Ode to Dad: A Tale of Three Coconut Cream Pies

Last week would’ve been my dad’s 95th birthday.  In his memory, and to celebrate his birthday, I decided to make his favorite pie: coconut cream.  Which means this is the next installment of the The Great Pie Challenge (TGPC) here in the Entertaining Couple’s kitchen.

The first pie I made last week was a throw-away.  I mean, dump-in-the-garbage-can kind of throw-away.  There were basically two things wrong with it.  First, I didn’t roll the crust thin enough which resulted in (yet again) too much crust for the filling.  I could’ve lived with that had it not been for the second problem.  The half and half I used had apparently gone bad.  Even though the date on the carton indicated that it was good for another few weeks, the cream inside didn’t get the message.  One taste and we both knew it was bad.  So into the garbage can my sour, overly-crusted pie went.

Since we had friends coming for a visit, I turned right around and made a second pie.  It tasted great!  And it looked pretty good. But despite my best efforts with baking an unfilled pie crust (often referred to as blind baking, which somehow seems appropriate to me), I was still getting a pie crust with air bubbles and some shrinkage.  My crimped edge lost its definition.  So I finally cried “Uncle” and ordered some pie weights.

Which brings me to last week’s Pie #3.  The dough was a great consistency when I took it out of the food processor and shaped it into a disk.  I put it in the refrigerator for an hour.  When I rolled it out, it was still working okay.  But when I attempted to lift it into the pie pan, things went downhill.  The dough was breaking, not stretching like it should.  I dumped it back onto my floured surface, made a new ball and re-rolled it.  The second time it worked better, but not perfectly.

I’m not really a “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again” kind of person.  I’m more of a “if at first I don’t succeed, try again; get discouraged and then really have to talk myself into trying one more time” kind of person.

I just keep looking at this process and, quite frankly, am absolutely astonished that I’m having so much difficulty with it.  I mean, it’s flour, Crisco and water, for god’s sake.  How difficult can this be?  Well, if my attempts are any kind of proof, the answer is “plenty.”

As I attempted to make Dad’s pie, I kept thinking about those women (and men) who enter their pies at the state fairs and come home with blue ribbons.  I looked at my poor, tattered pie crust as it lay waiting in the pie pan and the thought of anyone viewing it, much less judging it, actually made me laugh.  Which is pretty amazing given that in situations like that I would normally be closer to tears than laughter.

So it wasn’t perfect.  What the heck.  I’d be serving it to friends and to my husband, not entering it into any contest.  The same people would be eating it that, on a daily basis, I am grateful for because they  overlook my flaws and love me, imperfections and all.  These people are the ones who teach me that I judge myself much more harshly than they ever would.  So it would be with my pie.  Maybe it’s not the prettiest thing to look at.  But looking at my pie was a good reminder that there is so much more that matters than looks.   At the end of the day, I think Dad would’ve been pleased with his pie.

Hostess Note:  Many recipes for coconut cream pies call for covering the entire pie with whipped cream.  This is how you’ll see it many times in restaurants.  I didn’t do that with this pie because (a) Dad never ate his pie that way and (b) we have one of those whipping cream dispensers and we have found that our guests really, really like to add their own (plentiful dollop) of whipped cream to their own desserts.

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Pie prep: Eggs and dry ingredients whisked together

Tempering the eggs:

Slowly adding the egg mixture to the milk:

Mixture becomes custard:

Adding butter and vanilla:

Finished pie, covered with Saran Wrap:

The end result!

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4 responses to “Ode to Dad: A Tale of Three Coconut Cream Pies”

  1. Purabi Naha says:

    Oh, this coconut cream pie is LOVELY! This looks like something I must try. The recipe is great and I loved the picture!! I loved the idea of adding a dollop of whipped cream later.

  2. One of my favorites of all time! Happy birthday to your dad 🙂

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