Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What's for dessert: Coconut cream pie

A couple of weeks ago I was channel surfing on a Saturday and ran across Tom Douglas, a well-known local chef, making his signature triple-coconut cream pie. I’ve had this wonder more than once at his restaurants, and I think I could eat a whole pie at one sitting. Since then, Dave and I have been gathering the ingredients for a coconut cream pie. I don’t have Tom’s recipe, but the filling is a pastry cream with sweetened flaked coconut added. That’s not hard to do, and I used a recipe out of one of my favorite cookbooks, a first edition of the New York Times Cookbook, edited by Craig Claiborne. A lot of times when I do a literature search through my cookbook collection, I try to be sure to pull in a “vintage” cookbook for comparison. It helps me get perspective sometimes, especially when I run across something like the squirrel stew in the White House Cookbook from the late 1800’s. Once again I am using the vodka pastry recipe from Cook’s Illustrated with the addition of flaked coconut. The pie gets topped with whipped cream, toasted coconut flakes, and white chocolate shavings. I’m thinking about brushing a layer of melted white chocolate on the crust before putting in the filling – I think it will help the crust stay a little crisper and add a nice rich flavor.

You know, I’ve always said I'm not a baker, but I sure seem to be writing a lot about baking these days. At least I’ve gotten to the point where I have more successes than failures, and that feels pretty good. In the end, the way to get comfortable with any kind of cooking is to not worry when something doesn’t turn out – as long as you learn something in the process you can carry forward to the next project. That’s been hard for me to accept sometimes because of course I want everything perfect the first time. But accepting failure is key to becoming fearless in the kitchen.

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