Monday, October 15, 2007

Coconut-y Cream-y Pie Type Thing-y

The Phantom of the Opera was in town this weekend, and even though only three of us went to see it, at one point there were over 20 of us in my sister's house for dinner. The large number is helped by the fact that all ten of my nieces and nephews were there. The weekend was loud. It was boisterous. It was also full of food, fun and the kind of happiness that only comes from spending large amounts of time with a loud and boisterous family.

Since my house isn't large enough to hold more than about 4.75 people and two cats, the family dinners are at my sister's house. But I get to make the desserts. And with this many people, I get to make more than one. The hard part is deciding what to make. I can spend weeks pouring over recipes. I made an apple pie for one night- but I didn't buy enough apples, and I baked it too long. I brought it anyway, to keep me humble. The next night, though, I brought two desserts - a coconut cream pie and a blackberry chiffon.

I'm still on the fence about the blackberry chiffon. It was a lot of work (I wanted it to be seedless), and it didn't have the incredible blackberry taste I was going for. The coconut cream "thing", however, was worth every ounce of effort. Plus a few ounces that I didn't use. It wasn't really a pie - there were so many of us, that I doubled my recipe and made it in a 13x9 pan. And since the pie was mostly made for my mom - who loves coconut and views meringue as a waste of time - and since I don't really enjoy making meringue, I usually do this without all the fru-fru on top.
This pie takes a lot of wrist action. But it is worth every bit of it. It's a great recipe to get those whisking muscles into shape. It seems like every step takes twice as long as you think it will, because you just keep whisking, and whisking, and whisking...

Coconut Cream Pie
3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup Splenda
1 stick of butter, melted

1 cup Splenda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
3 cups whole milk
8 egg yolks
1 stick butter, cut into pieces
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted and divided

Mix crust ingredients and spread in a 13x9 pan. Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes.

Mix Splenda, sugar, cornstarch and salt in a large sauce pan. Add the coconut milk and whisk together until it's smooth. Slowly pour in the whole milk, whisking the entire time. Put over medium heat and whisk constantly until it's slowly boiling. This will take almost as long as it takes to read War and Peace. Remove the pan from the heat.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they're golden and smooth. Whisk about a cup of the coconut mixture into the yolks, and then add the yolk mixture to the remaining coconut in the pan. Turn the heat back up to medium, and whisk constantly until it's slowly boiling again. Continue whisking and boiling until it's getting a little thick, about 2 or 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat, and use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan. Add the butter pieces and whisk some more until the butter is melted and everything is smooth. Add the vanilla and 2 cups of the toasted coconut, and whisk some more until it's ... well whisked.

Pour the filling on top of the graham cracker crust and smooth a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Refrigerate until it's set, about 5 hours or overnight.

Before serving, remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the remaining toasted coconut over the top. Devour on it's own, or be really decadent and spoon some whipped cream on top.

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