As I mentioned last week, Mike the Viking turned 40, which is alarming to anyone who knows him. He looks and acts like a drunken, rage-filled toddler, and the number 40 lends him an unearned air of respect. I made him pie.
My first and most important tip to you: for a graham crust, replace one third of your graham crumbs with nuts. Almonds and walnuts seem to work best, I haven’t tried hazelnuts yet but I think they’d be great – maybe with chocolate grahams? Nutella crust?
Just place whole nuts and grahams in a food processor and whiz them together into a fine meal. If you don’t have a food processor, I’m not sure how you grind nuts. I suppose the alternative is to use graham crumbs from the store (or smash them in a bag, which in my experience leads to graham shards getting smashed clean out of the plastic baggie due to plastics tension failure, but I digress) and pre-ground almond flour. It will work.
The crust ends up never getting as rock-hard as cold graham crusts typically get, and the flavor is infinitely more interesting.
The pie filling was the result of a existential argument some years ago over whether I should make a coconut cream pie or a banana cream pie for some event now long-forgotten. Mike asked “Why can’t you make a coconut-banana cream pie?” and we never looked back.
If you don’t like bananas and just want the coconut part, that works too. Just skip the fresh bananas part. I once debated the efficacy of making a pineapple filling for the pie as well, but fresh or canned pineapple would weep too much in the hours the filling took to set, so you’d have to make a cooked pineapple jam-style filling, which would end up very sweet. It’s a theoretical project I still want to tackle, but for now I am busy watching ST:DS9 and wondering what the fuck I should make myself for dinner tonight.
Either way, when the pie is assembled it is imperative to press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard, or else it forms a rubbery skin that will delight children and terrify everyone else.
If you have never made a cream pie before, this is the one. It uses both egg folks (for flavor) and corn starch (for reliability and stability) to make the custard, and comes together quickly and with little skill required. Oh, and I almost forgot: coconut milk. You get to basically eat an entire can of coconut milk. So there’s that.
Coconut Banana Cream Pie
traditional American shredded coconut comes in very long, thick, sugary strings, and if you don’t like the texture of it in your pie you can actually skip that part; the flavor or the coconut milk will shine through. another alternative is to try and find finely shredded dessicated coconut, sometimes found in the Indian section of bigger supermarkets. also, we used to have a bottle of natural banana flavor that i would add a single drop of to enhance the banana, and that was nice, but when the bottle started to smell off i threw it away and never got any more. that was a boring story, i’m sorry.
for the crust:
5 whole grahams (the entire conjoined piece), or about 3/4 cup crumbs
1/2 cup nuts
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup butter, melted
for the custard:
1 14oz. can coconut milk (not the sweetened kind)
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch **(see note)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into two pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 or 2 bananas sliced, depending on taste
**note: to measure the cornstarch, fluff it and level it with a knife and try to avoid packing it into the scoop.
- To make the crust, blend the crackers and the nuts together until a sandy texture (if using preground, just put them in a bowl). Dump into a bowl, add the sugar and salt, stir briefly, then add the melted butter and stir until combined and sort of loose and sticky-sandy. Press into a pie pan and bake at 375° for 10 minutes, or until the edges are starting to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before adding filling.
- In a medium bowl, whisk yolks, cornstarch, and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar until thoroughly combined.
- In a medium sauce pan, bring coconut milk, whole milk, shredded coconut, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt to just barely a simmer over medium high heat, watching carefully to make sure the milk doesn’t boil over. When it starts to bubble around the edges of the sauce pan, turn it down a little to make sure it doesn’t boil while we are doing the next step.
- Whisking constantly, gradually add about two ladles of hot milk mixture over yolks; whisk well to combine. Whisking constantly, gradually add the yolk and milk mixture to the sauce pan in a steady, slow stream; it will almost immediately begin to thicken. Stirring constantly, cook until thickened and mixture “braps” like lava bubbling, about 1 or 2 minutes more. Turn off the heat.
- Off heat, stir in butter and vanilla until butter is fully incorporated. Pour hot filling into cooled pie shell, layering in sliced bananas as you go. Smooth surface with rubber spatula; press plastic wrap directly against surface of filling and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 12 hours. Really, don’t try to cut it before the three hours are up.