Flour cookbook. It's got the perfect amount of toasted coconut flavor in the custard, and the lime whipped cream sets off the entire thing perfectly. We also tried this with a vanilla whipped cream version - equally as good. Add to that the crust, which seems almost impossible to flub, and I can't think of anything I'd want to change about the whole thing.

There are a couple odd things about this recipe which I'd like to figure out. First, the recipe calls for the lime-zest-steeped heavy cream to sit for 24 hours in the refrigerator. I tried whipping it after just a few (maybe 2-3) hours of chilling and it literally wouldn't incorporate air. Weird. The next day it whipped up beautifully. My guess is that it's something to do with proteins separating from fat molecules, but I'd really like to figure out why this happens. The second thing I can't figure out is why you'd want to add cornstarch to the heavy cream before whipping it. Does this stabilize it or does it have something to do with the above question? I always thought cornstarch required heat to thicken anything, so I can't figure this one out. And, finally, the second time around making the pate sucre crust I added vanilla extract. It tasted wonderful, but it also stuck to the pie plate like crazy, and I couldn't get a good picture to save my life. I wonder why this happened. The first time around I did everything the same - no cooking spray or anything like that. My guess is that I must have pressed and worked the crust much more the first time around since I actually rolled and chilled it twice. But, honestly, I can't figure out why this would happen.

Coconut Cream Pie - With Lime Whipped Cream

For the lime whipped cream:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 tsp finely grated lime zest (from about 1 lime)
3 tbl powdered sugar
1 tbl cornstarch

In a small saucepan heat the heavy cream and lime zest over medium heat until just simmering. Shut off the heat and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain out the lime zest and refrigerate the cream for 24 hours.

Whip the cream together with the sugar and cornstarch with a stand mixer until soft peaks form. *Alternatively you could use a vanilla whipped cream by leaving out the steeping method (as well as the lime zest) and adding a teaspoon of vanilla extract when whipping.

For the pate sucre:
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, at room temp
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl. Add the sugar and cream the mixture on medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until pale. Scrape down the bowl again.

Add the flour to the stand mixer and turn the mixer to low. Beat until the mixture resembles course sand. Add the egg yolk. Beat for about another 30 seconds, or just until the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Flour a large cutting board and rolling pin. Roll the crust to about a 10" circle. Carefully lift the crust into a 9" pie plate. Use your hands to smooth or seal any tears. Cut the excess crust from around the outside. Feel free to attack the dough to make it even and firmly press it into the pie plate all over. Return to the refrigerator to chill for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the crust for about 30-35 minutes or until golden brown all over. Let cool completely.

For the coconut custard:
1 large egg
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut, toasted

In a large heatproof bowl whisk together the egg, egg yolks, sugar, and flour to form a thick paste and making sure no lumps remain. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine the milk and coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add about 1/4 cup to the egg mixture, whisking constantly to temper. Add in another 1/2 cup, making sure to whisk constantly. Add the entire thing back to the saucepan with the milk and place over medium heat.

Whisk the mixture constantly until thickened, about 4-5 minutes. The mixture should eventually come to a boil but remember to keep whisking. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a large heatproof bowl or measuring cup. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Stir in the toasted coconut.

To assemble: 
1 pate sucre shell
1 batch coconut custard
1 batch lime whipped cream
1/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut, toasted

Pour the coconut custard into the baked and cooled pate sucre shell. Let chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours. Top with the lime whipped cream. Sprinkle toasted coconut over the entire thing. Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang.

6 Response to Coconut Cream Pie

February 20, 2012 at 6:09 PM

OK. I'm so owned by this post. Wow!

February 20, 2012 at 6:16 PM

I want this. Yesterday.

February 20, 2012 at 6:23 PM

This looks great! I don't normally care for coconut cream pie but for this one I think I'd make an exception :-P

February 21, 2012 at 7:09 AM

Now this is a serious coconut cream pie. I will be making one soon too (my no bake version).. but it's in no way has wonderful as this. YUM. :)

February 21, 2012 at 7:38 AM

Holy cow! That looks extremely delicious :) Coconut always makes me happy, and mmmm cream pie!

February 23, 2012 at 10:16 AM

This looks so delicious and summery! With the beautiful weather we are having here in NJ this would be a wonderful treat to whip up for some friends :D

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