Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Coconut Dream Pies


Eating or drinking something coconut-flavored--pina coladas, Almond Joy bars, coconut cream pie--always transports me to another place, another time. Usually it's a tropical resort, with friendly island natives catering to my every whim. Sort of like Gilligan's Island, with waiters. And speaking of Gilligan's Island, how is it that Mary Ann was able to whip up those beautiful coconut cream pies without having access to fresh cream? And where did Ginger get all that mascara? Ponder these and other questions while you enjoy these adorable (and delicious) Little Coconut Cream Pies. And don't forget to change into your bikini (I'll be wearing a one-piece with a substantial cover-up, for sure--that way I can eat more pie).

Little Coconut Cream Pies

Makes 6 small pies

Flaky Pie Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch chunks and frozen
3/4 cup solid vegetable shortening, frozen
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

Coconut Filling:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut milk (not cream of coconut)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 3/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut (toast 1/2 cup of it for 7-8 minutes in a 350 degree oven--this is for the garnish)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whipped Cream Topping:
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the dough:
1. Place the flour, sugar 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 6 tablespoons of the ice water and process until the mixture just starts to come together. (If the dough seems dry, add the remaining 2 tablespoons 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, divide it in half, and shape each half into a thick disk. Wrap the disks separately in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
Roll out the crusts:
3. Have ready six 5-inch pie pans (not tartlette pans). Lightly flour a large work surface. Allow the dough to soften at room temperature just until it is pliable (about 20 minutes). Place 1 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. Cut out 2 6 1/2-inch circles from the dough and press each circle into a pie pan. Trim the edges of the dough with scissors, leaving about 1/2 inch of overhang. Tuck the overhanging dough underneath itself, pressing it onto the rim of the pan. Flute the edge by pinching the dough from the outside in a V shape with your thumb and index finger while poking the center of the shape with the index finger of your other hand from the inside. Repeat with the remaining dough and pans, gathering up the scraps and rerolling them as necessary to make 6 pie crusts. If you like, brush the edges of the crust with an egg yolk whisked with a little water.

Bake the crusts:
4. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line each pie crust with a square of lightly buttered aluminum foil, buttered side down, covering the edge of the crust so that it doesn't get too brown. Fill the lined crust with pie weights, dried beans, or raw rice. Bake the pie crusts for 15 minutes. Remove the weights and foil. Prick the bottom of the crust well with a fork and bake the crust for another 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are golden and the bottoms are baked through. Cool the pie crusts on a wire rack.

Make the Coconut Filling:
5. In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt until well combined. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup of the coconut milk to form a smooth paste. Whisk in the remaining coconut milk and the whole milk. Place over medium heat and bring to a slow boil, whisking constantly. Remove the pan from the heat.
6. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Whisk about 1/2 cup of the hot coconut mixture into the yolks, then return the yolk mixture to the saucepan. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Continue to boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until very thick. Remove from the heat, scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the butter pieces until melted. Whisk in the vanilla and 1 1/4 cups of the untoasted coconut (reserve the remaining 1/2 cup toasted coconut for garnish). Divide the warm filling among the pie crusts and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of each pie filling. Refrigerate the pies for at least 4 hours, or until thoroughly chilled.

Make the Whipped Cream Topping:
7. In an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment or beaters, beat the cream on medium-low speed for 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and add the confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Beat until the cream forms stiff peaks.
8. Scrape the whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip. Pipe rosettes over the chilled pies and sprinkle with the reserved toasted coconut. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

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