A Passion for Food: Cuckoo for coconut cream pie

A Passion for Food: Sherrel Jones tweaks a recipe for coconut cream pie
BY SHERREL JONES, sherrel@justdelish.com Published: April 16, 2014

Easter is one of those occasions that calls for a great cream pie: lemon custard, banana cream or coconut cream, to name a few.

Before I got acquainted with champion pie baker Linda Hundt’s fabulous recipe for creamy coconut pie, I just made ours with a vanilla pudding base, a bit of coconut extract and a generous handful of coconut stirred together. Sometimes, I added a tablespoon of rum to whipped cream for the topping before sprinkling on a garnish of toasted coconut. It was pretty good pie.

Then I saw this recipe in Hundt’s new book “Sweetie-licious Pies,” with her motto “Eat Pie, Love Life.” Every pie in the book has a story attached. This one was made by Linda for a picnic date with her future husband, Johnny Hundt. (He says he made up his mind eating that pie. She has named the pie after him in the book.)

I used Hundt’s version but made a few adjustments, including a pastry crust and the Italian meringue my husband prefers. If you absolutely can’t get enough coconut, I recommend using a fabulous all-coconut crust. It is a recipe I have used for years and is perfect when I have a creamy filling that goes into a prebaked pie shell. The recipe came from my longtime friend Judy Atwood.

Atwood always put a strawberry and whipped cream filling in it, but I’ve also used it with banana cream pie and coconut cream pie. I’ve included recipes for Atwood’s Creamy Strawberry Pie filling and her Creative Coconut Crust in today’s section.

Johnny’s Creamy Coconut Cream Pie Filling

This luscious filling was on the memorable date menu of Sweetie-licious pie baker Linda Hundt’s picnic with her future husband. It is easy to see why this woman was a 16-time winner in the Crisco National Pie-Baking Championship.

11/3 cups from a (15-ounce) can of Cream of Coconut (the kind used as a drink mixer)

2 cups whole milk (or 13/4 cups low-fat milk with 1/4 cup cream)

4 egg yolks

1/4 cup cornstarch

Dash of salt

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup sweetened coconut

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

•Mix cream of coconut, milk, egg yolks, cornstarch and salt in a medium pan.

•Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly until thick.

•Remove from heat and add butter, coconut and extracts.

•Pour filling into a prebaked pie crust. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Sherrel’s cooking notes: Linda suggests making this pie with a Coconut Graham Cracker Crust. We liked it best with my favorite food processor pastry crust or my friend Judy Atwood’s amazingly easy coconut crust. Top with whipped cream and/or Italian meringue sprinkled with some crunchy fresh-toasted coconut. ... To toast coconut flakes, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread 1/3 to 1/2 cup coconut flakes on a baking sheet and toast 5 to 7 minutes until golden brown, stirring once during baking for even browning. The coconut becomes crunchy as it cools.

Sweetie-licious Coconut Graham Cracker Crust

1/2 cup crushed graham crackers

1/2 cup flaked coconut

1/4 cup sugar

Dash of salt

6 tablespoons butter, melted

•Combine the graham crackers, coconut, sugar and salt in a medium bowl with a fork until mixed completely. Add the melted butter and continue to mix until well blended.

•Pour into a lightly greased 9-inch pie dish and firmly press the mixture into the bottom and sides using the back of a1/4-cup measuring cup or tablespoon to form the crust.

•Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Source: Linda Hundt’s “Sweetie-licious Pies: Eat Pie, Love Life”

Judy Atwood’s Creative Coconut Crust

Try this one with coconut cream, chocolate, pineapple cream, banana cream or custard pies. It is easy and quick to make. Use this crust with fresh spring strawberries with her Creamy Strawberry Pie Filling or use your imagination to create your own combinations.

21/2 cups flaked coconut

1/2 cup melted butter

•Combine coconut and melted butter. Press into a 9-inch pie pan.

•Bake at 300 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown.

•Cool and add your favorite filling.

Source: Judy Atwood, of Oklahoma City

Judy Atwood’s Creamy Strawberry Pie Filling

2 pints fresh strawberries, thinly sliced to make 11/2 cups (reserve remaining berries)

3/4 cup sugar

1 envelope plain gelatin

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup cream, whipped

•Prepare strawberries and combine with sugar, tossing gently to coat and letting sugar dissolve.

•Soften gelatin in water. Stir over low heat until dissolved. Combine gelatin mixture with strawberries and lemon juice. Fold in whipped cream.

•Chill until mixture mounds when dropped from a spoon. Pour into cooled coconut crust. Let chill for at least 4 hours.

•Garnish with remaining strawberries as desired.

Source: Judy Atwood, of Oklahoma City

Sherrel’s Favorite Italian Meringue Pie Topping

This beautiful pie topping also works as a cake or pastry filling. It is perfect for Cream Horns, but we love it as a pie-topper. No additional baking is needed as the egg whites are cooked as they are blended with the hot syrup.

Makes 4 to 5 cups.

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

1/8 teaspoon cream of tarter

4 egg whites (1/2 cup)

1/4 cup sugar

•Combine sugar, water and cream of tartar in a one-quart heavy sauce pan. Bring to a boil over low heat, wiping the inside of the pan with a brush dipped in cold water. Stir in the beginning to help sugar dissolve. Skim any foam from top and keep sugar crystals off sides of pan with brush.

•When syrup begins to boil, begin whipping the egg whites on medium speed until they are white and opaque. Increase speed to maximum and whip in the 1/4 cup of sugar in a steady stream. Reduce speed to medium and continue whipping until the syrup reaches the soft ball stage (about 238 degrees).

•With the mixer running, pour the hot syrup in a slow steady stream down the side of the bowl. Continue whipping the meringue on medium speed until it is cool.

•Use the Italian Meringue immediately or put in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Source: Sherrel Jones

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