Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Coconut Cream Pie

This is it. A plain, easy to follow recipe for the best old fashioned, honest-to-goodness real coconut cream pie anybody could ask for. [And I'm not even considering trying to reword that so it doesn't end in a preposition - too awkward.] Back to pie..here are the things that destroy cream pie: curdled eggs, scorched cream, weepy meringue. I'm going to tell you how to avoid all three so you can stop wasting your taste buds on mediocre cream pies made with pudding filling. And right now, right up front, I'm admitting that I haven't bothered making homemade pie crust since I caved in some years ago and bought Pillsbury Pie Crust, the kind in the red box, rolled up and ready to bake. I can make a great crust if I need to, but these are so good I keep some on hand all the time and use them without guilt. And no, I don't get any royalties for that, but, hey pssssst, Pillsbury, I'll take some.

Blind Baking a Pie Crust

Spray your pie dish with Pam and roll the crust out a little larger if need be so that it's slightly bigger than the pie dish. Ease the crust in and press into place. Don't stretch or pull it into place because it will shrink terribly if you do. Fold the edge back on itself to double it and make it pretty by fluting it as in this picture. This also makes it stand up a bit to hold onto the meringue later.
Since we're going to be blind baking this crust, that is baking it empty, we need to take measures to hold it in place and keep down the shrinkage and bubbling. Prick it all over with a fork and then line with sprayed foil and fill with dry beans. Do it. They're coming out later, don't worry, we're not making bean pie! Bake about 10-12 minutes at 425, lift out the foil by the four corners, and deposit it in a colander to cool. Leave the crust in the oven another 3-5 minutes or until golden.
Save the beans for another pie making day. I've been using the same batch for at least 5 years.

Perfect Cream Pie Filling

The easiest way to separate eggs is to break them into your hand and let the white slip through your fingers. Save it for making meringue later.
In the saucepan you'll be using for the filling, first whisk together the dry ingredients: 1 CUP SUGAR, 1/4 CUP CORNSTARCH, 1/4 TEASPOON SALT. Whisking the dry stuff cuts those sugar crystals into the powdery cornstarch and will prevent lumps later. Now, add the 4 yolks into the milk and whisk that together, then add to the pan of dry ingredients and finish whisking it all together. You're right, it hasn't seen the first flame of fire on the stove yet and that's what will help you to keep from curdling the whole thing later.

Since you'll be continually stirring for 18-20 minutes once this pan moves to the stove, you need to get the final ingredients together now. These will be added at the very end when the filling is thick: 3 TBL BUTTER, 1 TBS VANILLA, 1 CUP COCONUT. That extra little coconut is for to top the meringue at the end.

Now, you're ready to move the pan of soon-to-be creamy filling. Put it over a medium flame (or even a little lower if your burners tend to run high) and stir with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula. You must scrape the bottom steadily and keep it moving so it doesn't scorch. If you should feel anything sticking to the bottom of the pan, scorching is imminent, but the filling can still be rescued by quickly dumping it into a second pan and continuing on. Just don't scrape anything off the bottom that has already stuck there because it may taste disgusting. And don't crank that heat up any higher than medium even if you think nothing is happening in the pan. You will eventually see it start to thicken and finally a big bubble or two will pop on the surface. From that moment on, time it for 2 more minutes of cooking and you're done. It's not supposed to bubble and boil early in the process, only after about 15 minutes or so. As in the picture above, you can see a distinct path in the filling when you pull the spoon through it. Remove from heat and stir the butter, vanilla, and coconut in quickly, then fill the pie crust. This will continue to thicken and set up as it cools. If you can refrigerate it for a few hours before eating, it will set very nicely. We never manage to see that happen in my house.

Making Meringue that Doesn't Weep

Meringue topping is next with those 4 egg whites you saved from our earlier excursion into hand separating the yolks. Slimy but so effective. The egg whites must not have even a speck of yolk or they will not whip. If you ever break a yolk while separating just start over with a new egg and a clean hand.
Add 1/4 tsp CREAM of TARTAR (it's not the stuff Tartar Sauce is made of! This is just a stabilizer for the whites) and start whipping on medium until they whiten up a little then move the beater up to full blast and get them to a soft foam before adding the 1/2 CUP SUGAR in a steady pour as they whip. Now I'm going to show you in a picture how to tell when they're ready. NOT THIS:
Still too soft to get a peak of whites to stand up when the whisk is raised. Keep going.

Now they're ready. You see both a stalactite and a stalagmite of peaked meringue, nice and pointy. If you whip beyond this point you could end up with brittle dry meringue. Just like this and glossy is just right though.Whip in 1 TSP VANILLA right at the end.
Now plop it onto the pie in 3 or 4 big blops. Just press down with a flat spatula and push it all into place sealing it right up against the edge of the pie crust all around. This helps keep it from weeping as it cools. Don't lift the spatula as you move the meringue into place or you'll have a mess of mixed up meringue and pie filling.
Add a few pretty swirls at the end and top with 1/3 CUP COCONUT. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes watching closely. Remove from oven as soon as coconut and meringue are slightly brown.

Sugar, 1 cup
Cornstarch, 1/4 cup
Milk, 3 cups whole
Eggs, 4
Butter, 3 Tbs
Vanilla. 2 Tbs
Coconut, 1-1/3 cup


  1. This is Brian's favorite pie. Thanks to your step-by-step directions with pictures to help novices like myself, I just may give this a try!

  2. I made this pie recently, following Jan's instructions. It turned out perfectly, and wow, was it delicious. I can't wait to make it again!


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