Coconut Cream Pie

When I was in college, I had a friend who got married and got a subscription to Gourmet magazine (because, seriously, who but newlyweds thinks THAT'S a good idea?). She decided to make a recipe from it with her husband, and they spent all day mocking how the directions said 'puree the raspberries in the food processor for 4 seconds.' Not 5 seconds, not 'until smooth,' just 'four seconds.'

She and her husband mocked the recipe for weeks until they got around to making it, and then, just for giggles, they decided to follow the recipe to the letter, blending the raspberries for only four seconds. What happened? They got out their stopwatches, timed it, and at exactly four seconds, the raspberries went from lumpy to smooth, just like that.

I'm pretty sure she eventually preached a sermon using this as an illustration of how we should obey God even when we don't know why. Anyway, I've always remembered this story because I've always dreamed that someday I would be making a recipe and the same thing would happen to me: a really specific instruction would be given, and I would follow it, and the exact perfect result would occur.

Up until today, that had not happened, but then I made this coconut cream pie. ('Are you gonna throw it in my face?' Judson quipped hilariously). During the step where I made the custard, heating it over extremely low heat in what was supposed to be a double-boiler, the following happened:

I mixed the ingredients together. I heated them over low, stirring constantly, waiting for the mixture to thicken. I timed it, because I can never tell when custard thickens, and I was concerned I would miss it.

(I should not have been concerned.) The directions read as follows: 'Pour into double-boiler and cook over boiling water, stirring constantly until [mixture] thickens (5 min.), then cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.



After 4:45 of stirring, my arm was tired and the mixture was still watery and thin. At 4:55, still watery and thin. At 5:00 on the dot, my arm suddenly slowed down in the mixture as it went from the texture of water to the texture of thick honey, immediately! Needless to say, throughout the rest of the recipe, I followed the directions to the letter, not wanting to cheat myself out of the product of a recipe that specific.

I was a little concerned when I started this recipe because it specifically calls for 'moist shredded coconut,' and, objections to the word 'moist' aside, I can't find anything but minced, desiccated coconut in Scotland which I was concerned would not fill out the pie nicely. (So concerned was I that I soaked my coconut for half an hour in dark rum before using it. TOTALLY worth it.) The pie came out just fine with the confetti-like bits of dry coconut instead of the larger, moister pieces I'm used to in the US, and either way you make it I would recommend adding some rum to the coconut first. It gives it a nice depth of flavour that I think complements the coconut wonderfully... and if you really go overboard with the run you could always make yourself a daiquiri with the remainder. It's like a classier version of Malibu!

The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. Have you ever had a coconut cream pie? I hadn't, but they're awesome. And this one is so eerily foolproof, you should really give it a shot.

The recipe:

Coconut Cream Pie

the directions:

Preheat oven to 220C/425F.
Scald the milk by heating it slowly, just until small bubbles form around the rim of the pot.
In a large bowl, mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt.
Add milk very slowly, stirring constantly.
Beat egg yolks lightly and stir into milk mixture slowly, beating until smooth.
Pour back into the pot you heated the milk in, then turn heat on very low.
Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly until mixture thickens, then cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat.
Stir in vanilla and ½ c coconut.
Allow to cool slightly, then pour into pastry shell.
Whip egg whites until soft peaks form.
Add sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, whipping well after each addition.
Spoon meringue over coconut custard, spreading to the edges of the crust.
Bake in hot oven 3-5 minutes until almost done (but not quite).
Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining coconut over meringue, then return to oven for 1 more minute.
Remove from oven, chill for at least 2 hours, and enjoy!

Yields 8 generous slices.

the ingredients:

2 ½ c milk
½ c sugar (for filling)
3 ½ tbsp cornstarch
½ tsp salt
3 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla
1 c shredded coconut (optional: sprinkle with 2 tablespoons dark rum)
1 baked & cooled 9” pastry shell (I used this recipe)
6 tbsp sugar (for meringue)