Cream pies, more than any other, seem to scream “comfort food” – even if you (like me) generally tend to prefer fruit pies, like apple. They’re not merely satisfying, but they’re so indulgent that you have to set aside any concerns about overly decadent desserts to fully enjoy the smooth, rich custard and fluffy whipped cream of the pies. Perhaps it’s comforting to not have – or to ignore – these worries while you eat. Perhaps the pies just taste so good that it doesn’t matter.
In the case of this coconut cream pie, I tend to think it’s the latter reason.
This pie has a rich coconut flavor in a silky smooth custard. The custard is made with a combination of half and half and coconut milk, cooked on the stove and thickened with flour. The coconut milk imparts a mild coconut flavor and a lot of richness. Most of the coconut flavor comes from the shredded coconut in the filling, which I opted to finely chop before adding to maximize the amount of coconut in each bite. Finely chopping the coconut also allowed the pie to be cut into very neat slices because there were no large pieces of coconut to snag the blade of the knife on. If you want to increase the coconut flavor even more, add a bit of coconut extract to the custard along with the vanilla.
If you’re not familiar with making cream pies, I can assure you that this one is very easy to make. The filling cooks up in just a few minutes on the stove and once it has been prepared, all you have to do is wait for it to cool and set before serving. You can use a homemade pie crust, baked in advance and cooled, but a store-bought crust works well here, too. I actually quite like a graham cracker crust with this pie, as the crunchy crumbs add a nice contrast to the creamy filling.
Coconut Cream Pie
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half & half/light cream
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (I used light; regular is fine)
1 1/4 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 9- or 10-inch pie shell, baked and cooled
In a large saucepan, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Whisk in eggs, half & half and coconut milk until very smooth. If mixture is not completely smooth, strain through a mesh sieve before turning on the heat.
Heat mixture over medium heat, whisking frequently, until custard comes to a boil and is thick. Whisking should prevent any lumps from forming in the custard. You should be able to see the impressions from a whisk or spoon briefly hold their shape in the custard when it is done (about 1 minute after custard comes to a boil). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract and coconut. Pour into prebaked and cooled pie shell and refrigerate until chilled – at least 4 hours, or overnight.
When filling is chilled, prepare sweetened whipped cream and spread on top of pie.
Makes 1 pie; Serves 8-10.
Sweetened Whipped Cream
1 1/4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup shredded coconut, lightly toasted
To toast coconut, place in a dry skillet and cook on medium-high heat for about 3-5 minutes, until light gold. Cool.
In a medium bowl, beat whipped cream, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla to stiff peaks. Spread onto chilled pie and sprinkle with shredded coconut.
Chill until ready to serve.