Coconut Pie

There’s nothing quite like homemade pie crust in the freezer. I still have a few crusts left over from the Pie Extravaganza, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I can make pie on a weeknight, throw something together for unexpected guests, and experiment with fillings to my heart’s content. And none of it involves chopping sticks of butter until my arms go numb.

Inspiration struck last night, and I made a coconut pie. I beat three eggs, stirred in a can of evaporated milk, poured in a goodly amount of brown sugar (a cup? I didn’t measure), several capfuls of vanilla extract (I’m guessing I put in about a tablespoon), and finished off the bag of shredded coconut in my cabinet (I think I used about one cup of coconut).

I microwaved one of my frozen disks of pie dough for a minute, smooshed it into a pan with my fingers, poured the filling in, and stuck it in the oven. I  baked the pie 375 until I could smell the pie from the living room and the crust had turned golden brown. I’d guess that I baked it for about 40 minutes, but I wasn’t paying that much attention to the .

The point is that, once you stock up on pie crusts, you can do pretty much everything wrong (use a microwave, don’t use measuring cups, use your hands as a rolling pin substitute, ignore the pie while it’s in the oven) and it will still be delicious. You really don’t have to do anything special – anything with that much butter and sugar will taste good no matter what you do to it.

If you’d like to stock your freezer with some flaky, delicious pastry, there’s a recipe after the jump.

All-butter crust:

3 cups all-purpose flour, chilled

1 teaspoon salt

14 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

7-8 tablespoons ice water

Mix the flour and salt together, and then add the butter. Cut the butter into the flour with a knife and fork. Keep going until the flour looks like gravel – there should be lots of tiny little lumps of butter, but no huge lumps. Stir in the ice water 1-2 tablespoons at a time, until the dough starts to hold together. And when I say “hold together,” I mean, “the dough holds together when you squeeze it into a ball,” not “the dough holds together all by itself.” It’s okay to add more water if you need to – just keep going until you can mold the dough into a ball or a disk. Last time I made pie crust I used about 20 tablespoons of water, which was a bit much even in my dry winter climate, so do try to restrain yourself a bit when you’re adding the water.

Divide the dough in half, and shape it into two disks. Wrap the disks in plastic and stick it in the fridge for half an hour. Roll out the crust. If you don’t have a rolling pin, don’t let that stop you. I don’t either, and my hands work just fine. Just squish the dough into a pan and do your best to flatten it.

Stick the crust in the pan if you haven’t already, put in the filling, then roll out the second dish and put it over the top. Pinch all the edges together and make it look pretty. Slash a few vents across the top of the crust to allow steam to escape and keep the pie from exploding.

Note: you can make the entire thing in a food processor and it will totally save you from carpal tunnel syndrome. Just pulse the flour and salt together, then the flour and butter together, then pulse in a tablespoon of water at a time.

Note: some pies don’t need a top crust. In that case, just wrap the extra disk in plastic wrap, put it in a ziploc bag, and stick it in the freezer. You can defrost it later for another pie.

Note: if you’d like a whole wheat crust, use half white flour and half whole wheat. It’s quite delicious.

Note: I recommend making several batches all at once and freezing most of it. Then you can have pie whenever you want – just let the pie thaw on the counter for a few hours or defrost it in the microwave. I put it in the microwave for a minute last night, and I think I could have taken it out at 40 seconds.

The pie crust recipe is from Pat Willard’s Pie Everyday, which is a really terrific book that I totally recommend buying. It provides really good troubleshooting advice when it comes to pie crust, and Pat is always quick to assure you that it will still taste good even if it looks like a mess. The directions here are my interpretation of Pat’s directions – I try to tell you what I actually do when I cook rather than presenting the platonic ideal of a recipe.

4 Responses to Coconut Pie

  1. I love coconut pie! Or coconut anything, really. My crowning baking achievement was the time that I baked a single-serving brownie from scratch, without a recipe, and IT WORKED. Like you said– enough butter and sugar and it’s hard to go wrong.

  2. localizing says:

    What did you do about eggs? Go vegan? I think that would be the hardest thing to figure out vis-a-vis a single-serving brownie. You can divide up the flour and sugar as much as you want, but dividing an egg in half might be more problematic.

  3. […] I’ve been doing a lot of improvisionational baking lately – see here, here, and here – and so I have been thinking about what makes a recipe work and how to make do when you’re […]

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