WIN! Not too much to write about here today – this post is really just an excuse to brag about my Coconut Cream Pie win. As promised, I slogged forward in the pursuit of pie perfection and I’m happy to say, I kicked this pie’s ass. Unlike my ill-fated first attempt, I let the milk mixture come to a boil before quickly whisking in the egg mixture and within mere minutes – custard! I bow at the feet of Harold Magee (yet again) for solving this mystery and saving me from a less than clear recipe.
This version is adapted, loosely, from Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies and true to its name is a collection of pie recipes from the famed Mrs. Rowe’s in Staunton, VA. An institution in the Shenandoah Valley for decades, a meal at Mrs. Rowe’s feels more like a Sunday dinner at grandma’s house. Feast on fried chicken, greens, macaroni and cheese and of course – pies, pies and more pies in the confusing company of locals, Mennonite families and hungover college students.
After my first attempt, I decided that Mrs. Rowe’s shortening heavy pie crust was good on texture but left much to be desired in the way of flavor. When it comes to pie dough, I’m an all-butter girl all the way and Michael Ruhlman’s recipe is not only easy and one of the best I’ve tried, but simple enough to commit to memory. His recipe yields enough dough for two pie crusts and then some. A generous proportion that comes in handy to those of us who often depend on that room for error when it comes to rolling and shaping pie dough.
Coconut Cream Pie
Adapted from Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Pies by Mollie Cox Bryan
1 pie crust (or pre-made)
For the filling
3 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup water
3 cups milk
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 Tb unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
For the meringue
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3 Tbs sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line the pie crust with parchment paper and fill with dried beans to prevent crust from bubbling. Blind bake for 20 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and just enough of the water to make a smooth paste. In a heat proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat the milk on medium heat just until it comes to a boil. Gradually whisk in the egg mixture, stirring vigorously to make sure the eggs do not scramble. Once incorporated, continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture is very thick, 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, coconut and vanilla. Pour the filling into the pre-baked crust and spread evenly.
3. In a chilled bowl, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed, until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, 1 Tb at a time and continue to beat until the whites form stiff peaks, but aren’t dry. This will take several minutes – be patient! When ready, pile the meringue high on top of the filled pie crust. Using a spatula, gently spread the meringue to the pie’s edges and make decorative spikes or whips all over the pie. To seal the meringue, dip your index finger lightly in water and press the meringue to the crust – working your way around the entire pie. If the meringue is not sealed properly, condensation will form between the filling and meringue, making for a runny pie. Sprinkle with additional coconut over the top.
4. Bake for 30 minutes, until the meringue is golden and firm to a careful touch. Cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator.