Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Dan's Birthday Dessert

This year, Dan requested Coconut Cream Pie for his birthday "cake." I was pretty excited by this choice, as I remembered seeing a recipe for it in Cooks Illustrated. (Cooks Illutrated is my favorite cooking magazine -- it's free from advertisements and includes very practical, yet amazing delicious recipes. I don't think I've made a bad recipe from the magazine (or website) yet!)

This recipe promised and delivered, a delicious coconut cream pie with plenty of coconut flavor. You want to prepare the filling 3-12 hours before serving, to prevent it from getting soggy, but you can easily make the crusts a day (or two) in advance.

Coconut Cream Pie
One 9-inch pie serves 8 to 10

6 ounces animal crackers
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk (avoid light coconut milk or coconut cream)
1 cup whole milk
1⁄2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1⁄2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3⁄8 teaspoon salt
5 large egg yolks
1⁄4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Cream and Garnish
1 1⁄2 cups cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted

1) Crust: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. In food processor, pulse animal crackers, coconut, and sugar to fine crumbs, eighteen to twenty 1-second pulses; then process until powdery, about 5 seconds. Transfer crumbs to medium bowl and add butter; stir to combine until crumbs are evenly moistened. Empty crumbs into 9-inch glass pie plate; using bottom of ramekin or 1⁄2 cup dry measuring cup, press crumbs evenly into bottom and up sides of pie plate. Bake until fragrant and medium brown, about 15 minutes, rotating pie shell halfway through baking time. Set on wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

2) Filling: Bring coconut milk, whole milk, shredded coconut, 1⁄2 cup sugar, and salt to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to ensure that sugar dissolves. Whisk yolks, cornstarch, and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisking constantly, gradually ladle about 1 cup hot milk mixture over yolk mixture; whisk well to combine. Whisking constantly, gradually add remaining milk mixture to yolk mixture in 3 or 4 additions; whisk well to combine. Return mixture to saucepan and cook until thickened and mixture reaches boil, whisking constantly, about 1 minute; filling must boil in order to fully thicken. (To determine whether filling has reached boil, stop whisking; large bubbles should quickly burst on surface.) Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla until butter is fully incorporated. Pour hot filling into cooled pie shell and smooth surface with rubber spatula; press plastic wrap directly against surface of filling and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 12 hours.

3) Whipped cream: Up to 3 hours before serving, beat cream, sugar, and vanilla with electric mixer until soft peaks form, 1 1⁄2 to 2 minutes. Top pie with whipped cream and then sprinkle with coconut. Cut pie into wedges and serve.


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