Quench your taste for summer with the taste of the tropics: Coconuts! Food columnist Judi Leaming offers recipes for French Coconut Pie, Homemade Samoas, and Pepe's Coconut Cream Pie.
Before we left Delaware to spend winter in our RV in Key West, Fla., I made French Coconut Pie (a recipe that I found on www.allrecipes.com) to celebrate National Coconut Day, which was on March 13. And when we hit the road, we had slices of this pie tucked into our refrigerator so that we could enjoy it as we traveled along.
At this point, we have been parked next to/under a coconut palm for the past three-plus weeks, but this isn’t the time of year when coconuts are ripe, so none have fallen upon us.
One of our favorite pastimes here in Key West has been reading restaurant reviews and deciding where to eat next. Down here, restaurants tend to be very informal. They are often open-air and most feature fresh seafood.
One restaurant that locals and visitors alike tend to favor is called Pepe’s, a small open-air joint on Caroline Street. After a delicious lunch, I still had room for a slice of their very special coconut cream pie. (Spicer raves about their Key Lime Pie, too.) Since they post their most popular recipes on their website, I am able to share the Coconut Cream Pie recipe with you.
Most recipes call for shredded or flaked coconut. This comes in bags or cans –– usually found near chocolate chips in the baked goods aisles of supermarkets –– or sometimes you’ll find small bags of frozen, shredded coconut in the freezer section. There is a variety of coconut shreds, including fine shred, which I find most desirable if you’re using coconut in a candy recipe.
Our “Savannah” daughter, Jennifer, helped one of her Girl Scout troops this week make homemade Samoas –– those delectable chocolate, coconut and caramel cookies –– and she recommends the recipe below. Samoas are one of the most popular cookies that Girl Scouts sell, and with this recipe, you will be able to enjoy them all year long –– but please support the Scouts when they come to your door next year! Or just buy a whole case of Girl Scout Samoas to store in your freezer.
French Coconut Pie
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1 prepared, unbaked 9-inch pastry shell
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and flour. In a large bowl, mix the eggs with a wire whisk. Whisk flour mixture into eggs, until smooth. Stir in buttermilk, margarine, coconut and pecans. Pour into unbaked pie crusts. Bake for 1 hour; cool to room temperature before serving. Store covered in the refrigerator.
The cookies involve four steps:
1. Make the cookie base
2. Top with caramel-coconut mixture
3. Dip bottom of cookies in melted chocolate
4. Drizzle tops with melted chocolate
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
up to 2 tablespoons milk
Preheat oven to 350. Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, next, the vanilla and milk, adding in the milk only as needed to make the dough come together without being sticky (you may not need any at all). The dough should come together into a soft, pliable ball. Add in a bit of extra flour if your dough seems sticky. It's easiest to roll the dough out in two or three batches between pieces of wax (or parchment) paper to about 1/4-inch thickness (or a little thinner) using a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter to make rounds.
Place on a parchment lined (or on silicone mat) baking sheet and make a hole in the center. (I used the small end of a large, round piping tip. Nicole comments that you can use a knife, or the end of a wide straw, to cut a smaller center hole.) Repeat until the dough is used up (It's okay to re-roll, this dough is shortbread-like and very forgiving.) Bake cookies for 10 to12 minutes, until bottoms are very lightly golden brown around the edges. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, to allow them to firm up slightly, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12 ounces good-quality chewy caramels
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
8 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips will do)
Preheat oven to 300. Spread coconut evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and toast 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Watch carefully, especially near the end of toasting time; the coconut toasts very quickly once it begins to become golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
Unwrap the caramels and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times to help the caramel melt. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula.
Using the spatula or a small offset spatula, spread topping on cooled cookies, using about 2 to 3 teaspoons per cookie. Reheat caramel for a few seconds in the microwave if it begins to firm up, to make it soft and spreadable once again.
While topping sets up, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 45-second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching. (I melted mine stovetop using a double boiler method.) Dip the base of each cookie into the chocolate and place on a clean piece of parchment paper (I used silicone baking mats instead). Transfer all remaining chocolate into a piping bag or a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle finished cookies with chocolate. (Melt a bit of additional chocolate, if there is not quite enough for each cookie.) Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container. Makes about 3 1/2 to 4 dozen.
Pepe’s Coconut Cream Pie
6 egg yolks
?2 teaspoons coconut extract
1 cup sugar
6 heaping tablespoons cornstarch
6 cups half and half
2 cups flaked and sweetened coconut
Two prepared Graham cracker crusts
Mix together the eggs and the coconut extract and set aside. In heavy saucepan combine sugar, cornstarch and half and half. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When mixture is bubbling, add one cup of the milk to the eggs to warm the egg mixture. Return all the egg mixture into the milk and continue cooking. Stir with a whisk constantly until well combined and mixture is bubbling again. Remove from heat and stir in coconut. Cool to room temperature and turn into two graham cracker pie crusts. Chill. Serve topped with whipped cream. Makes two pies, 12 servings, six per pie.