I feel like there are so many traditional, old-fashioned desserts that are getting the brush-off lately in favor of things like brownie/Oreo/chocolate chip bars, colossal-size Reese’s Pieces cookies, and margarita cupcakes. I’m as guilty as anyone. Throw some type of new, cockamamy peanut butter and chocolate combination my way and I won’t rest until it’s made and promptly eaten. I often forget about the myriad of amazing desserts that our grandmas were making long before there were food blogs, foodies, food trucks, and food trends. Back then, there was just food and of course, desserts. Cooked and baked from scratch, passed down from generation to generation, made without a fancy mixer, and revered as something special whenever it graced the table. I’m planning on spending some time this summer dedicated to resurrecting some of these classic desserts and started with the coconut cream pie. From a graham cracker and toasted coconut crust, to a creamy coconut filling and a rum-spiked whipped cream topping, this pie is classic, timeless and sensational.
This recipe calls for unsweetened shredded coconut, which is different than what you usually find in the baking aisle – sweetened shredded coconut. I have previously found unsweetened coconut in the natural foods section of the grocery store, and you can buy it online from a variety of places, including King Arthur Flour (one of my favorite places to buy ingredients). If you live in the Pittsburgh area, you might also try the bulk foods section of Giant Eagle Market District, which is where I stumbled upon some this past weekend. It’s perfect because you only need to scoop out as much as you need, if you think you won’t use it in other recipes. Love the bulk foods section, so many goodies!
If you’re unable to find unsweetened coconut you can substitute the standard sweetened shredded coconut, just know that the finished product will be more on the sweet side than the recipe intended.
Once the pie was served, eaten, the dishes cleared and no one was watching, I had no shame in eating the last piece straight from the pie plate. I’m more than confident that grandma would approve!
What are some of your favorite old-school, traditional desserts?
One year ago: Top 10 List: Favorite Bar Dessert Recipes
Two years ago: Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
Three years ago: Sweet and Sour Chicken
Four years ago: Pesto Pasta and Chicken
Coconut Cream Pie
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Prep Time: 4 hours
Cook Time: 22 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
For the Crust:
5 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
9 graham crackers (about 5 ounces), broken into rough pieces
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the Filling:
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk, well stirred (not cream of coconut)
1 cup whole milk
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2/3 cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
5 egg yolks
¼ cup cornstarch
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
For the Whipped Cream Topping:
1½ cups heavy cream, chilled
1½ tablespoons granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons dark rum
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Make the Crust: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread the 5 tablespoons of coconut in a small baking pan and toast in the oven until golden brown, about 9 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. When cool enough to handle, reserve 1 tablespoon for garnishing the finished pie.
2. Pulse the graham crackers and the remaining 4 tablespoons toasted coconut in a food processor until the crackers are broken down into coarse crumbs, about ten 1-second pulses. Process the mixture to evenly fine crumbs, about 12 seconds more. Transfer the crumbs to a medium bowl and stir in the sugar to combine; add the melted butter and toss with a fork until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Empty the crumb mixture into a 9-inch glass pie plate. Press the crumbs evenly into the bottom and up the sides, forming a crust. Bake the crust until deep golden brown and fragrant, about 22 minutes. Cool the crust on a wire rack while making the filling.
3. Make the Filling: Bring the coconut milk, whole milk, shredded coconut, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and the salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar. When the mixture reaches a simmer, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl to break them up, then whisk in the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and cornstarch until well combined and no lumps remain. Gradually whisk the simmering liquid into the yolk mixture to temper it, then return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened, about 30 seconds. Off the heat, whisk in the vanilla and butter. Pour the filling into the cooled crust, press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling and refrigerate until the filling is cold and firm, at least 3 hours.
4. Make the Whipped Cream Topping: When ready to serve, beat the cream and sugar in the chilled bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed to soft peaks; add the rum and vanilla. Continue to beat to barely stiff peaks. Spread or pipe the whipped cream over the chilled filling. Sprinkle the reserved 1 tablespoon toasted coconut over the whipped cream and serve. Cover any leftovers with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
(Recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated)