Editor’s Note: Throughout the calendar year, The Beachcomber offers recipes, kitchen commentary and photos from Tom Conway, who has a hearty appetite for growing and cooking good food and putting in a good day on his Vashon Island farm.
I have a recipe for a coconut pie — make that French coconut pie — that knocks the socks, shoes, broaches and Band-aids off any other coconut pie I’ve made before. And while those pies were really just gussied up coconut-flavored, whipped-cream fluff in a crust, this recipe is fully-baked and a front-page contender for any recipe file.
Drawn to those three magic words, French, coconut and pie, I found the original recipe online at Taste of Home. I didn’t change the recipe that much; I just upgraded a couple of ingredients, which released the recipe from its earthbound status. I substituted fresh lemon juice for the vinegar (the same liquid used to clean glass), added lemon zest and substituted heavy cream for milk. I also swapped out the vanilla extract for almond extract. The result: Cloud 9 and step on it! Creamy and intensely flavorful with a rich, custardy structure, this pie beats the fronds off of coconut cream pie for flavor, texture, creaminess and delectability. And if you don’t want to make a crust, simply bake the custard in individual ramekins as if pots de creme.
This pie recipe claims Southern roots, dreamed up by New Orleans and Charleston cooks who created a delicious and resourceful tribute to the fresh coconuts arriving from French Guiana to their port cities. So as with most Southern dessert recipes, I recommend one steps away from the illusion of healthy eating with reduced sugar, skim milk and less butter. This recipe wants nothing to do with such adulterations and will be a lesser pie for it. So buck up, follow the recipe and just serve yourself a thinner slice, and discover what heaven tastes like one bite at a time.
French Coconut Pie
3 large eggs (beaten)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cream (don’t skimp, use cream)
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup butter (melted, cooled)
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 zested whole lemon
1 cup flaked coconut (unsweetened preferred)
pinch of salt
1 pastry shell (unbaked)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, place baking sheet on middle shelf.
Start with beaten eggs, and add one ingredient at a time, then mix, followed by next ingredient, then mix, until all are fully incorporated.
Once mixture is smooth and creamy (with lumps from coconut flakes), pour custard mixture into an unbaked pie or tart shell. Do not overfill, as the custard rises when baked.
Place pie on middle shelf on the baking sheet.
After 20 minutes, check for browning and rotate pie on the baking sheet to even out browning if need be. Bake another 20 minutes or until the custard filling has risen and is brown and firm.
Feel free to ignore baking times as the pie tends to run on its own time line. Just check it out every 10-15 minutes. It’s ready to remove from the oven with the top is puffed up a bit like a meringue, no jiggling in the middle, and custard surface is a golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.