Coconut Cream Pie – Flaky All-Butter Crust Filled with Coconut Cream and Topped with Lightly Sweetened Whipped Cream and Toasted Coconut. Nostalgic, Family-Inspired Recipe.
My friend Kelly Jaggers is back with another luscious dessert recipe, shared alongside her delicious memories. I absolutely love Kelly’s nostalgic take on family cooking. ~ Tori
There is something magic about the sense of taste. One bite of something familiar can take you back to a specific place or time and summon memories so vivid it is as if you have gone back in time.
When I was a little girl my father would take me out for little father/daughter dates. We would tell my mother we were going ‘tool shopping’, but in reality we were going to get a slice of pie at our favorite coffee shop in San Antonio called Jim’s Restaurant. My mother was never fooled by our outings as I would often come back pie stained and giddy, but she never said a word. Often the trips to go ‘tool shopping’ would coincide with a new diet regimen my mother would be trying and my father hated food restrictions. He still does. As you might expect, when my father told me it was time to go ‘tool shopping’ I would be happy to go along. Don’t forget, I was – and still am – greedy!
I was allowed to have whatever I wanted, our ‘tool shopping’ trips were not about restraint, but sometimes he would challenge me to try things I wasn’t sure I would like. There is more to life than chocolate cream pie, he would say. One outing he introduced me to Boston Cream Pie, another he had me try tangy lemon meringue pie, but the one I remember most clearly was the first time I had Coconut Cream Pie. One bite and I was in love. I demolished the slice in record time. I have been a fan of coconut ever since.
Eventually we moved away from San Antonio and our days of ‘tool shopping’ came to an end, but the memories of sneaking pie with my father are ones I will always treasure. Anytime I have a slice of coconut cream pie I think of my dad. Perhaps our little pie fueled expeditions are the reason I love pie so much today? It is certainly the reason that I went on a quest about ten years ago to create the perfect coconut cream pie. I wanted that piece of my childhood back without having to drive four hours to San Antonio to get it.
For me, the perfect coconut cream pie is based on balance. It is easy for the pie to become cloyingly sweet, or worse, chewy and dense. You need the right balance of sweet coconut, creamy custard, and buttery crust. The recipe I eventually came up with is a true family affair. I plucked elements from different family recipes to make the perfect pie.
- My mother’s flaky pie crust recipe is the perfect base. It is flaky and light but has a savory edge. She makes hers with half butter and half shortening, but I use all butter for this pie. The finished crust has a flavor similar to a shortbread cookie.
- My grandmother’s vanilla cream pie filling has the right velvety texture; it just needed some coconut flavor. Many coconut cream pie recipes call for coconut extract, but I do not like the artificial flavor. Instead I cook my custard with the sweetened shredded coconut so the coconut can infuse the filling naturally.
- Finally, just like the coffee shop pie of my youth, I top it with lightly sweetened whipped cream and freshly toasted coconut.
This pie takes me back. I may not get to go ‘tool shopping’ anymore, but that’s ok. Now I can have a whole pie and not just a slice! Talk about a diet buster!
Food Photography and Styling by Kelly Jaggers
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- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out dough
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 stick butter, cubed and chilled (8 tablespoons)
- 2-4 tbsp ice water
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 3/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted and cooled
- Begin by preparing the crust. In a medium bowl combine the flour, sugar, and salt.
- Mix until well combined then add the cubed butter and, with your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture until the flour resembles coarse sand with pea sized pieces of butter remaining. Add the water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture forms a shaggy ball.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press the dough into a rough disk. Fold the disk in half and flatten it out into a disk. Repeat this process three more times, then wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour or up to three days.Heat the oven to 350°F.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface to a 12-inch circle that is about 1/8-inch thick. Turn the dough often, and dust the surface with additional flour as needed to prevent sticking. Carefully fold the crust in half and place it into a 9-inch pie pan. Unfold and press the crust into the pan. Do not pull or stretch the dough. Trim the crust so there is a ½-inch overhang round the edge of the pan. Fold the excess crust under and crimp the dough with a fork or your fingers. Gently prick the bottom of the crust a few times with a fork to help prevent large air bubbles from forming under the crust.
- Line the crust with parchment paper or aluminum foil and fill the crust with dry beans or pie weights.
- Bake the crust for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the lining and pie weights and return to the oven for 15 to 20 minutes more, or until the crust is golden brown all over. Allow the crust to cool completely to room temperature.
- Next prepare the filling. In the work bowl of a blender combine the milk, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and eggs. Blend for 30 seconds then pour the mixture into a medium sauce pan and add the shredded sweetened coconut. Cook the mixture over medium heat until it comes to a boil and thickens, about 10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and add the butter and vanilla and stir until the butter has melted and is completely combined.
- Pour the coconut filling into the prepared pastry crust and place a layer of plastic wrap directly on the filling, leaving the edges of the crust uncovered. Chill the pie for at least 4 hour or overnight.
- Finally, prepare the topping. In the work bowl of a stand mixer, or in a medium bowl with a hand mixer, combine the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Whip until the cream forms medium peaks, about 3 minutes.
- Remove the pie from the refrigerator and remove the plastic from the filling. Carefully spread the whipped cream over the chilled pie and garnish with toasted coconut.