#6 : French Coconut Pie
(This photo approved by Jeff.)
We're back home again, just in time for the cold winter weather with single digits yesterday morning. Seemed like a good day to make beef stew and Jeff suggested he would not be averse to French coconut pie. I was agreeable that it would make a delicious dessert after a hot dinner on a frigid day.
Why is it French?
There is really nothing French about this pie at all. Turns out that initially coconut for commercial use came from the French West Indies and the name has stuck. This is a simple custard pie, not the coconut cream pie I've made in the past (that might make an appearance sometime soon.) This pie is delightfully simple to make, with just one bottom crust par-baked in the usual manner, and a filling that comes together quickly. If you're a coconut fan, this is the pie for you. If not...I may have to reconsider our friendship.
The recipe comes from the America's Test Kitchen book The Perfect Pie, though variations of the recipe can be found all over the internet. We had an extra disc of dough I had popped into the freezer before we headed to California; it was all ready to be rolled out and chilled (once the pie dough is made it freezes well and can thaw overnight in the refrigerator).
Make sure you use unsweetened shredded coconut rather than the large flake coconut. Much of the coconut you'll find is sweetened which makes the pie too sweet; Bob's Red Mill has a great unsweetened coconut I usually use. You'll also note that the recipe calls for a full cup of sugar; I usually cut sugar back in recipes and 2/3 cup sugar in the filling was, to me, exactly right, allowing the coconut flavor to shine rather than tasting too sweet.
The coconut gets rehydrated with buttermilk and a little vanilla (and, in our case, a small splash of coconut rum - why not?) while the pie crust bakes.
The rest of the ingredients - sugar, eggs and yolks, melted butter and a pinch of salt - get mixed together in a separate bowl with the coconut mixture added once the pie shell is baked. Pour the filling into the still-warm crust and bake 45 minutes or so, and you're done!
Jeff and I were doing our usual "kitchen dance" as he was doing stew prep while I made the pie; he warned me to be sure I was reading the correct recipe, which made me start musing over the interesting combinations of both recipes - beef stew with coconut? A custard pie with red wine and carrots added? Neither sounded terribly appealing but made us laugh.
After about 50 minutes, the pie was baked (our oven tends to underbake and we need to bake things a bit longer than the recipe calls for) and was set out to cool for four hours. This allowed us to pop the stew into the hot oven and our food prep was done. I experimented trying to get the right "art shot" complete with shadows; Jeff did not approve of any of my best shots and we ended up in agreement that the simplest shot (top of the page) was best.
The Verdict: Star Baker or Leaving the Tent?
This pie is a must for any coconut fan! It tastes likes a less-sweet macaroon in pie form. Jeff is not a macaroon fan (due to the sweetness factor) but likes this pie a lot, and it earned a rating of Delicious. I definitely moved on to the next round with this one.
(In case you're wondering, the dinner of beef stew with a great Pinot followed by a blood orange salad was pretty fantastic, too, and was followed by another episode of Murder, She Wrote as we're still in Mendocino vacation mode. Spoiler alert - the young actress who was sleeping with the film director was the killer.)
You can see that the pie was well received.
Those coconut fans interested in making this can find the recipe here.