Did you know March 14 is International Pi Day? I think that is a perfectly valid reason to use your math skills and bake some delicious, sinfully easy pie!
I’ve reached the point in the year where I am quite literally dreaming about the farmers market (also dreaming that I’m having dinner with a very old Cary Grant…random). And I want pie.
With the market still at least a month away, and not bearing much pie-able fruit even then, I find myself in a conundrum. What pie fits in March? Spring is rhubarb, strawberry; summer is a glut of peach, blueberry, cherry, raspberry, whatever is overflowing the tables on any given week; fall is apple, pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato. But what pie for winter, or whatever this time of year is, this weird in-between winter-spring?
Nothing was inspiring me until I remembered reading about a coconut custard pie a few months ago. I’ve always been a die-hard fruit pie fan. Not much can drag me away from cinnamon-and-butter spiked apples layered in a crispy, flaky crust, or a juicy, oozy slice of strawberry pie cold from the fridge. Custard? Meh. It reminded me of the chocolate pudding pie we were served as dessert in grade school, which, it turns out, was so, so very wrong.
Baked custard pie, I am happy to say, is nothing like what I imagined. Since it’s baked, the filling is set and solid, nothing like a pudding or cream pie, more like flan, and the crust kept its integrity even with a liquid filling. Nothing defeats the purpose of pie more than soggy crust.
The coconut adds enough texture and coconut-y flavor so the filling is more than the sum of its very minimal parts. Plus, as the pie bakes the coconut begins to rise to the top, leaving a smooth layer of custard topped with flaky bits of coconut.
This pie is the perfect place to start if you’re a novice pie-maker. If you can stir, you can make this pie. You could use store-bought crust (though I prefer to make my own, are you surprised?) and the filling is a no-brainer. Six ingredients together in a bowl: sweetened condensed milk, regular milk, eggs, coconut, vanilla, mace (or nutmeg). That’s it. I honestly don’t know a pie recipe easier than that.
So I have pie (and π!) and am quite content until I can get my hands on some pie-able fruit.
Baked Coconut Custard Pie
Credit due to In Jennie’s Kitchen.
1 single pie crust, fitted in a 9-inch pie pan (recipe and helpful photos below)
4 large eggs
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Generous pinch of mace or fresh nutmeg
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
Beat eggs lightly in a large bowl. Add the milks, extract, and mace (or nutmeg) and beat together until well combined. Stir in the coconut. Pour the filling into the prepared crust.
Bake the pie for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325 degrees. Bake for another 25 minutes, or until the filling is set and no longer jiggles in the center. Cool the pie on a wire rack for at least an hour. The pie is best fresh and warm, but would also be fine served from the fridge for a day or two.
Single Pie Crust
If you’re nervous about making pie crust, I find making a single crust is immeasurably less stressful than making a double crust: the fats cut into the flour easier, the liquid combines with the flour and fat more quickly, and the dough comes together faster overall, which means less risk of tough, overworked dough. Note that the liquid measurement is for a double crust pie, but I just find it easier to make all the liquid and only use half rather than try to halve an egg–or use it as an excuse to make another single pie crust to freeze for another day.
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup cold leaf lard (or butter)
1 tbsp white vinegar
5 tbsp ice-cold water
Sift together dry ingredients into a large bowl. With a pastry cutter, fork, or butter knife, cut fats into the flour mixture until it’s crumbly and a handful of dough holds together with a good squeeze.
In a glass measuring cup, beat together egg, vinegar, and water; it should come to 1/2 cup. Add 4 tablespoons to the dough and lightly stir together with a fork (reserve the rest of the liquid in case the dough is too dry, but I almost never need it). The dough will begin to come together pretty quickly into a ball.
Knead together a few times right in the bowl, just to bring everything together. Shape into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
When ready to roll out, lightly dust a pastry board or counter with flour, and rub your rolling pin with flour (I always forget this part and am rudely reminded after 2 rolls). Rotate the crust every few rolls so it ends up more circle-shaped than oval. To move the crust, carefully drape it over the rolling pin and move it to the pie plate.
Gently press the dough into the corners of the pie plate. Flip the overhanging dough back towards the center of the plate so the edge of your crust is doubled; crimp however you like and trim the excess dough.