This pie is, without a doubt, one of my specialties. It is a recipe that is remembered by all who have been lucky enough to partake in its creamy deliciousness. And now, for the first time ever, I am sharing the recipe.
Last weekend, I had the occasion to make three of these delicacies. My friends Sudama and Ananta (formerly Luna and Britta, respectively) were ordained as Zen priests on Saturday. Almost a year ago, Sudama had requested that I make this pie for the celebration that follows the ordination ceremony, and I of course agreed. I felt honored and grateful that she had remembered this pie: I made it once while I was on staff at the Zen Center, and brought it in once or twice to the ZC in the years since, but not too often. I will admit that this is a labor-intensive pie to make, namely because it uses fresh coconut. However, it is well worth the extra effort that it takes to use fresh coconut rather than the bagged shit.
I think it’s safe to say that many people living in today’s world have never opened a coconut. It’s actually kind of a fun process, but it does take some time and some know-how. I did some searching to find a site that had helpful and accurate information on how to drain and open a coconut, and actually discovered that Wikihow provides thorough info that is consistent with my own experience. The link is http://www.wikihow.com/Open-a-Coconut: I always drain the coconut first (thereby taking advantage of the opportunity to drink delicious, fresh coconut water while I prepare the pie), followed by the tap and rotate method. If you don’t have much luck with that method, there are a couple of other options on that same page.
I also suggest using white coconuts, which have a sweeter, fresher flavor than their brown relatives. If you can’t find them where you live, though, the brown ones are more than acceptable.
To toast the shredded coconut, preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Spread the coconut thinly and evenly on a large cookie sheet, then place in the oven. Stir every 5 minutes until the moisture has evaporated and the coconut is lightly browned. Depending on the water content of the coconut, this can take from 15-30 minutes. This step may seem unnecessary, but it is essential to get the best flavor and texture for your pie. If you’re going to take the time to make this pie, you might as well go all-in.
I could once again sing the praises of the many nutritional benefits of coconuts and coconut milk, but I don’t particularly feel it’s necessary. If you are curious, please refer to my previous post on coconut-chocolate chip ice cream.
And please, I beg of you, stir the filling absolutely constantly while it is cooking. The filling can either be perfect or nasty & clumpy. And the only differences between the two are the quality of attention you give to the process and constant stirring. Just stand there, stirring and watching. That’s it. That’s the trick.
You really can’t go wrong with this pie. It is so creamy, so delicious, so transcendent, that the memory of it will linger like a tender kiss or a loving hug long after the last of the crumbs have been licked from the plate. It is worth every minute and then some. Enjoy!
Coconut Cream Pie
- 1-1/2 c finely graham cracker or vanilla wafer crumbs
- 1/3 c sugar
- 1 stick butter
- 1 t ground cinnamon
- 2/3 c sugar
- 1/4 c cornstarch, sifted
- 1/4 t salt
- 1 can coconut milk, plus enough whole milk to make a total of 2-1/2 cups
- 5 large egg yolks
- 4 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 t vanilla
- 1 c shredded fresh coconut, toasted (preferably white coconut)
- 1 c cold heavy cream
- 3 T powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 t vanilla
- 1/4 c toasted shredded coconut
To make the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix the cookie crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl until well blended.
- Gradually mix in the melted butter until well combined
- Place the crumb mixture in a 9″ pie dish and pat evenly around the pan. Press another pie dish of the same size firmly into the dough to even the thickness of the crust.
- Place in the oven 10-12 minutes and allow to cool before filling.
To make the filling:
- Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Gradually whisk in the coconut milk and whole milk.
- Beat the egg yolks thoroughly. Whisk into the milk mixture until the color is even and the mixture is consistent throughout.
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, scrape down anything that has clung to the sides of the pan, and whisk until completely smooth.
- Return to the heat and, whisking constantly, cook until it is lightly sputtering. Cook for 30 seconds-1 minute more until thickened. Remove from the heat.
- Whisk in the butter, vanilla, and coconut.
- Spoon the filling into the prepared and cooled crust. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours, or until close to serving time. Shortly before serving, remove the plastic wrap and cover with the topping and sprinkle with the additional 1/4-cup of toasted coconut.
To make the topping:
- Beat the cream in a chilled bowl until thickened. Beat in the powdered sugar and continue beating until the desired consistency is reached. Use immediately.