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Photo © 2009 Ellen Silverman

Coconut Cream Pie

A splash of coconut rum adds a delicious kick to this dreamy dessert featured in Mother’s Best (Taunton Press 2009) by Lisa Schroeder with Imbibe senior editor Danielle Centoni.

 

Chocolate Cookie Crust
6 oz. Nabisco® Famous Chocolate Wafers (about 30 cookies)
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Coconut Filling
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut, toasted, plus more for garnish (see Love Note 1)
4 Tbsp. (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter
2 Tbps. coconut rum, such as Malibu

Whipped Cream Topping
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

To Make the Crust
1. Heat the oven to 350° F and place a rack in the middle of the oven. Place the chocolate wafers in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse until ground into evenly sized crumbs. Or place them in zip-top bag and pulverize them with a rolling pin or meat mallet until finely crushed. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of crumbs.

2. Place the crumbs in a medium mixing bowl. Drizzle in the melted butter and mix with a fork until the crumbs are evenly moistened (if using a food processor, drizzle the butter through the feed tube while pulsing).

3. Transfer the buttered crumbs to a 9-inch pie plate, and use your fingertips or the back of a spoon to press the mixture evenly into the pie plate, spreading it up the sides but not over the rim. (I find the back of a spoon works best for pressing the crumbs into place and scraping away the thicker areas where the bottom meets the sides to even out the crumbs.)

4.Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the sides of the crust feel firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before filling. (The crust can be made up to 1 day ahead; wrap in plastic and store at room temperature.)

 

To Make the Filling

1. Place the milk, cream, and vanilla bean in a medium (4- to 6-quart) saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until almost about to simmer. (The surface will start to look foamy. This is called “scalding.” Do not let it boil.) Remove from the heat and let the vanilla bean steep in the milk for 15 minutes.

2. Place the egg yolks, sugar, salt, and cornstarch in a medium mixing bowl and beat with a whisk until well blended, about 1 minute.

3. Remove the vanilla bean from the milk. Use a knife to scrape out as many seeds as possible and add them back to the milk. Swirl the pod in the milk to remove any remaining seeds. Discard the pod or save for another use (see Love Note 2). Add the toasted coconut and place the pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, and then remove from the heat.

4.Ladle out about 1⁄2 cup of the hot milk and whisk it into the egg mixture. (This is called “tempering,” which allows the eggs to warm up so they don’t get shocked into curdling when you pour them into the hot milk.) Slowly pour the egg mixture into the pot of milk, whisking steadily to keep the eggs from curdling.

5.Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly but not furiously. (You must stir constantly so you don’t get scrambled eggs, but don’t stir too vigorously either; see Love Note 3.) Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook while whisking continuously (make sure to get the sides and edges) until the mixture is very thick, 2 to 3 minutes.

6.Remove from the heat, add the butter and stir until melted, and then stir in the coconut rum.

7.Pour into a shallow pan or bowl and let the filling cool to lukewarm in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap (about 15 minutes). Pour into the cooled pie shell. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface (to keep a skin from forming). Refrigerate the pie for at least 4 hours before serving.

To Make the Topping
1.  Just before serving, make the whipped cream topping: Place the cream and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or, if using a whisk or hand-held mixer, put them in a deep mixing bowl). Beat on medium speed until frothy. Sprinkle in the confectioners’ sugar and beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form (when the whisk is lifted, the cream will form a point that doesn’t droop).

2. Mound the whipped cream in the center of the chilled pie. Use the back of a large spoon or an offset metal spatula to spread it out to the edge and give it a few decorative swirls. If desired, fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with half of the whipped cream and pipe a border around the outside of the pie (pipe a ring of the letter “s,” starting a new “s” inside the bottom part of the previous “s” so they interlock). Sprinkle with toasted coconut and serve.

Love Notes
1. To toast coconut, spread it out on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 325° F for about 10 minutes, stirring it around occasionally to keep the shreds from burning. The coconut shreds should be mostly golden brown, with a few white ones mixed in.

2. Used vanilla beans are great for lending their flavor to sugar, either confectioners’ or granulated. Just rinse and dry the bean, place it in an airtight jar, and cover with sugar. Let sit for at least 1 week or for up to 2 months.

3. Cornstarch is an excellent thickener for cream pies because it has twice the thickening power of flour—and the less thickener you have to add, the more the flavors from your other ingredients will shine through. Cornstarch reaches full gelatinization once it comes to a simmer, but if you boil it too much the starch granules will burst and the filling will thin out. The same is true if you stir the mixture too vigorously. Like all good things, everything in moderation.


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