3/28/2014

#48 Coconut Cream Pie

Posted by Chrisi



(Sing)
Sometimes you feel like a nut
Sometimes you don’t
Almond Joy’s got nuts
Mounds don’t

Almond Joy’s got rich milk chocolate
Coconut and a crunchy nut, too
Mounds got deep dark chocolate

Chewy coconut ooh




This pie inspired my sister-in-law to sing the Almond Joy/Mounds jingle from our childhood. While no Mounds candy was used, it’s got “deep dark chocolate and chewy coconut, ooh.”

Quite honestly, the addition of the dark chocolate was completely utilitarian. Cream custards often make the crust soggy, even if it has been fully baked. For this reason, I brush the crust with egg white. It seals the vent holes and acts as a protective layer between the filling and the crust. In fact, this technique works so well that I use it for any partially (see pumpkin pie) or fully baked crust. But this time I went one extra step… I painted the crust with melted dark chocolate. No soggy crust here! And the chocolate adds a little extra something special.

Also, and I’m super-excited about this (!), the crust did not shrink one bit when baked. This was a first for me! I had a lot of shrinkage with the banana cream pie. A little less with the chai tea cloud pie (the only success with that pie). Even less with the strawberry pie. And now zero, zip, nada with the coconut cream pie! The trick? Patience! Pie crust shrinks when gluten is activated and stretched, so I gave the gluten plenty of time to relax at each step. I refrigerated the dough for several hours and then rolled it out, cold (great arm workout!). When I placed the dough in the pie pan, I was careful not to stretch it. I gently laid the crust down in the corners, instead of pushing it into the pan. Then I then I covered the dough with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight in the frig before I baked it. Perfection!

Crust: 9” fully baked crust sealed with beaten egg whites and dark chocolate

Filling:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup cream of coconut (not coconut milk), well mixed
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes, plus 1/2 cup for toasting
  • 3/4 heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • ~1/3 cup Ghirardelli’s chocolate chips, 60% cocoa


Instructions:

Crust. Bake the crust with pie weights (I use a mixture of random beans) for 17 minutes at 400 °F. Prick the crust with a fork ~8 times to make vent holes then bake an additional 10 minutes at 375 °F. Use a pastry brush to apply whisked egg whites then bake an additional 2 minutes. Allow the crust to cool completely. Once cool, melt the chocolate. (I heated the chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave at 20 sec. intervals). Use a pastry brush to paint the chocolate onto the crust. Place the crust in the freezer for ~20 minutes to set the chocolate, then move the crust to the refrigerator.

Filling. Mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a small saucepan. Add the milk, well-mixed cream of coconut and beaten egg yolks. Heat on medium with constant stirring until the mixture thickens, approximately 6 minutes. (Careful! It thickens quickly). Remove from heat. Stir in the butter, vanilla extract and 1 cup of shredded coconut. (If you want extra coconut flavor, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of coconut extract). Place plastic wrap over the top of the filling to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool.

Toasted coconut topping. Toast the coconut in a skillet on medium-low heat with intermittent stirring. It will take about 15 minutes… but be patient. The coconut oil will cause the coconut to burn if higher heat is used. Set aside or store in a baggie until ready to use.


Assembly. Pour the coconut filling into the pie crust. Make the whipped cream just prior to serving: In a chilled mixing bowl, whisk the heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add the confectioner’s sugar and whisk until peaks are stiff but not grainy. Spoon the whipped cream over the coconut filling. Top with the toasted coconut. Serve immediately.

3/23/2014

#47 Strawberry Pie

Posted by Chrisi


On November 3rd, 2013 our son Zachary was born. On March 2, 2014 he met a very special group of people, my former colleagues from Chapman University. Such a special occasion required a special pie. This one is simple but fit the bill. It’s quintessential California since fresh strawberries are available almost year-round. Some of the strawberries are crushed and cooked into a thick sauce. The rest are left al naturale. One tablespoon of strawberry Jell-O was added to amp up the red color and to add a wee bit of extra strawberry flavor (not that it’s needed with fresh, juicy berries). I considered painting the bottom of the crust with melted chocolate but refrained. I thought it might overpower the pure strawberry flavor but I might try it next time… and there will definitely be a next time.

Crust: 9” fully baked crust. During the last two minutes of baking, brush the crust with whisked egg white. This will seal the crust and prevent sogginess.

Filling:
  • 2 lbs of fresh organic strawberries, cored
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon strawberry Jell-o
  • 1 tablespoon butter


Directions:
Crush enough strawberries to yield 1 cup. Halve or quarter the remaining berries and set aside.

Mix the sugar and cornstarch. Add water to the crushed strawberries and bring to boil in a small saucepan. Whisk in the sugar/cornstarch mixture. Stir continuously until the filling thickens, about 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Stir in the Jell-o and butter. Set aside to cool slightly.

Arrange the remaining cut strawberries in the baked pie crust. Pour the filling over the berries. Chill in the refrigerator until set, preferably overnight.



2/13/2014

#33 Peanut Butter Brownie Pie

Posted by Chrisi


I first made the walnut brownie version of this pie a long time ago (hence, the reason my posts went from #45 to #33… and you thought that I couldn’t count!). While I cannot remember the occasion, I do remember that I carried home an empty pie pan. So when faced with a “I-need-a-special-birthday-pie” situation, I turned to this recipe... but made it MORE special by replacing the walnuts with a peanut butter filling.  The inspiration? My Mom made peanut butter swirled brownies when I was a kid. I’m certain the recipe came from Betty Crocker but they were still yummy. After all, you can NEVER go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter!

This special pie was for Genna. She works with my husband at a biotech start-up in San Diego. She planned a company baby shower for my husband (unfortunately, I could not attend) and selected the most thoughtful gifts. Then, when I arrived to San Diego with our son, she volunteered to babysit! We enjoyed a night out at the Encinitas Ale House and didn’t worry one bit about our Little Z. Thank you, Genna! Enjoy your pie… Happy Birthday!

Crust: 9” graham cracker crust. I departed from my usual graham cracker crust and used the “Honey Maid graham cracker crumbs” recipe.
  • 1 1/4 cups Honey Maid graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Bake at 350 °F for 8-10 minutes . Cool in the refrigerator before adding the filling.



Basic brownie filling (from Pie):
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature and cut into pieces
  • 3 ounces Ghiradelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 large egg yokes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt



Walnut brownie pie:
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Peanut butter brownie pie:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 cup JIF peanut butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whisk together all the ingredients until smooth


Directions:
In a double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate. Whisk until smooth then set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar, eggs and egg yokes on medium high until the mixture is light and airy. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla extract and chocolate/butter mixture. Mix until blended. If using, stir in the walnuts. Then sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the chocolate mixture. Spoon the filling evenly into the graham cracker crust.

If you are using the peanut butter filling, spoon half of the chocolate batter into the pie crust. Use a small scoop (~1 tablespoon) to distribute two-thirds of the peanut butter filling into “balls” on top of chocolate. Carefully add the remaining chocolate batter and top with peanut butter scoops. Gently move a butter knife through the filling, first up and down the length of the pie, then side-to-side, to create the desired pattern.


Bake at 350 °F for exactly 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack and then refrigerate. Pie may be served cold or warm by heating in the microwave.