Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Coconut Christmas

Are you guys ready to read more about things I baked 9 million years ago? Excellent!

In December I was agonizing over what to get Joe's family for Christmas/Hanukkah/Christmaskah. At the same time I was mulling over what to make for my mom's nontraditional Christmas dinner. I was considering making a coconut cream pie for the dinner and randomly asked Joe if his dad happened to like coconut cream pie. "Oh, coconut cream pie? That's one of his favorites!" A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE. OR HANUKKAH MIRACLE. INTER-RELIGIOUS MIRACLE.

So I revised my plans and decided to make two coconut cream pies. I eventually decided upon a coconut cream pie recipe by Emeril that used coconut milk in addition to shredded coconut to make the coconuty pie filling. Extra coconuty goodness? Yes please.

I was hesitant to make my own pie crusts, as my making pie crusts highly correlates with an emotional breakdown. But I did it anyway! Because what is better is more appropriate during the holidays than a nice, long nervous breakdown?

Best Ever Coconut Cream Pie from


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flaked, unsweetened coconut
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 (9-inch) baked pie shell, recipe follows
  • 1/3 cup toasted coconut
  • Whipped cream, for garnish


In a nonstick 1-quart saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar, coconut milk, and 1 cup milk. Scald mixture.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup milk and cornstarch together to make a slurry. Whisk egg yolks with salt in medium bowl. Temper yolks by adding 1/2 cup scaled milk mixture to yolks and whisk well. Add yolk mixture and slurry back into milk mixture and whisk vigorously over medium heat until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add coconut, vanilla, and butter. Whisk until uniformly incorporated.

Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell. Cover the pie with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Chill the pie completely, about 2 hours.

To serve, top with toasted coconut and a dollop of whipped cream.

Pie shell:

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup solid vegetable shortening

6 to 7 tablespoons ice cold water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Mix well. Add the shortening and mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water and let sit 1 minute. Either using a fork or your hands, carefully press the mixture together to form a soft ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter and 1/4-inch thick. Gently fold the circle of dough in half and then in half again so that you can lift it without tearing it, and unfold into a 9-inch by 2-inch deep-dish pie pan. Crimp the edges and chill again for 30 minutes before baking.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake pie shell until golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely before using.


But I actually had the easiest time with this pie crust. I think a large part of this was because my mom doesn't own a large food processor, which I normally use to make pie crusts, and I was forced to do it by hand. Maybe this prevented me from over mixing the dough or something? Whatever it was, I did not want to kill somebody when I was finished. The crust was in no way attractive but everybody in the immediate family survived so I considered that a success.

Another bonus to making pie on Christmas was that the oven was on for hours and hours, which is quite useful when your mom's heaters decide to fail in the depths of the Alaskan winter. I came home from school and thought, "We have no heat and our vicious dog is attempting to eat the neighbors? What is this, a Charles Dickens novel?"

Because everything I touch magically doubles, I somehow came out with way too much of the coconut filling, I probably had enough to fill like three pies. Huh. I had no choice but to leave the remainder in mom's fridge where it would taunt her silently. Haha. Mu haha. MWA HAHAHA.

Anyway. I was pleased with how this turned out, I think the coconut milk made it especially good. Even though my pie crust skillz are quite as good as I would like them to be, the crust still tasted good. But really, in pies like these its all about the filling, baby. And it was quite good.

Next up: something that I actually made THIS MONTH. I know, crazy right?! Its almost like I try to keep a blog about baking!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sticky toffee pudding. I mean cake. I mean pudding.

So umm, wanna talk about Christmas? Good. Because that is when I last took pictures of baked goods. I am the world's greatest blogger! Good thing I'm not a parent, the kids would be all, "Hey mom, can I have breakfast?" and I'd be like yeah sure! ... and then I would get distracted and forget about it for two months.

My family had its big ol' Christmas dinner on Christmas eve and I was recruited to make dessert. I wanted to make something new but couldn't decide what to make. Joe suggested sticky toffee pudding which sounded perfect and sorta festive.

I've been to England a couple time now and was pretty familiar with sticky toffee pudding. My dad took my brother and I on a trip to England and Germany when I was 14 and I quickly learned that British cooking is... how do you say... atrocious. After several meals I settled on living on baked potatoes as that was the one thing even the English couldn't manipulate to taste like shoes.

British desserts fared a lot better, though maybe only because I was blinded by sugar. But British desserts were puzzling. I was very confused the first time I ordered a sticky toffee pudding and was served a gooey cake, not pudding. Were the English so deranged that they did not know that pudding was supposed to be, well, pudding? They had obviously ruined this pudding as it was quite solid. And so I learned that pudding basically indicates a dessert, not necessarily an actual pudding of the jelloid variety.

Apparently other Americans are not familiar with this phenomenon either, as I encountered while looking for a recipe for sticky toffee pudding. One confused American wrote, "Should this be refrigerated since its a pudding?" If it looks like a cake, tastes like a cake and walks like a cake (in that it does not walk at all) its a cake, lady. No refrigeration necessary.

Another popular British pudding I tried was spotted dick, a dessert I delighted in ordering because it mortified my little brother. Piers was around 10 at the time and the uttering of 'spotted dick' sent him into a blind panic. He would wail, "Stop SAYING that!" and my dad and I would say, "What, Piers? You don't want us to say SPOTTED DICK? Whats wrong with SPOTTED DICK, eh? Don't you want to eat some SPOTTED DICK?" And then we would laugh and laugh and Piers would say something about wanting to go home. I'm not sure, I wasn't really listening.

Sticky Toffee Pudding from


  • 12 ounces dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) softened, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Butterscotch sauce, recipe follows:
  • 2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon brandy
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with parchment or waxed paper.

Combine the dates and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and gradually stir in the baking soda (it will foam up), and set aside.

In a bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. In the bowl of a mixer, cream the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar to the butter, and cream until fluffy. Without stopping the mixer, add 2 of the eggs and mix until combined. Add the remaining 2 eggs and vanilla and mix until combined. Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture and 1/3 of the dates and mix until combined. Repeat until all the flour mixture and the dates are incorporated into the batter. Pour into the baking pan and bake about 40 minutes, until firm and set in the center. Let cool in the pan. When cool, turn out of the pan onto a baking sheet and peel off the parchment paper. The recipe can be made through this step up to 2 days in advance.

Butterscotch Sauce: Combine the brown sugar, butter, half-and-half, and brandy in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil 3 minutes, until combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

When ready to serve pudding, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pour the sauce evenly over the top of the cake. Bake until the sauce is bubbly and cake is heated through, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream into soft peaks with the mixer. Cut the cake into squares and serve with whipped cream.


So. About the cake. Or pudding. Or whatever. I was disappointed with how it turned out but I think that's mostly my fault. I overcooked the cake and the toffee sauce and it would've been a lot better if I hadn't screwed it up, oops. Never the less, it was still pretty good, especially with whipped cream. And my little cousin ate enough of it to satiate him for days so at least its elementary school approved.

And note: the last time I went to England a couple years ago, the food had vastly improved and my diet consisted of more than potatoes. In fact, when we were stranded in the farmland in the middle of nowhere, I spent the majority of my time eating and trying not to die of allergies. But that's another story!