26 February 2011

Coconut Cream & Coconut Custard

...or "A Tough Nut To Crack."

This weekend, I tackled the coconut pies again. You may remember that my last outing with Coconut Cream Pie ended in miserable failure. You, dear reader, deserve better, and I do have a project to complete. I figured I would give it one more shot, with some modifications.

It is interesting to note that the ingredients for both the Coconut Cream and Coconut Custard Pies are nearly identical. A bit less sugar in the custard, half the vanilla (though I only put one teaspoon of vanilla in the cream pie 'cause I ran out!), and less water (which was significant), but largely the same.

Ignore the crusts on both these pies. I used store-bought refrigerated crusts and rushed/shortcut them, so they turned out weird, but the pies still tasted fine! I trust that you will take more care with your flaky pastries.

Coconut Cream Pie

The last time, I prepared the pie according to recipe (or so I thought), cooking the filling in a double boiler. It was only supposed to take 4 minutes to thicken; after 20 minutes or so, I just dumped it in the shell, floated the meringue on top, and hoped it would set up in the oven.

Or not:
The rest of the filling was pretending to be soup in the pie plate.
This time, I cooked the filling over direct heat, just like all of the other cream pies I've done. It took about seven or eight minutes to set up, and it was still on the thin side, but the filling was definitely firm enough to appear correct. I rushed the meringue a bit, so it was thin too, although it spread nicely over the pie. A sprinkle of coconut and this very white pie was ready to bake (30 minutes @ 325°).

Success! The finished pie was a gorgeous golden brown, with a light texture that belies its caloric load (seems to be a pattern). My primary caution would be to chill this pie before serving; the refrigerated slice the next day was all-around better than the counter-cooled slice.


Coconut Custard

The first difference between the cream and custard pies arose when I was supposed to "combine the eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and water to form a smooth paste." With only one teaspoon of water (and three yolks) to moisten a combined cup of sugar and cornstarch, the result was more like wet sand than smooth paste.

No matter. I figured I would just ladle some of the hot milk into my sand so it would incorporate better.


I've tempered eggs before and have never had a problem, but hot milk into this mixture resulted in little pebbles of something (probably cornstarch) in my filling! A quick trip through the sieve sorted that out, but I was now concerned that too much of the thickening agents had been lost to clumpage. Would the custard still come together?

It did, and five minutes early, to boot. The consistency was more like a normal pudding than the thick creams we've been making lately. Interestingly, there is no coconut in the filling itself - it's really just a plain custard base. The coconut goes in the parbaked pie shell and on top of the filling once in the shell.

After the better part of an hour, the pie should be done. My hunch is that the longer cook time and the lack of a protective meringue topping helps the filling to set up more solidly - that's probably the major difference between the two coconut pies.

The flavor is good on the custard pie, but I could stand more coconut presence. This is another thin pie - if you're looking for impressive height, look elsewhere.


The verdict? I liked the Coconut Cream Pie better - more flavor, more volume, but more calories. Overall, I enjoy a good slice of coconut pie, but these were bit more trouble than they're worth. I think I'll save my coconut pie consumption for the restaurant scene.

Next time: Checkmate!

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