I daydream about Seattle more often than I'd like to admit.
What began as a quiet fascination with grunge rock and Pike Place fishmongers blossomed into a rich fantasy life spent kayaking on Puget Sound, foraging for wild blackberries, apprenticing with Armandino Batali and refining my signature latte art.
I should note: I’ve never been there. So when K. was assigned to the city on business, I prepared a short itinerary of food-related destinations for her to scout. (Salumi, Fran's Chocolates, Le Pichet, Quinn's, Cafe Lago, Poppy, How to Cook a Wolf, Matt's in the Market… okay, it was a rather exhaustive itinerary.)
Though, by admission, her reconnaissance was a little lacking (the aforementioned business was to blame), my efforts were rewarded with a box of Fran’s gray salt caramels and a very thorough report on Tom Douglas’s triple coconut cream pie.
As one might expect given the pie’s wide accolades, the report was glowing. So glowing in fact, that K. gamely agreed to recreate the recipe when I saw her last weekend. And, while I can’t speak to the original, this homespun version didn’t disappoint. The pie is a coconut triple threat: coconut crust, coconut pastry cream, and a generous stratum of whipped cream with coconut shavings. Even A. (aka Serious Turtle) enjoyed the combination, in spite of its “numerous faux pas.” (Like what? “First, it’s coconut,” he said.)
There were some quibbles regarding the amount of whipped cream prescribed by the recipe (copious, and we didn’t even use the full amount), but halfway through my second piece I pronounced it “perfect in every way.”
Triple Coconut Cream Pie
Adapted from Tom Douglas's Seattle Kitchen, by Tom Douglas
Makes one 9-inch pie
For the coconut pastry cream:
2 cups milk
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
For the pie:
One 9-inch Coconut Pie Shell (recipe below), prebaked and cooled
2 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the garnish:
2 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) unsweetened “chip” or large-shred coconut or sweetened shredded coconut
4-6 ounces good-quality white chocolate (to make 2 ounces of curls)
1. To make the pastry cream, combine the milk and coconut in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add both the seeds and pod to the milk mixture. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and stir occasionally until the mixture almost comes to a boil.
2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and flour until well combined. Temper the eggs (to keep them from scrambling) by pouring a small amount (about 1/3 cup) of the scalded milk into the egg mixture while whisking. Then add the warmed egg mixture to the saucepan of milk and coconut. Whisk over medium-high heat until the pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until the mixture is very thick, 4 to 5 minutes more. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the butter and whisk until it melts. Remove and discard the vanilla pod. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and place it over a bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally until it is cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a crust from forming and refrigerate until completely cold. The pastry cream will thicken as it cools. [The coconut pastry cream can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap as described above.]
3. When the pastry cream is cold, fill the prebaked pie shell with it, smoothing the surface. In an electric mixer with the whisk, whip the heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla on medium speed. Gradually increase the speed to high and whip to peaks that are firm enough to hold their shape. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the whipped cream and pipe it all over the surface of the pie, or spoon it over. [If not serving immediately, keep the pie refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap. The finished pie should be consumed within a day.]
4. For the garnish, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the coconut chips on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, stirring once or twice, until lightly browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Use a vegetable peeler to scrape about 2 ounces of the white chocolate into curls. Decorate the pie with white chocolate curls and the toasted coconut.
Coconut Pie Crust
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup ice water, or more as needed
In a food processor, combine the flour, coconut, diced butter, sugar, and salt. Pulse to form course crumbs. Gradually add the water while pulsing. Use only as much water as needed for the dough to hold together when gently pressed between your fingers. You don’t want to work the dough with your hands; you just want to make sure the dough is holding. The dough will be quite loose.
Place a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the coconut dough on top. Pull the edges of the wrap around the dough, forming a rough flat round. Chill for 30 minutes to an hour before rolling. [The dough can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, or in the freezer for a few weeks.]
Once chilled, unwrap the dough and place onto a lightly floured surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 1/8-inch thick circle. Add more flour if the round sticks to the surface. Trim to a 12- to 13-inch circle.
Transfer dough to a 9-inch pie plate. Ease the dough into the plate. Take care to not stretch the dough as it will shrink during baking. Trim any excess dough to a 1- to 1 1/2-inch overhang. Turn the dough under the edge of the pie plate and flute the edge with your finger. Chill at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a sheet of foil or parchment paper in the pie shell and fill with pie weights to prevent bubbling. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until golden. Remove the pie weights and foil and continue to bake another 10 to 12 minutes, or until the bottom of the crust has golden brown patches. Allow to cool before filling.