I once heard Grandma Kay tell the story of the very first pie she made, back when she was in high school. Her older sister tasted it and said, “this is pretty good but the bottom crust is too thick.” I think Grandma Kay has spent the last 60-plus years making up for this apparent error, because I have never tasted a one of her pies that was not perfect. And I have tasted a lot of them.
If your church needs to raise some money to build a new fellowship hall, Kay will have 3 apple pies ready for the bake sale. If you’re celebrating a birthday or a special accomplishment, you might be lucky enough to have a most-coveted black raspberry pie made for you. Or maybe you’ll luck out and stop by her house on a random Tuesday and there will be a custard pie, that pinnacle of comfort foods, waiting for you just because she was pretty sure you’d be coming to visit.
This week was Grandma Kay’s 82nd birthday, and it would have been wrong to celebrate it with anything except pie. Our family has been so spoiled by Kay’s pies that we don’t like to share them very much. Once, when my sister Kaly merited one of Grandma’s raspberry pies to celebrate her qualifying for the high school State Track Meet, Kaly put a sign on the pie that said DO NOT EAT written with a fat red Sharpie. So I made two coconut cream pies from my much loved recipe from another one of my much loved Grandmas (whose pies I wrote about here). Two pies = leftover pie with a big cup of black coffee for breakfast = life doesn’t get much sweeter.
Coconut Cream Pie
For the crust:
1 1/4 c flour
2 t sugar
1/2 t salt
1 stick (8 T) butter, thoroughly chilled
1/4-1/3 c very cold water
Cut the butter into small cubes and place in a medium sized mixing bowl. Mix in flour, sugar, and salt, and use a pastry cutter or a fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. You want to end up with a mixture in which the butter is in pieces about the size of oatmeal flecks and thoroughly mixed with the dry ingredients. This is the stage when most of the mixing happens and you will barely mix the dough once you add the liquid (that’s what makes for a flaky crust). When you’re ready to add the water, start with 1/4 c and drizzle it over the butter/flour mix. Use your hands or a smooth the mix and gather everything in a ball. Add just enough water to make everything stick together. Knead the dough just a few times.
At this point, if the dough feels soft to you, stick it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up. If it doesn’t feel soft, turn it out onto a well-floured countertop to roll it out. Be sure to add sprinkles of flour as you roll to keep the dough from sticking to the counter or your rolling pin. Roll the dough into a circle with a 12″ circumference and then transfer it to a 8″ pie pan. Crimp the edges. Poke holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork to prevent it from bubbling up when you bake it. Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until just starting to turn golden. Cool before adding the filling.
For the filling (read my previous post about Grandma Nette to explain the strange fractions going on in this recipe!)
2/3 c sugar
2/3 t salt
2 2/3 T cornstarch
1 1/3 T flour
2 2/3 c whole milk
3 egg yolks
1 T butter
1 1/3 tsp vanilla
2/3 c coconut flakes
Mix salt, sugar, cornstarch, and flour in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for two minutes, stirring constantly. The mixture should be thickened by this point. Stir half of the hot milk mixture over the slightly beaten egg yolks. Return to pan and cook over medium heat for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and add butter, vanilla, and coconut. Cool slightly and then pour into your prepared pie crust. Finish with meringue or whipped cream. Chill thoroughly before serving.