A classic dessert from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook. "This coconut cream pie has made many lists as one of the best pies in America. We've been serving it for 25 years and, hyperbole aside, this is a damn good pie. The effort you put into making this pie will be rewarded when you taste its silky, coconut-y filling topped with clouds of vanilla whipped cream and showered with crunchy toasted coconut."
Coconut Pastry Cream
1 cup milk (8 oz.)
1 cup canned, unsweetened coconut milk, stirred (8 oz.)
2 cups shredded sweetened coconut (6 oz.)
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar (4-1/4 oz.)
3 tbsp all-purpose flour (7/8 oz.)
4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature (2 oz.)
One 9" blind baked and cooled coconut pastry shell (see below)
Whipped Cream Topping
2-1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled (20 oz.)
1/3 cup sugar (2-1/4 oz.)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Chunk of white chocolate (about 4 to 6 oz. to make 2 oz. of curls)
2 oz. unsweetened chip or large shred coconut (about 1-1/2 cups), or substitute sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour (5-3/4 oz.)
1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut (1-3/4 oz.)
8 tbsp (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" dice (4 oz.)
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup ice cold water (2-5/8 oz.), or more as needed
* When you blind bake the pastry shell, be sure you bake it thoroughly, as directed in the instructions, or the crust may be tough. Very cold butter makes a flakier crust. If your butter is not very cold, set the diced butter in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before making your dough. Like most pastry doughs, this one must be chilled for at least 30 minutes before rolling the dough, and the shaped pastry shell must be chilled at least an hour before blind baking it, so plan accordingly.
Coconut Cream Pie
Step 1: To make the coconut pastry cream, combine the milk, coconut milk and shredded coconut in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Use a paring knife to scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add both the scrapings and the pod to the milk mixture. Place the saucepan on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture almost comes to a boil.
Step 2: In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and flour until well combined. Temper the eggs by pouring a small amount (about 1/3 cup) of the scalded milk into the egg mixture, while whisking. Then add the warmed egg mixture to the saucepan of milk and coconut. Whisk over medium-high heat until the pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until the mixture is very thick, about 4-5 minutes more. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
Step 3: Add the butter and whisk until it melts. Remove and discard the vanilla pod. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and place it over another bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally until it is cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a crust from forming and refrigerate until completely cold. The pastry cream will thicken as it cools.
Step 4: When the pastry cream is cold, fill the pastry shell (see below), smoothing the surface with a rubber spatula. In an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla to peaks that are firm enough to hold their shape. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the whipped cream and pipe it all over the surface of the pie.
Step 5: For the garnish, preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the coconut chips on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 7-8 minutes, watching carefully and stirring once or twice until lightly browned, since coconut easily burns.
Step 6: Remove the coconut from the oven and allow to cool, then sprinkle over the top of the pie. Use a vegetable peeler to scrape about 2 oz. of the white chocolate into curls on top of the pie. If you prefer, you can cut the pie into wedges and put the wedges on plates, then garnish each wedge individually with coconut and white chocolate curls.
Step 1: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, coconut, diced butter, sugar and salt. Pulse to form coarse crumbs. Gradually add the water, a tbsp at a time, pulsing each time. Use only as much water as you need for the dough to hold together when gently pressed between your fingers; don't work the dough with your hands, just test to see if it is holding. (The dough will not form a ball or even clump together in the processor — it will still be quite loose.)
Step 2: Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the coconut dough onto it. Pull the plastic wrap around the dough forcing it into a rough flattened round with the pressure of the plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes to an hour before rolling.
Step 3: To roll the dough, unwrap the round of coconut dough and put it on a lightly floured board. Flour the rolling pin and your hands. Roll the dough out into a circle about an 1/8" thick. Occasionally lift the dough with a board scraper to check that it is not sticking and add more flour if it seems like it's about to stick. Trim to a 12-13" circle.
Step 4: Transfer the rolled dough to a 9" pie pan. Ease the dough loosely and gently into the pan. You don't want to stretch dough at this point because it will shrink when it is baked. Trim any excess dough to a 1" to 1-1/2" overhang. Turn the dough under along the rim of the pie pan and use your fingers and thumb to flute the edge. Chill the unbaked pie shell at least an hour before baking. (This step prevents the dough from shrinking in the oven.)
Step 5: When you are ready to bake the pie crust, preheat the oven to 400°F. Place a piece of parchment in the pie shell, with sides overhanging the pan, and fill with dried beans. (This step prevents the bottom of the shell from puffing up during baking.) Bake the pie crust for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry rim is golden.
Step 6: Remove the pie pan from the oven. Remove the paper and beans and return the pie crust to the oven. Bake for another 10-12 minutes or until bottom of crust has golden brown patches. Remove from the oven and allow the pie shell to cool completely.
Reprinted with permission from Tom Douglas's The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook (2012 Harper Collins Canada).