When I started thinking about what pie I would celebrate with, it was 65 degrees and sunny outside. Coconut Cream Pie sounded ideal for those conditions. Today, it’s snowing. Coconut Cream Pie still sounds ideal.
There are many coconut cream pie recipes on the internet, and while I’m sure they are delicious, I am not necessarily interested in making a pie out of boxed pudding mix and cream cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for anything that gets you in the kitchen to make a pie, but when I want Coconut Cream Pie, I skip the pudding mix and reach straight for my second-edition copy of Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book. The book may be held together with tape and prayer, but it is a treasure. Not only does it give the reader a look into how Americans used to eat (so. much. gelatin.), it also contains tons of fantastic old-fashioned desserts that are rarely made from scratch these days.
This Coconut Cream Pie tastes every bit as good as the pies my grandma used to make. It starts by blitzing a graham cracker crust together in a food processor. Press that into a pie plate and bake it for ten minutes, just to set. Then turn off your oven–that’s all the baking this pie requires.
The filling comes together on the stovetop. Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and milk over medium-high until the mixture thickens and boils for one minute. Slowly whisk 1/3 of the mixture into a few egg yolks (so you don’t have scrambled eggs in your pie–gross). Add the mixture back to the pot and let boil for two more minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in vanilla and coconut extracts, followed by two tablespoons of butter. Fold in some sweetened shredded coconut and scrape the filling into the crust. Cover it with plastic wrap and chill for a few hours. This will be agony.
Once the filling is set, top it with some whipped cream and toasted coconut. Slice up your pie and prepare to fall in love with it. The crumbly, crunchy graham cracker crust. The creamy, coconut-studded filling. The light, sweet layer of whipped cream. What’s not to love?!
Coconut Cream Pie
adapted from Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book
makes one 9-inch standard pie
9 sheets graham crackers
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon coconut extract (optional, but recommended)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2-3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
toasted coconut, for topping (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Make the crust. Place graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor and process until no large pieces remain. Add light brown sugar, melted butter, and salt. Process until the mixture resembles wet sand, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch standard pie plate and use clean hands to press the mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake crust for 10 minutes. Cool it on a rack while you prepare the filling.
In a medium-large saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Whisking constantly, pour the milk into the dry ingredients. Continue to whisk until the mixture boils for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low.
Whisk egg yolks with a fork. Remove 1/3 of the warm pudding mixture from the pot. Whisking constantly, slowly pour milk mixture into the egg yolks until completely combined. Add egg yolk mixture to the pot and turn heat back up to medium-high. Continue to whisk until mixture boils for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla and coconut extracts and butter. Fold in coconut. Pour filling into prepared crust. Cover the pie with plastic wrap and chill for at least four hours or overnight.
Make the whipped cream. In a medium-large mixing bowl, combine heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla. Use an electric mixer to whip cream until stiff peaks form. Top pie with whipped cream. Top with toasted coconut, if desired.
Pie will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to three days.