It just so happens that yesterday was National Coconut Creme Pie Day. (You may think I'm a little behind the eight-ball but let me explain.) This past weekend, I called my mama to ask for her famous coconut custard pie recipe. She then reminisced about where she found the original recipe, how she tried it & knew that she "could make it better". (I get that "Let's just add a lil' bitta that & see how it comes out" tactic from her!)
With the ingredients laid out before me two days ago, I began the sometimes clumsy choreography that accompanies the first go at a recipe.
"Now, where did I put that spoon I just took out?"
"Oh, I should have opened that bag before I got egg on my hands."
"Drat! I was supposed to mix that in a second bowl."
You get to know the flow as you go. Sure, you trip up along the way (like discovering that you didn't empty the oven before preheating it) but when all is said & done you take a bow & smile proudly through the oven window at the piece of work you've just created.
Sometimes your work garners a standing ovation. Other times all you hear are crickets because you threw out the pie when it didn't measure up to your standards. (I also get that "Nope! Sucks! It's garbage!" M.O. from my mom.)
Whatever the result may be, it doesn't take away the silky feeling of flour on your fingertips. The beautiful strewn about mess of measuring cups put to use. The lush baking aroma that finds its way to your nose no matter where you are in the house.
Now..are you ready to hear the results of my baking expedition? Because I can't wait to share this sheer ridiculousness with you. I'm so grateful that Mr. A witnessed these antics as it amplified the memory. (And I honestly think he falls in love with me all over again when I'm a quirky spaz. Win-Win!)
So! I bought a package of two pie crusts. I intended to make one for us as my practice run then another the next night for my chiropractor's birthday. My first attempt was like sticking the landing in a gymnastics routine. (Or in my case, like that feeling of watching someone stick a landing since I can't even do a cartwheel.)
Anywho, silly me didn't pause from my pie eating skills to actually photograph the first pie! So, there I was with half the pie gone & still murmuring "Sweet mercy!" with every bite that I took.
I brushed it off (because who can be stressed when consuming dessert?) & told myself, "No problem! I will just take a pic of the next pie!"
Cut to me this morning. The day after National Coconut Creme Pie Day. The pie for the doc had the perfect buttery golden crust & flecks of vanilla bean sprinkled throughout. But it was driving me nuts that I couldn't sample it before handing it over. Ask any baker... the lack of taste test will drive them bonkers.
When Mr. A could tell I was having a mental argument, he offered up the solution of tasting it & giving them slices rather than a whole pie (which would then have a bite taken out of it). This is why I love him.
I set off like a surgeon & precisely cut into the pie. What followed was a soundtrack of sad exclamations... Noooo! Drat! Oops! Oh, that looks awful! The crusts are breaking off! Think I could say that broke off in transit?? Why has no one invented a helpful pie serving utensil?!
Then came the worst yet....
Upon tasting, I realized I had slightly overcooked the pie. And with custard, slight is the difference between it tasting like dessert or like breakfast eggs.
So, naturally, you know what happened next. After popping off the perfectly cooked ring of crust (because it's like a cookie to me & it shall not be wasted!) I introduced the pie to the garbage can.
It was about 3 seconds later that I brought my hands up to my face a la Kevin McAllister in Home Alone & cried out "Ohh nooo!!!! I needed a picture of it for the blog!" Mr. A let out a laugh that I think he'd been suppressing since he saw me arguing with a pie.
So that is the story of how I arrived at my doctor pie-less & how I fished a pie out of the garbage to take this deceiving photo for you! (To add insult to a funny injury, when I threw out the pie for the second & final time, I accidentally tossed the pristine crust bits with it.)
My Mama's Coconut Custard Pie
9" deep dish frozen pie shell (we're not scratch-made pie crust makers)
Scraped seeds from 1 whole vanilla bean
¾ cup sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups cold 2% milk (I use Lactose-Free 2% & the pie sets up just the same)
2 tablespoons All Purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
4 tablespoons melted salted butter
1 cup flaked sweetened coconut
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. In a small bowl, smash the vanilla seeds into the sugar, distributing them evenly.
3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs a little bit.
4. Add the vanilla/sugar, milk, flour & butter to the egg & whisk.
4. Add the coconut & mix together.
5. Pour into the pie shell. (There will likely be extra liquid after you fill the pie shell*.)
6. Cook for 40-60 minutes. You're looking to achieve a light golden brown on the pie's surface & for it to jiggle a bit when you tap the pie pan. (Unlike how we feel about our thighs, jiggle is good here! Overcooking it makes it taste like scrambled eggs. Bleck!!)
7. Leave on the counter for 30 minutes to cool.
8. Lay a piece of saran wrap over the pie before chilling it overnight.
*I make coconut custard by putting any leftover liquid into a small oven safe dish & cooking it alongside the pie. It's done when it appears as described in Step 6. (Just remember that it's going to be done before the pie.) This recipe is trial & error as cook times vary on the various pie shells/oven temperament/etc. Enjoy the journey of learning to trust your instincts when it tells you the pie is done!
If you can't manage to find whole vanilla beans (I buy mine for a bargain at Cost Plus World Market), you can substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. But let me tell you... the fresh vanilla makes this recipe! Like man-o-man-o-witz does it make it gooooood!
One more thing...have a great day on purpose!