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Life Of (An Actual) Pie: I Tried Baking My Very First Coconut Cream Pie Using This Super Simple Recipe

Try my recipe, and join my undercover army of pod-pieple! We are pie! I mean, uh, you should try some of this really good — totally normal — pie. No presh.

Sarah Burns · about 1 month ago

  • cooking

I’m more a cook than a baker, but this Pie Day, so I decided to challenge myself and attempt to make my first-ever coconut cream pie! 

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I am pie. And this is my story.

I pored over filling recipes and dove headfirst into comment sections on the lookout for helpful hints and pro-tips. Inspired by grandiose “Great British Bake Off” fantasies, I went so far as to write my own recipe, knowing in my heart that Paul Hollywood would appreciate my risk-taking. I also figured the worst that could possibly happen is I’d make comically inedible pie. For the sake of adventure and culinary experimentation, that was a risk I was willing to take.

Did I mention this filling recipe is also gluten-free? I used rice flour as a thickening agent, which also adds a bit of flavor, and sweetness. Aside from the pie actually setting, it only took about an hour to pull together and clean up!

Granulated Sugar

Kroger® Iodized Salt

Bob's Red Mill White Rice Flour

Bob's Red Mill Shredded Unsweetened Coconut

Large Eggs

Thai Kitchen Unsweetened Coconut Cream

Homestead Creamery Whole Milk

Unsalted Butter, Softened

Pure Vanilla Extract

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We are ingredients, but also something more … we are potential. But potential for what?

Here’s what to do:

  1. 1.

    Beat egg yolks together.

  2. 2.

    Mix salt, sugar, and rice flour in a saucepan.

  3. 3.

    Stir in whole milk and coconut cream.

  4. 4.

    Set the mixture on the stove over medium heat, stirring frequently until thickened.

  5. 5.

    Temper the eggs.

  6. 6.

    Add egg mixture; bring to a near boil before turning the heat down to low.

  7. 7.

    Cook for about three more minutes, or until you can dip in a wooden spoon and remove it completely coated in custard.

  8. 8.

    Remove from heat; stir in butter, vanilla, and 1 cup of shredded coconut.

  9. 9.

    Pour into pie pan.

  10. 10.

    Top with remaining coconut.

  11. 11.

    Refrigerate for at least five hours.

  12. 12.

    Top with whipped cream, and serve!

I’m not a super patient person, and step four took almost 10 minutes for me — but hang in there! Keep stirring, and when the bubbles start bursting in thick “plops,” you’re ready to turn the heat down to medium and temper your eggs, which is a fancy baking way of saying you need to add a little of your hot custard mix at a time to slowly heat up your yolks, or you’ll end up with chunks of sweetened scrambled eggs instead of a creamy, delicious pie filling. 

Pro-tip: Use a ladle to gradually add about a cup of the mixture to the eggs, stirring so the yolks heat evenly, before adding them to the saucepan. 

And here’s where I kinda messed up, but you won’t: I wanted toasted, crispy coconut for the top of my pie, and like a total newb, I sprinkled the remaining coconut on top of the pie and put the whole thing in an oven preheated to 360 degrees. What I should have done is lay the coconut on a baking sheet and let it crisp up in the oven that way, instead of on the pie itself. While my method worked kinda-sorta, it would have been more efficient if I’d done it the right way — a cream pie like this isn’t really meant to go in the oven. Live and learn! It’s not like anything terrible happened.

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It’s so toasty in here, my coconut shreds are starting to curl. Come to think of it, I’m not quite sure where “here” is, or how I arrived. I remember some things; memories flash quickly through my bubbling insides, disjointed images folded into a forgotten dream. I remember being cold, with a hard shell, but also being soft and greasy — and somehow, also dry; powdery, even. I remember a sound like a shell cracking, and I suddenly felt all mixed up, but somehow more complete.

Oh, and the crust! I completely forgot to mention the crust. You can honestly use any old pie crust, even store bought. You just have to blind bake it first, since the custard pie filling is cooked on the stovetop, and these types of pies aren’t really supposed to go in the oven.

I made mine from scratch of course — my grandmother’s tried and true recipe — but swapped out the regular flour for a gluten-free mix. 

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“Baked from scratch,” she says; deep down in my crust, I know the cold truth.

After you’ve topped your pie with the remaining coconut, it’s time to let it chill out in the refrigerator to set. Cover with some plastic wrap to avoid a weird skin over the top. I also used foil to help protect the edges of the crust from getting damaged. 

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I think I look pretty dapper in my foil hat and matching foil pan. This isn’t so bad; my neighbor in the box next door does nothing but wine, but the air here isn’t unpleasantly cool, and it’s a vast relief from the searing heat I’d previously known. I hear it’s crisper down below, which if I understand correctly, is where vegetables go to live out their days in peace until they’re released back to wild.

Give the pie about five hours to set and cool completely. 

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I’m not really sure how long I’ve been sitting here. Days? Weeks? My concept of time is as non-existent as my concept of self or place. I am sure of one thing. I am Pie.

Top with whipped cream. I used the canned stuff and made little rosettes all over the top, but here’s a great whipped cream recipe if you really want to go all out. Get creative with it! Try adding fresh berries, flavor your whipped cream with almond or vanilla extract, or add some lime to the coconut and mix it all up. You could even switch it up with a homemade graham cracker crust! The pie-sobilities are endless!

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My foil hat was tossed unceremoniously aside, and I’ve been adorned, neatly, with whipped topping. Is it technically part of me now? Am I it? No, no, I cannot be it. I am more substantial than a mere topping; I am Pie. I feel a newfound strength of purpose and being with this insight.

I was also pretty excited to use my new pie server; its sharpened edge easily glides through filling and crust, and it’s an easy way to measure out the perfect-sized slice.

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Things have taken an ominous turn.

One of the top comment-section complaints I found in recipe after recipe was pies didn’t set up correctly, or at all — so I’m really happy to report this set up nicely all the way through, though it did fall apart a bit on the plate. 

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I am looking back at myself. It’s a strange feeling; I am here, yet there. WE are Pie.

My plan was to cover the pie loosely with foil, and pop it back in the refrigerator, but it didn’t last very long! The cool combo of creamy custard and the crunch of coconut flakes was so irresistible, I devoured two slices right away, which as a legal adult, I’m allowed to say was for dinner.

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If only there were some sort of visual aid, like a graph or chart, to demonstrate how much this ordeal has taken out of me.

At this point, I figured I might as well have some for dessert too, since that was its original purpose. As a dinner, it was probably a little sweet, probably wouldn’t recommend; but as a dessert, it was absolutely perfect, 10 outta 10. 

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More depleted with each passing moment, but my spirit and resolve remain strong.

I’m so full of pie, but there’s one slice left. It’s calling out to me. 

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It’s very lonely being the only piece left. Are you REALLY just going to put away ONE slice? Take up all that room in the fridge?

So I did the only thing I could do, and finished what I started. I feel so full of pie, I might actually be more pie than human. I think I’ll start another pie. In fact, I think I’ll start them all. Key lime, sweet potato, pumpkin, and no they are not basically the same thing, thank you very much! Pizza pies, chicken pot pies, minced meat pies — this is Pie day after all — MY day. I’m not really sure how long I’ve been sitting here, but I’m sure of one thing; I am Pie.