Friday, May 6, 2011

Coconut Custard Pie For My Mom

Though deep down I have a sneaking suspicion that the Mother’s Day holiday is a conspiracy dreamed up by greeting card and flower delivery companies to drive business, I accept it for what it is – an opportunity to pay homage and say thanks to my wonderful mother, who’s always been there 

for me, cheering me on, through good times and bad. Since my mother is British (she’s from Abercynon in South Wales), she has always favored classic Brit desserts such as trifle, bread pudding and custard. In fact, she is known for her delicious bread pudding, which she claims is The Duchess of 

Windsor’s favorite recipe. (My guess is the Duchess wasn’t doing much cooking – she was too busy buying expensive jewelry shaped like reptiles.) Another favorite of hers, though, is also one of mine: Coconut Custard Pie, an American classic. The great thing about this dessert is that it’s so darned 

easy to make (once you get past the crust, that is). Just whisk together some eggs, sugar, milk and a few other ingredients, and your filling just needs to be poured into the pie crust and baked. I like to top the simple custard filling with sweetened whipped cream and a sprinkling of toasted coconut and, my 

secret ingredient, ground candied violets. It gives the pie a floral backnote and adds a little lavender sparkle to the white topping. So, Happy Mother’s Day to you, Mom, and to everyone else out there who’s also a mother. Mother’s Day comes but once a year, so my advice to you is this: Milk it for all it’s worth! 

 Old-Fashioned Coconut Custard Pie

Makes 8 servings

Pie Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch chunks and frozen
6 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, frozen
2 to 3 tablespoons ice water

Coconut Custard Filling:
5 large eggs
¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups whole milk
½ cup heavy cream or half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup coconut shavings (or unsweetened or sweetened coconut flakes), lightly toasted
Finely ground candied violets (optional)

Make the crust:
1. Place the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade and pulse on and off until combined. Scatter the butter pieces and the shortening, in large chunks, over the flour mixture. Pulse the machine on and off until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 2 tablespoons of the ice water and process until the mixture just starts to come together. (If the dough seems dry, add the remaining 1 tablespoon water as necessary. Do not allow the dough to form a ball on the blade, or the resulting crust will be tough.)
2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape it into a thick disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
3. Lightly flour a large work surface. Allow the dough to soften at room temperature just until it is pliable (about 20 minutes). Place the dough disk on the floured surface and sprinkle some flour over it. Roll the dough from the center out in every direction, flouring the work surface as necessary to prevent sticking. You want a round about 1/8 inch or slightly less thick and about 12 inches in diameter.
4. Transfer the crust to a 9-inch pie pan by rolling it loosely around the rolling pin and unrolling it carefully over the pan. Press the dough first into the bottom of the pan and then against the sides. Patch any holes or cracks with dough scraps. Trim the edges of the dough with scissors, leaving about 3/4 inch of overhang. Fold the dough underneath itself and crimp the edge with your fingers. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.

Make the filling:
5. Set a rack in the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
6. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well blended. Gradually whisk in the milk, cream, vanilla, and coconut. Pour the filling into the chilled crust and bake for about 45 minutes, until the filling is just set, but still slightly wobbly in the center. Cool the pie completely on a wire rack.

Make the topping:
7. Before serving, whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla to medium peaks. Spoon the cream on top of the pie and sprinkle with the toasted coconut shavings and ground candied violets. Serve immediately. Refrigerate any leftover pie.