Make Ahead

Perfect Coconut Cream Pie

May 21, 2012
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

Coconut cream pie is one of my all-time favorite desserts. The small Louisiana town in which I grew up had a real cafeteria, one of those old-fashioned joints where you grab a tray and head down the line, picking up pre-plated dishes as you go. I often got the "sides" plate -- smothered greens, fried okra, mac & cheese -- and a wedge of coconut cream pie or, when they had it, caramel custard in a cup (another favorite). My mom, sister, grandma and I spent so many happy lunches at that cafeteria, and even though it's not quite as good as it used to be, and caramel custard in a cup days are still too rare, I love the nostalgia of the dining-in experience, and I go back each time I visit home.

Recently, I thought about how long it'd been since I'd had coconut cream pie, especially a really good, homemade one that's ethereally light and a full-on tribute to the delicate, unique flavor that is coconut. What can one do in that instance but get busy making one?

Extremely long story short, I used my family pie crust recipe (which cannot be beat), made homemade sweetened, shredded coconut (a recipe I found on the Livestrong site) to avoid the chemicals sometimes found in commercially processed sweetened coconut, and adapted pastry cream and topping recipes from Epicurious. The result was perfection, and my hubby and I wiped the pie out in two days flat! This pie definitely wants a night in the fridge to set and let the flavors deepen, so make it a day in advance if you can. —em-i-lis

Test Kitchen Notes

This coconut cream pie is full of natural goodness. I love how it is full of coconut flavor, yet not too sweet, and the pie is really easy to make. Next time, I will cut the salt in the crust to perhaps 1/2 teaspoon only. The pie is delicious and has a great coconut flavor due to the canned coconut milk and the homemade sweetened coconut. I will definitely make this again! —Robin Burton Fenner

  • Makes 1 pie
  • For the pie crust and sweetened coconut
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups shredded, unsweetened, dried coconut
  • 4 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
  • 6 teaspoons canola oil
  • 8 teaspoons water
  • For the pastry cream and topping
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk, divided
  • One batch sweetened coconut, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chilled whipping cream
In This Recipe
  1. For the pie crust and sweetened coconut
  2. Preheat the oven to 350. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the sifted flour and salt. Pour in the oil and milk, and using a fork, stir to combine. When the dough comes together, roll it out between two sheets of waxed paper, peel off the top sheet, and invert the crust over and into a deep-dish pie plate. Press the crust in and all the way up the sides, and trim off the excess.
  3. Fill with pie weights or line with foil topped with dried beans, and bake until golden and set, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely.
  4. While the pie crust is cooking and cooling, make the sweetened coconut: In a medium mixing bowl, toss together the shredded coconut and the sifted powdered sugar until well combined. In a separate small bowl, stir together the oil and water until well combined and then pour over the sugared coconut. Stir gently to coat the coconut completely. Let sit for about 10 minutes, stirring and fluffing occasionally. The original amount will expand slightly in size. Refrigerate the sweetened coconut until you need it.
  1. For the pastry cream and topping
  2. Toast 2/3 cups of your sweetened coconut in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat until lightly browned, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Let cool completely while you make the pastry cream.
  3. Whisk together 1/2 cup of sugar, the eggs, egg yolk, and flour in a medium bowl and set aside (but near the stove). In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk and 1 1/2 cups of your sweetened coconut to a simmer. Gradually add this hot milk mixture to your egg mixture, whisking constantly.
  4. Return everything to the same saucepan; cook until pastry cream thickens and boils, stirring constantly, about 4 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat. Mix in the vanilla extract. Transfer pastry cream to a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface to prevent formation of skin. Chill until cold, at least 2 hours.
  6. When cold, transfer the filling to your prebaked, now-cool crust. Cover and chill while you make the topping.
  7. Using an electric hand mixer, beat the cream, the remaining 1/4 cup coconut milk, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar in a medium bowl until peaks form. Spread whipped cream all over the top of pastry cream filling. Sprinkle evenly with cooled toasted coconut. Cover and refrigerate at least four hours, but preferably overnight.

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