Yesterday I read about a coconut pie served at a New Jersey restaurant called The Claremont Diner. It was a favorite of the cookbook author Richard Sax, who says in his book “Classic Home Desserts” that the Claremont’s pies were “showy”, but also made from scratch and with top quality ingredients. After looking over the recipe posted in Sax’s book (it’s also posted on The Hungry Browser), I ran to the store, bought all the ingredients and baked it that afternoon.
We love just about all coconut cream pies, but this one was special in that it was similar to a Bavarian Cream. That is, it had just enough gelatin to make stiff enough to hold its shape, while still being light and creamy. In the original recipe, Richard Sax includes a note saying the diner put a topping of whipped cream over the pie and gives alternate directions should you wish to do that as well. I did, so I went ahead and re-wrote the recipe with the added whipped cream. Due to time constraints and not wanting to mess up more dishes, I used a store-bought pie crust. The filling was so good it didn’t matter much, but next time I’ll take the time to bake my own crust. At any rate, it’s a great pie and much lighter than a lot of other coconut pies. It’s not too “coconutty” either. It’s more like a vanilla cream pie with coconut on it.
Coconut Cream Pie
3 cups milk
1 envelope (about 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 large whole egg
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vanilla pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, well chilled
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 ounces sweetened shredded coconut (about 1 1/2 cups), toasted**
1 baked pie shell
Place 1/2 cup cold milk in a mixing bowl (preferably with a spout) and sprinkle
with the gelatin, stirring once or twice to moisten. Set aside to soften for about 5 minutes.
Bring the remaining 2 1/2 cups milk nearly to nearly a boil in a heavy non-reactive saucepan over medium heat.
When the gelatin is soft, add the sugar, cornstarch, egg and egg yolks and whisk until very well blended. Gradually whisk a little of the hot milk into the gelatin mixture; repeat this process once or twice using about 3/4 cup of the hot milk total. Pour the warmed gelatin mixture into the saucepan with the hot milk and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for about 2 minutes. Strain the pastry cream into a clean bowl; whisk in the butter and vanilla until smooth. Place a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate.
Whip the 1 ½ cups cream until nearly stiff. Stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla. Gently fold a little over half of it into the pastry cream.
Sprinkle a big handful of the coconut in the bottom of the baked pie shell. Pour the filling into the cooled baked pie shell, mounding the filling in the center. Chill for about 30 minutes. Spread reserved whipped cream over Bavarian cream and sprinkle top with remaining toasted coconut. Chill for a few hours or until set.
** To toast coconut, spread coconut on a foil or parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently to keep it from burning.