Monday, March 30, 2015

Mom's Coconut Custard Meringue Pie

The combination of a smooth and creamy custard and sweet coconut is what I call incredible!  Then top it with a light fluffy meringue....oh my! I loved this pie when I was little and my Mom could make meringue that stood up so tall! She taught me all the tricks to making "mile-high" meringue. I will share them with you at the end of the recipe.

My Mom's Coconut Custard Meringue Pie

Pie Shell:

1 1/3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, chilled, cut in small cubes or slices
1/4 cup Shortening (I use Crisco)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons ice water


1 1/4 cup of sweetened flaked coconut, divided
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 cups of whole milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons of butter at room temperature
1 teaspoons of vanilla extract


1/2 cup water
1 cup super fine sugar
4 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Crust: In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Cut in the butter, lard and zest until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle the ice water and toss with a fork to blend. Gather the dough into a ball. If excess flour remains, add a few drops more ice water. Shape into a disk and wrap in plastic. Chill for 1 hour in refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pastry into a 12 inch circle. Fit into a 9 inch pie pan and fold edge under. Then line the pastry shell with a sheet of foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Set pie pan on baking sheet and bake 10 minutes. Remove weights and foil and bake another 5 minutes until bottom firm and light golden, Cool on a rack. I usually brush my crust with an egg white and a little water before baking to keep it from getting soggy.

Filling: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Then spread 3/4 cup of the coconut on a baking sheet and then place your baking sheet in the oven and bake your coconut for 5 minutes or until its golden brown. You will need to stir your coconut around occasionally. When done, transfer your toasted coconut to a plate and let it cool a bit.

To make the custard, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, salt and milk until smooth in a heavy large saucepan. Cook and stir the mixture over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly. You will then want to reduce the heat and cook while stirring for 2 minutes longer. Remove the saucepan from the heat and then stir in a small amount of hot mixture into a bowl that you have beaten your eggs in. This is called tempering the eggs and you do it so that you don’t create scrambled eggs in your mixture. Once the eggs are tempered add in your egg mixture to the saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Your next step is to remove the saucepan from the heat and then gently stir in your toasted coconut, butter and vanilla extract. After your custard has cooled slightly you will want to pour your custard into the pie shell that you have already baked. Set your pie aside to cool while you make your meringue topping.

Meringue: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine water and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to vigorous boil over medium-high heat. Once syrup comes to rolling boil, cook 4 minutes (mixture will become slightly thickened and syrupy). Remove from heat and set aside.

With electric mixer, beat egg whites in large bowl at medium-low speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Add salt and cream of tartar and beat, gradually increasing speed to medium-high, until whites hold soft peaks, about 2 minutes. With mixer running, slowly pour hot syrup into egg whites. Add vanilla and beat until meringue has cooled and becomes very thick and shiny, 5 to 9 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, mound meringue over filling, making sure meringue touches edges of crust. That's an important step so that meringue does not begin to shrink and pull away from crust, leaving a gap.

Use spatula to create peaks all over meringue and sprinkle with the toasted coconut. Place the pie into your preheated oven and bake at 325 degrees or until the meringue is golden brown. This should take 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it to make sure that the coconut you sprinkled on top doesn't burn. Then cool on a wire rack to room temperature. YUM!

Tips for making the perfect tall meringue.....

Always make sure your bowl and beaters are free of any grease or oil. The tiniest speck of oil causes great volume loss.

Always use eggs that are a few days old and make sure they are at room temperature before you use them. If you have to start with cold eggs, put them in a bowl of warm water to bring their temperature.

Don’t use your hands to separate the egg yolk from the whites. I know its the most convenient way for most of us, but oil can wreck a good meringue too! Just use the shells, transferring the yolk back and forth between the two and letting the whites fall into one bowl and the yolks into another.

Use glass or metal bowls and keep your hands out of the bowls and away from any surface that would touch the egg whites. You want no oil whatsoever. Plastic bowls often retain oils from foods and the slightest oil from your hands will not help your meringue.

Add the sugar after the whites have reached the soft peak stage when they're fluffy and when you lift the beater the peaks fold over the beater edge). Superfine sugar works the best when making meringues. (Don’t worry if you don't have this in the pantry because you can make your own using your food processor or blender by pulsing your sugar a few times to break the crystals up into smaller ones).

Your meringue is done when you lift the beater out and the whites stand at attention! Don't stop and take a break during the beating process, start it and work it through and you'll have the perfect mile high meringue for your pies!

By the way, don't put a meringue pie in the refrigerator. Store at room temp under a glass or metal bowl. If you store in the fridge, you'll have leaky, weepy meringue. Enjoy!

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