Coffee Coconut Cream Pie with Salted Meringue

“Do you want to come with me to a pie contest?” I nonchalantly asked my 10 year old. He answered with an emphatic “yes!” and our mom and son date was set. Once JP knew that he was going, he was excited to help make the coffee coconut cream pies. Coming into the kitchen, he asked if he could crack the eggs. Now it was my turn to answer “yes!” enthusiastically. I had two dozen eggs that needed separated. I had begun this messy task and my hands were cold and covered in a thin film of egg white. Though I like the ease of separating eggs by using my hand, I didn’t think it would be the best option for JP’s first time. We set out two small containers on the table and I gave him a slotted spoon. He tenderly knocked the egg on the table and slowly pulled the shell apart. Gently tilting the egg out of the shell and onto the spoon, he waited nervously while the egg white slowly disentangled itself from the yolk and slipped through the spoon and into the bowl.  One after another we worked together to separate the eggs, quickly scooping up any yolk that found its way into the whites. Shards of brown and white shells and dribbles of egg covered the table but it was so much more rewarding to do this task together.

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It’s not easy to find common interests with our children. Most of the time either the adult or the child has to indulge the other in order to spend time together. But for JP and I, our interests align when it comes to baked goods. He’s my kindred spirit when it comes to all things dessert related. At the pie contest, we tasted and scored each entry, we talked about flavor and texture and then decided on a score for each of the ten entries. Finally, all the scores were tallied and the winners were announced.

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I was pretty sure I knew who two of the winners would be, but I didn’t think that our coffee coconut cream pie would make the list. Don’t get me wrong, I was really pleased with how our pies turned out. I loved the creamy coconut custard and the flaky chocolate coated crust. I especially loved how the coffee paired with the coconut cream. The meringue was beautifully toasted, as well. Yet, I did have some weeping meringue issues. Also, I had only told the organizers that the pie was coconut cream and had left out the coffee part, which meant that all the tasters expected a standard pie. Would everyone hate the addition of coffee when it wasn’t expected? The gently spiced chai masala apple pie was baked to perfection and was awarded third place. The bourbon butterscotch cream pie topped with whipped cream and dotted with pretty chocolate sprinkles came in first. The surprise came when our coffee coconut cream pie was called out for second place. We were so excited! I was so happy to be able to share the experience with my son.

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Coffee Coconut Cream Pie

Makes 1 – 9 inch pie

This recipe is based on Stella Park’s Coconut Cream Pie. I added chocolate to coat the crust after baking, infused the coconut milk with coffee beans and threw flake salt on the top of the meringue. I found it easiest to break the steps up into two days and then serve the third day. I added lots of pictures and instructions for each part of the pie.

Directions:

All Butter Crust

I use Smitten Kitchen’s recipe and make it in the food processor using the dough blade. I find it easiest to have the flour, sugar and salt combined before getting the butter out of the fridge. Bench scrapers make cutting butter a cinch!

This recipe makes a double crust, which I like. Wrap both in plastic wrap and chill the one for the pie in the refrigerator. Toss the other dough ball in a freezer bag in the freezer. This will last for 2 months in the freezer. If the dough is frozen, defrost in the fridge over night before continuing with the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups (315 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, 1/2 inch dice and cold
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Combine flour, salt and sugar in small bowl and whisk to thoroughly combine. Attach the dough blade to the food processor and scoop the flour mixture into the bowl of the food processor. Add cold butter and pulse 7 times to cut the butter into the flour. The butter will be distributed throughout the flour and you will be able to see pieces of butter. Add the cold water and pulse for another 7 times or until the mixture starts to come together. Turn dough onto a slightly floured counter and knead quickly to incorporate any dry bits. The dough should feel firm and cold. Cut the dough in half and pat each piece into a ball. I like to weigh mine so that I know that my pieces are even.

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This is ready to be turned out and kneaded into a ball.

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Chill for 2 hours or over night. While the crust is chilling, separate your eggs for the coconut cream and meringue (ingredients listed below in filling and meringue recipes).

After the dough has chilled, roll out onto a floured counter. Roll the dough a couple inches larger than the pie plate. Dust the counter and rolling pin with flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Transfer to pie plate and gently press the dough to conform to the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Use scissors to trim to 1/2 inch all around. Then fold under so that it is flush with the pie pan. Press the dough firmly with a spoon to decorate if desired. Chill until the dough is firm again – about 30 minutes. Move rack to lower third and heat oven to 350°F. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork. Coat crust in foil, pressing in all around and covering sides. Pour in two cups of sugar (great tip from Stella!) and bake for an hour in the oven.

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While the pie crust bakes, infuse the coconut milk with coffee beans (ingredients listed below in filling recipe). Pour coconut milk into a saucepan and add whole coffee beans. Bring to a simmer on medium heat. Once simmering, remove from heat and cover. Test after fifteen minutes. If the milk has enough coffee flavor to taste subtly of coffee, then use a slotted spoon to remove beans. If not, then cover and continue to steep and test again after another fifteen minutes. Once steeping is complete and the beans have been removed, then set aside to cool.

Once the crust is golden brown, remove from the oven and carefully lift out the foil. Pour chocolate chips onto the crust and let melt for a minute and spread. Cool.

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See that white section? My crust was a little too thin and cracked! I followed Cook’s Illustrated instructions for patching. Whew!

Coconut Cream Filling

I made the mistake of originally buying the wrong coconut milk for this recipe. Look for cans with coconut in the ingredients and NOT coconut extract! Make sure to cool the coconut milk after steeping.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (5 ounces or about 8 eggs) egg yolks – save whites for meringue
  • 3 1/2 cups (28 ounces) unsweetened full fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon whole coffee beans
  • 1 1/3 cups (4 ounces) sweetened flaked coconut (plus more for the top of the pie)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

In a medium sauce pan, whisk brown sugar, granulated sugar, cornstarch, salt and cinnamon. Add coffee infused coconut milk and egg yolks. Continue to gently whisk as the mixture heats on medium-low. Once wisps of steam appear on the sides of the pan and the mixture is piping hot, then increase heat to medium and cook for another 5 minutes. Once the custard is thick and begins to bubble, set a 2 minute timer and continue to whisk. Remove from heat and stir in sweetened coconut and vanilla. Pour in baked and cooled crust and cool until the custard firms and forms a crust, about 30 minutes.

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Finished custard

Meringue Topping

Making meringue is pure joy. Watching the egg whites turn pillow-y and glossy, swirling it on the pie and then watching it puff and toast in the oven is definitely my favorite part of making this pie. Magical. Don’t be shy about cranking up the speed on the mixer. Also, when toasting the meringue in the oven, watch the oven temperature. My oven temp went up to 400°F and caused some weeping and separation on the finished pie.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (8 ounces – about 8 eggs) egg whites
  • 1 3/4 cups (12 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  • Shredded coconut (optional)
  • Flake salt, such as maldon

Directions:

Fill small sauce pan with 1 1/2 inches water and bring to a simmer. In the bowl of the stand mixer, whisk egg whites, sugar, salt, cream of tartar and vanilla extract. With heat on medium-low, place on top of the pan of simmering water and clip a thermometer to the side. Using a flexible spatula, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as the mixture warms, thins and foams. Heat to 175°F, about 10 minutes.

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Remember to not let the thermometer touch the bottom of the bowl when checking the temperature.

Remove bowl from heat and using the whisk attachment on the stand mixer, whisk on high. Heat oven to 375°F. Place a wire cooling rack inside a baking sheet. Watch in awe as the mixture thickens, turns glossy and quadruples in volume. It will take about 5 minutes. Look for the meringue to be thick all the way to the outer edges of the bowl before stopping the mixer. It will be soft like perfectly whipped cream.

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Perfection

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Dollop meringue on top of the custard and make swirls to your hearts content. Be sure to have the meringue touch the crust. Toast for 10 minutes. Open oven door and quickly coat the top of the pie in coconut and sprinkle with flake salt if desired. The meringue will do best with the least amount of temperature change so it’s best to not take it all the way out of the oven. Bake for another 10 minutes. The meringue will have puffed and be light tan all around with some darker toasted peaks. Remove from oven and cool for 1 hour. Then wrap in plastic wrap and chill another 4 hours or over night. The goal is to have the pie at 60°F. Serve chilled. Run the knife under water after cutting each wedge. The pie will keep for up to a week if covered in plastic wrap. Enjoy!

Apple Turnovers

Summer has come and gone, school is back in session and here we are cozying up to fall. So what have I been up to these last couple months? Besides getting the kids to school and soccer, I’ve been recipe testing for a friend who is writing a cookbook. Once given the dizzying list of recipes, I get to pick out whichever ones I want to test. I tried to push myself and make foods that are not in my comfort zone. One of the last recipes I tried out was homemade puff pastry.  Boy did I need some help on this. Until seeing this recipe, I hadn’t actually realized the making it myself was even an option. I’m so used to grabbing a package in the freezer section. I make my own scones, biscuits and pie crust so why not pastry puff?

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I’ll be honest and say that I don’t usually have a problem making scones and biscuits but pie crust is always a little unpredictable. Sometimes its too crumbly, other times it is overworked. Making puff pastry has made me realize that my pastry intuition is the opposite of what makes for a successful bake. I fiddle with the dough (and of course end up warming up the butter) and then rush the chilling part (also a big pastry no no). My kitchen is also the warmest room in the house – no wonder I’m in there so much! To make a long story short, it took me 3 or 4 tries and a few lessons to get the perfect dough. Here’s a tip – remember to add the water. Sigh. Try again. Anyway, thankfully it was worth the extra effort. Homemade pastry puff, with its streaks of butter and luxurious, flaky texture is as different from the store bought version as store bought pie crust is to home made. Either one is completely acceptable but if you have a little extra time, then swing for the home made.

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The major ingredients of apple turnovers are butter and apples.

This learning experience was a good reminder about how learning new skills really is a skill unto itself. It is challenging to stay positive and not give up. I expect my kids to be resilient. They are both learning new skills this school year. JP is learning to unicycle (our neighborhood school likes the circus arts) and Kai has started piano lessons. Each new year brings about new challenges for each of them and I want them to face those challenges head on. Yet, when its my turn, it seems a lot more difficult. I think part of the reason learning new skills as adults seems harder than when we were children, is that once we turn to adults we feel like we have learned everything – or should have anyway. It somehow seems like a failure to not be good at something right away. Also, as adults the cheering squad is mostly an internal one – though friends and family can definitely help us keep our chins up. When my son was learning how to ride a bike, I had the experience remembering the act of learning so I was able to whole-heartedly remind him that he would learn it too. Don’t worry – you will get it! Keep trying! As adults, that positive energy has to come from within. Its easy to forget that we need the same skills to learn to ride a bike as we do to get better at making pies. Learn the techniques and practice.

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2014 Shrunken pumpkin pie crust. See what a little practice will do?

Now, that we have the skills, what should we do with the puff pastry? I suggest apple turnovers. These are the perfect fall dessert/snack/breakfast. Now it truly does feel easy.

Apple Turnovers

Makes 16 small turnovers

A great apple turnover has a slightly tart filling encased in a flaky, buttery shell and is the perfect way to showcase those lovely October apples. This recipe is adapted from Betty Crocker. Each sheet makes 8 so feel free to half the recipe if you want.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium, about 6 cups, tart apples, chopped. I used fuji
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 teaspoons water
  • 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed or 1 recipe of the homemade puff
  • egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 teaspoon of water)

Directions:

Mix apples, butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and cornstarch mixture in a 2 quart pot. The pot will be full but it cooks down nicely. Bring to a simmer and stir periodically to make sure it cooks evenly and doesn’t burn. Simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. I wanted my apples to still have a little crunch without being too runny. Chill in the refrigerator overnight or at least not hot to the touch. The cooled filling will allow the puff pastry to stay nice and chilled (and easier to work with). After chilling, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and cover two baking sheets with parchment.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out your pastry puff to 10×13 or unroll your thawed puff pastry sheet and remove backing. Cut puff pastry into four equal squares and then cut each square into two halves. I found rectangles worked really easily but triangles are the more standard shape for a turnover, for a total of 8. Place a spoonful of filling on one side and top with the other side. Use a fork to press the three sides together. This is not the time to be a perfectionist. Transfer to baking sheet. Once all the turnovers are filled, place baking tray in the fridge to firm up the pastry. Continue with second sheet of pastry and then place that one in the fridge as well. Once the turnovers are firm to the touch, then cut a slit on the top of each and brush with egg wash. Bake until golden, 15-20 minutes.