French Coconut Pie: Heaven in a Crust

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French Coconut Pie is currently tied with Shaker Lemon Pie as my favorite winter pie.

I’m a loyal pie guy. If you’re a pie or tart recipe and you do me right—that is, bake up nicely, remain flakey, speak to the sum of the parts, and taste like I’m dining on Cloud 9—I’ll be your best friend for life. I stand by my pie(s). That said, I have a recipe for a coconut pie, make that French coconut custard pie (or more tart in this case) that knocks the socks, shoes, broaches, and band-aids off any other coconut pie I’ve made before. And while most of those were really just gussied up coconut flavored whipped cream pies, this recipe is fully-baked and a top-page contender in any recipe file.

These simple ingredients soar when combined and baked in a crust.

Drawn to those three magic words, French, coconut and pie, I found the original recipe on the website, Taste of Home. I really didn’t change the recipe that much, just upgraded a couple ingredients which released the recipe from its earthbound status. I substituted fresh lemon juice for the vinegar (I mean, you clean windows with that stuff), added lemon zest, and substituted cream for milk. Oh yes, and I swapped out vanilla extract for almond extract. The result: Cloud 9 and step on it! Creamy and intensely flavorful with a rich, custardy structure, the pie is well-suited for baking in a tart pan. (Spreads the love.) A deep-dish pie pan may be too much of a good thing, though I’m willing to test it out in future bake-offs.

Too much pie dough for a tart pan? Nah, take a look at the next photo.

This pie beats the fronds off coconut cream pie (in humble opinion) for flavor, texture, creaminess and delectability. This pie recipe claims southern roots, dreamed up by New Orleans and Charleston cooks who created a delicious (and resourceful) tribute to the fresh coconuts arriving from French Guiana to their port cities. So as with most Southern dessert recipes, I recommend one steps away from the illusion of healthy eating with reduced sugar, skim milk and less butter. This recipe wants nothing to do with such adulterations, and will be a lesser pie for it. So buck up, follow the recipe (for the first time at least) and just serve yourself a thinner slice, should you be abiding to your New Year’s resolution. The coconut pie recipe follows.

COPY CODE SNIPPET
Fold the pie dough over toward the center of the tart pan, and press it down on itself to create a double-sided wall.
Coconut custard is right at home in a dough-lined pan.
Don’t overfill, as the custard will rise a bit. Added bonus: Any leftover filling goes in a ramekin for baking with the pie and sampling sooner than later.
Ready for some love’n from the oven.
A thin meringue protects the creamy, coconutty, custardy soul of the pie.
Okay, now I’m just showing off. (Some serious flaky crust going on here. )

French Coconut Custard Pie

Serves 8-12
Meal type Dessert
This pie beats the fronds off coconut cream pie, for flavor, texture and delectability. Next to Shaker Lemon Pie, it's my favorite winter pie. This pie has southern roots, created by New Orleans and Charleston cooks who found a delicious tribute to the fresh coconuts arriving from French Guiana to their port cities. Tom | Tall Clover Farm

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cream (don't skimp, use cream ;-))
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup butter (melted, cooled)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 Zest whole lemon
  • 1 cup flaked coconut (unsweetened preferred)
  • 1 pastry shell (unbaked)

Directions

Step 1
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, place baking sheet on middle shelf.
Start with beaten eggs, and add one ingredient and then mix until fully incorporated. Then add next ingredient until fully incorporated and so on.
Step 2
Once mixture is smooth and creamy (with lumps from coconut flakes), pour custard mixture into an unbaked pie or tart shell. Do not overfill, as the custard rises when baked.
Step 3
Place pie on middle shelf on the baking sheet.
Step 4
After 20 minutes, check for browning and rotate pie on the baking sheet to even out browning if need be. Bake another 20 minutes or until the custard filling has risen and is brown and firm.
Step 5
Feel free to ignore baking times as the pie tends to run on its own timeline. Just check it out every 10-15 minutes. It's ready to remove from the oven with the top is puffed up a bit, no jiggling in the middle and custard surface is a golden brown.

 

 

 

34 COMMENTS

  1. The photos of the different stages is wonderful. The end result just makes one feel like can taste the end product. Healthy coconut !!! Makes one want a second piece.

    Happy New Year from V and The Furry Gang to Tom, Buddy and any other creatures on your farm.

    • Hi Nancy, the eggs are greenish blue and fresh from the coop where I have an assortment of laying hens. These eggs are from my Cream Crested Legbars, an English chicken breed that lays blue/green eggs.

  2. Goodnight, nurse, this looks heavenly! I would bake one up, but I’m out of some ingredients and we are adrift in snow at the moment in the south (Hampton Roads VA) and the roads are not drivable. Anything more than a couple inches shuts us down and we already have about 6″ at the moment with no signs of stopping. I am staying warm sans coconut pie by reading your newer posts and revisiting some older ones. As a bully rescuer myself, I can read about Gracie, Boz, Buddy and your other bullies past and present more than once. I, too, had a rescued British Bully, Roscoe, with a propensity for snowmen. Wish Boz and Roscoe were here now to terrorize a snowman and make us laugh, but I bet they are partners in winter crime in doggy heaven. Thank you for your heartfelt and beautifully written blog that makes us hold closer things most dear to us whether it be rescue dogs, plants or pies.

  3. I was fortunate to be the recipient of a smaller version of this amazing pie and, being a coconut freak, I savored each and every bite and did not share one morsel with anyone. I believe it’s one of Tom’s best pies every, and that’s saying a lot if you know his way with crusts and fillings. Simply amazing!!

  4. Advice request from The Pie King of Vashon Island: My sweetheart is the Pie Man in our family. He makes an awesome flaky crust and normally fabulous fillings. I am sometimes allowed to decorate the tops. Our all-time favorite and absolute standby is cherry pie, which he makes with frozen pie cherries from our lovely Willamette Valley (Oregon) Fruit Company. Canned pie cherries are just lame-o, and fresh are not available except once in a blue moon, for about 6 minutes in early summer. Lately all efforts have produced a watery filling — despite the use of cornstarch and/or tapioca to cook up with the juices ahead of time. Tom, do you have any experience with cherry pies of this kind? Advice from you or other faithful readers?

    BTW I have just made my first-ever Clafoutis, and my loyalty to cherry pie may be wavering…….

    • First all of Kathy, step away from the Clafoutis and apologize to your pie. Hopefully it will forgive you for such a pronouncement. I have, so I’m sure it will in due time, in due time. Background: I have a continuing (and utterly irrational) row with a friend about the dessert worthiness of clafoutis, which in my mind is just another word for cherry omelet. If clafoutis was named grog-grog, no one would so much as look at the stuff. As you can tell, I revel in smearing the high and mighty cult following of clafoutis, a recipe that is resurrected each cherry season by every food blogger and cook show host as if the holy grail of summer desserts. I could see it maybe if I first ate the fruity pancake under a tree in an orchard in Brittany, while sipping on a Sauterne and playing backgammon with my new French friends, but I did not. I think I had clafoutis three or four times stateside before I publically admonished the little imposter. I could not see what the fuss was, and still don’t. Ah, that felt good. And now Kathy, please take no offense to and forgive me for this rambling, as you have had the good sense to fall for a sweetheart who makes pies. So you strayed, we all do now and then; all if forgiven. 😉

      • Oh Kathy, I forgot to talk about the star of the show: cherry pie. Here’s what I do when using frozen or fresh cherries because their skins know no boundaries in holding juice. Here’s everything I can think of that may help with a runny pie, make that runny cherry pie.

        1. After mixing cherries with filling ingredients, let it all sit at room temperature to draw out the juices.
        2. Mix well again, stirring to gain consistency in the mixture
        3. Heat mixture on stove top in sautee pan, stirring regularly until the mixture thickens, go low and slow. No high heat as the cherries will scorch and go a bit mushy. You don’t really want to cook the cherries, you just want to thicken the filling juices.
        4. Let it cool, refrigerate and then one last step before adding the mixture to the dough-lined pie pan.
        5. Rather than dotting the fruit with butter before placing a top crust over the whole kitten kaboodle, I melt the butter and then stir it into the filling mixture, which coats the cherries and also acts as a thickener when combined with the starches.
        6. When baking do not remove the pie from the oven until the fruit in the middle of the pie is bubbling.
        7. And the best thing you can do, is wait to eat the pie until it thoroughly cools to room temperature. If you serve it hot, it will always be runny. It’s basically like jam, runny when hot, thick when cool.
        8. Hope this helps Kathy!
          And thank you for that dreamy moniker “Pie King.”
          Cheers
          Tom

      • Tom, Tom, be not dismayed. Clafoutis will never replace pie in my affections! In the Pie or Cake? issue, I am firmly on the side of pie. Clafoutis is a mere trifle…. as is trifle, come to think of it. A bagatelle. A brief, aberrant diversion brought on by my confusion at the turn of the year.

        In my right mind, now, I wouldn’t equate clafoutis with ‘dessert’ in the first place. To me it is more of a sweet, slightly Frenchified version of Yorkshire Pudding or giant popover. Something to accompany real food, or with afternoon tea. Pie, on the other hand, can be a meal in itself, breakfast, lunch or dinner, as well as the final glory after a delicious dinner. Although I am not a huge fan of apple pie, I have to say one of my favorite impromptu breakfasts ever was a huge slice of apple pie with a big wedge of cheddar cheese, devoured on a bike tour with my sweetheart. We were staying at the old Log Cabin Inn in McKenzie Bridge, OR, (which sadly, burned down a few years later)(the inn, not the town), while on a four-day tandem bike tour. We were carless, and the Inn restaurant was not open for breakfast. We needed to get an early start, and didn’t have time to pedal down the road in search of a place to eat. So at dinner the night before, we ordered slices of pie and stashed them in their takeaway boxes on the windowsill in our room, open overnight to the cooling breezes (i.e. pouring rainfall) of the temperate rain forest of Cascadia. Yummo. Perfect breakfast!

        Thanks for your detailed offerings for improving the cherry pie. Normally The Pie Man heats the dethawed cherry juices in a saucepan with either cornstarch or tapioca, or both, separately, then adds them to the cherries in the pie crust. I don’t think he adds butter, but will suggest that.

        I did give the man a new pie pan — bright cherry red on the outside, white and with a recipe for cherry pie and crust on the inside — for his winter solstice birthday just last month. It must be time to fire it up and try another. Thanks for your suggestions! And I promise to be true to pie, Your Majesty.

        • Oh Kathy, what a fun read and great way to start off my Monday. Thank you for such a generous, compassionate reply to my fly-off-the-handle, clafoutis rant. I blame it on low blood sugar and no coffee in the house. Your patronage and partiality to pie speaks volumes of your character and good taste. 😉

  5. Have mercy on us, Tom! What will I do until I can get to the store, buy the ingredients I need, and bake this pie? Seriously, thank you for sharing so generously. Your recipes are always so clearly written and beautifully illustrated.

  6. YUM! I think I began my love affair with pie back in my childhood when my parents would take me to Remlinger Farms out in Carnation. We would cart back several take and bake Dutch Apple pies and though my tastes have matured to prefer double crust pies to crumb top, back then there were no sticks in the river of my enjoyment… imagine being hungry, no, starving and eating just pie until totally full and satisfied, with never a regretful thought in your head. That was the Saturday afternoons of my kidhood… but I digress! This coconut cream pie looks amazing!

    lol @ Colleen’s comment

    • Wow Forrest, that sounds like one delicious field trip. I haven’t been out to Carnation in years, but my Dad loved our visits there, most appreciative of their building-length freezer units of fruit pies. I believe we chose cherry and peach most of the time, but I agree they had (and have) one mean Dutch apple. There was a time when Remlinger Farms pie cherries were the gob-smacking bargain of $9.99 per three pound bag at our island grocery. Then, the powers that be realized the treasure they had and the next year their cherries were sold for $18.99 for two pounds. I have planted three sour cherry trees on the property to save myself from bankruptcy.

  7. Being a bit of a pie queen myself , I have to say that pie looks divine nestled in that exquisitely flaky crust .

    Tom are you using lard or shortening ?

  8. Ahhhh very nice Tom……. I have never done that combo. In my humble opinion there is nothing
    more disappointing than a too thick and tough crust to ruin an otherwise delicious filling.

    I’m looking forward to trying your recipe, it sure looks yummy in the above photo.
    I have to confess that a part of me is anxious to sub out the standard dairy cream with full fat coconut milk. I will make it both ways and let you know the verdict!

    I really enjoy your blog, it always inspires me.

    Thank you Tom

  9. OK, here’s another idea for you. My good friend Angie, who is both a LMT and a chef (fabulous combo: first she rubs you, then she cooks dinner) often greets me at the front door of her home/office with a taste of something new she has just cooked up. I know, right?
    A while back she bought herself an ice cream maker, I for several months I got weekly tastes of all kinds of yummy new flavors. Then one day she fed me coconut ice cream, and I swooned. She gave me the recipe, and it calls for something called Coco Lopez, which is labeled ‘Real Cream of Coconut’. Tom, this is some seriously good s—. I guess it’s used for making pina colada drinks, but it also makes killer coconut ice cream. And now I’m thinking…… hmmmm, French (Caribbean) Coconut Pie??? It is as unhealthful as can be, other than the coconut, containing vast amounts of sugar, polysorbate 60, sorbitan monostearate and other unpronounceables. But OMG I think it would push coconut pie to galactic heights of flavor……..

    • It’s a good one Shannon, just made one for a friend’s birthday party, and no crumbs or flakes left to speak of. And P.S. – love your clever cards!

  10. Tom – I’m making this tomorrow for Easter with Steve, Bridget and Ann:) I’ll take a photo and send it to you:) XOXOXOX

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