Grandma Lou’s Coconut Cream Pie

I just realized last night that I’ve been making this pie for more than half my life. I made it the first time for Josh’s birthday in 2000, and have been faithfully making it ever since because it’s his FAVORITE. I make it for every January 30th, and I even made it for everyone at our wedding’s rehearsal dinner (because I was a pill and refused to let it be the “groom’s cake” at our wedding reception… 19 year olds can be so rude). Occasionally it pops up on Father’s Day.

I think it’s safe to say that I pretty much used food as an entry point to seeing Josh from the moment I decided I was going to marry him. Since my deciding to marry him preceded his noticing me, countless batches of cookies had to be baked to lure him to my house to play Scrabble or “help” me with my homework. I’ve pretty much decided that making food is my love language, so obviously food is an important part of our relationship. This pie recipe is from Josh’s Grandma Lou. For the first several years that I made it for him, I did it with a homemade graham cracker crust that he {apparently} didn’t even like. Then I started making it with a sweet pie dough that he {apparently} didn’t even like. Finally we got to regular pie dough and I {at long last} have doing it right for maybe six years or so.

Now, this year, the traditional pie had to see some changes thanks to the banishment of gluten and {most} dairy from our household. But I am happy to report that the birthday boy loved his pie! So let’s walk right through this conglomeration of four recipes from three different sources that ends up in one fabulous coconut cream pie.

Please ignore my teenaged spelling error. And can we just chat about how we say “fridge” but that’s not even a part of the word “refrigerator”? English makes zero sense, my friends.

Okay, so the yellow card is the original recipe. I wrote this out when I was a teenager. The note about the meringue was added at some point because I kept forgetting where to find the meringue recipe and as a result, made a few mis-steps in the early years like the time I tried to make a buttercream meringue and it melted everywhere and it was a complete debacle and I was really embarrassed about it. It’s good to make notes. Helps everybody.

Before you can make this yummy filling, you need to make a crust. I use the recipe for Flaky Pie Dough from Nick Malgieri’s “How to Bake.” This encyclopedia of baking was a gift from my grandmother in 1995 or 1996. So many yummy things in there, you absolutely can’t go wrong.

For a one-crust pie:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

2-3 tablespoons cold water

I make mine in my food processor with the dough blade. Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl, pulse to combine, then add the butter a tablespoon at a time until it’s all fine and powdery, looking a bit like cornmeal. Then add your cold water a little at a time until the dough holds together and forms a ball. You might not need all of it. Refrigerate it for at least an hour before rolling it out and baking it blind (350 degrees for 20 minutes). Let it cool before adding your filling.

To make this recipe fit our dietary restrictions, I subbed almond milk and used the gluten-free all-purpose flour blend from Silvana’s Kitchen. I am eternally grateful to my friend Kimberly for introducing me to Silvana! This flour blend has been so incredibly helpful around here, I cannot even tell you all the ways I have used it. I’m here to tell you that the blends at the store DO NOT WORK. But this does. Trust me. Just do it. You will sub it measure for measure. Simple as that. And you have gluten-free crust! YAY!

Okay, filling time! Do exactly what it says on the yellow card in the picture, I’m not typing it for you so don’t even ask. Let it cool a bit before you put it in your cooled crust.

Now on to the meringue!!! I’ve learned some tricks that I’m going to share with you so your meringue will always. be. awesome. Come along, grasshopper.

1.) Warm egg whites with completely dissolved sugar are imperative! Achieve this with a double boiler. Get a saucepan and some water (like an inch will do it) and bring it to a simmer. You can put your 4 egg whites and 2/3 cup of sugar in a double boiler or directly into you mixer bowl if it will sit nicely on your simmering pot of water. Whisk! Whisk whisk whisk! You want all the sugar to dissolve. Be patient. I know it’s hard but it will pay off.

2.) Once your sugar is all dissolved, switch to your stand mixer with a whisk attachment and turn that baby on HIGH. This is not a time to wander off or get distracted. Focus, my friend. If you’ve done a good job warming those egg whites and dissolving all the sugar, it will only take a few minutes to get the peaks you want. What does that look like? See below.

This is perfection, people. PERFECTION. No more whisking required, throw that on yo pie!

When you’ve got your meringue ready, spread it over your pie. You can bake it as is, or you can take the back of your spoon and make some peaks. Makes the browning more fun to look at, not really a requirement. You do you. Put into a 400 degree oven and watch for the browning that you like. It might take 5 minutes, it might take 10.

This took a mere 5 minutes. Ignore the ugliness of the crust. It was delicious, looks mean nothing.

Well, there you go. You now know all my Coconut Cream Pie secrets. Go forth, and make delicious pie.

~ Aly D

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