My family is difficult to please when it comes to coconut cream pies. My Aunt Joyce is the only person I know that can make a coconut cream pie that pleases them. I've attempted to make this pie many times but never had it come out perfectly. You might be wondering, what could I have possibly done so wrong. Well, for past pies, I’ve put rum in the coconut cream and no one liked it. I loved it by the way but maybe because I drank a little too much of the rum as I was making the pastry cream. Here’s the recipe for it if you are interested. Another time, I made the meringue too sweet. And then there was another time I made the crust, and it totally shrank and collapsed in the oven. So you can see that I truly haven’t had much luck with coconut cream pies. Today, I was determined to successfully make and bake all three componets of the pie to perfection - the pastry crust, pastry cream, and the meringue. And after having a piece, I'm officially calling this pie my redemption pie!
For the pastry crust:
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 7 tablespoons very cold (frozen is fine) unsalted butter, cut into 7 pieces
- 5-1/2 tablespoons very cold (frozen is even better) vegetable shortening, cut into 5 pieces
- About 1/4 cup ice water
For the pastry cream:
- 4 cups whole milk
- 12 large egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon coconut extract
For the meringue:
- 7 egg whites
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup flaked coconut
Step 1: For the pastry crust: Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade; pulse just to combine the ingredients.
Step 2: Drop in the butter and shortening and pulse only until the butter and shortening are cut into the flour until you have pieces the size of peas. I pulse about 10 times to get this consistency.
Step 3: Pulsing the machine on and off, gradually add about 3 tablespoons of the water— add a little water and pulse once, add some more water, pulse again and keep going that way. Then use a few long pulses to get the water into the flour. If, after a dozen or so pulses, the dough doesn’t look evenly moistened or form soft curds, pulse in as much of the remaining water as necessary. or even a few drops more, to get a dough that will stick together when pinched. Big pieces of butter are fine.
Step 4: Scrape the dough out of the work bowl and onto a work surface. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it into a disk, and wrap it in plastic. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour before rolling. (If your ingredients were very cold and you worked quickly, though, you might be able to roll the dough immediately: the dough should be as cold as if it had just come out of the fridge.)
Step 5: To roll out the dough: Roll the dough out on a floured surface. If you are working on a counter, turn the dough over frequently and keep the counter floured. Fit the dough into the pie plate and, using a pair of scissors, cut the excess dough to a 1/4- to 1/2-inch overhang. Fold the dough under on itself, so that it hangs over the edge just a tad, and flute or pinch the crust to make a decorative edge.
Step 6: To partially or fully bake a single crust: Refrigerate the crust while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil, fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust and fill with dried beans or rice or pie weights. Put the pie plate on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes.
Step 7: Carefully remove the foil and weights and, if the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Return the pie plate to the oven and bake for about 8 minutes more, or until the crust is very lightly colored. Transfer the pie plate to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature before filling.
Step 8: To make the pastry cream: Bring milk to a boil.
Step 9: Whisk yolks, sugar and cornstarch together in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisking constantly, drizzle in one-quarter of the hot milk. When yolks are warm, add the rest of the liquid in a steadier stream.
Step 10: Return pan to medium heat and, whisking vigorously, bring mixture to boil. Boil — still whisking — for 1 to 2 minutes. Add vanilla and coconut extract and then stir in butter. Transfer cream to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and cool in the refrigerator.
Step 11: To make the meringue: In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, combine 1/2 cup sugar and the water. Dissolve the sugar completely. Do not stir.
Step 12: Increase the heat and bring sugar to soft-ball stage (235 to 240 degrees). Use a candy thermometer for accuracy. Wash down the inside wall of the pot with a wet pastry brush. This will help prevent sugar crystals from forming around the sides, falling in and causing a chain reaction.
Step 13: In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the eggs whites on low speed until foamy. Add 1/4 cup sugar and the cream of tartar, increase the speed to medium, and beat until soft peaks form.
Step 14: With the mixer running, pour the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over fluffed egg whites. Beat until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.
Step 15: To put the pie together: Lightly whisk the cooled custard and pour it into the crust. Spoon the meringue all over the pie and spread evenly to the edges. Sprinkle with coconut on top of the meringue.
Step 16: Bake 12-15 minutes or until the meringue is golden. Cool 1 hour on a wire rack. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.