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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Coconut Cream Pie


Coconut Cream Pie is a luscious, coconut, custardy pudding piled into your favourite pie crust, mounded with whipped cream and more coconut.  

My mother loved coconut desserts but she didn't like the coconut cream pie in a certain restaurant.  I won't name the restaurant (it's been long gone) but the pie was more like thickened sweet water with a sprinkle of coconut on top. She'd always tell us not to order the coconut cream pie. As a child I thought my mother's opinion of the pie's taste was a bit harsh as I'd eat anything sweet but I had the misfortune to taste one of those pies as an adult and, yes, mom was right, as usual!  Sweet wall paper paste would be an accurate description.  I don't know how so many people like a pie like that.  

Fortunately, I've eaten more than my share of good tasting coconut cream pies and know how they should taste.  I've made loads of them myself but, like the chocolate cream pie, never had any recipe in my files. So I thought it was about time I'd remedy that. Actually, my sister, Heather, suggested I make a Coconut Cream Pie for the blog.  So for you, Heather, here is a lovely pie just in time for Mother's Day.  Too bad you're so far away and can't have a taste. Ah, well, I'll do as I always did and eat your piece for you!  (I did this often when we were children. One night Heather woke up screaming and crying that I'd eaten her pie.  She was inconsolable and kept us up for about an hour sobbing her little heart out.  Her dream was so real but I really didn't eat her pie that night!)


Coconut Cream Pie
1 can coconut milk +w
hole milk to make 3 cups together
5 tablespoons cornstarch + 1 teaspoon
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
teaspoon vanilla
1 or 2 drops yellow food colouring, optional
1 teaspoon coconut flavouring, optional
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup unsweetened fine/medium shred coconut

1 9-inch baked pie crust found also here and here

 or a 9-inch graham cracker crumb crust

Whipped Cream
1 cup chilled whipping cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla

Garnish
¼ cup toasted or plain coconut, unsweetened or sweetened

Measure the coconut milk and add enough whole milk to measure 3 cups.  In a saucepan bring coconut milk and whole milk to a simmer over medium low heat.  
I used a non-stick pot which works very well with custards. 

Mix the cornstarch, sugar and salt together in a small bowl. Pour this mixture into the hot milk, whisking or stirring constantly. Continue cooking and stirring over medium low heat until thickened and bubbles are breaking the surface.  

Beat the egg yolks and slowly pour a little of the hot pudding over the yolks while stirring so the eggs will not cook.  This is called tempering the eggs.  Pour the tempered eggs back into the hot milk mixture and combine well.  Return pot to the stove and cook a minute or two to make sure the eggs are fully cooked.  Try to keep the heat low so the mixture does not come to a rapid boil.

Turn heat off and add the vanilla and butter.  Stir through.  Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove any little lumps or cooked egg.  Once the mixture has been strained stir in the 
coconut.  

Cover filling with plastic wrap and cool to lukewarm and then pour into baked pie crust.  Smooth top and cover with plastic wrap.  Lay the wrap on top of the filling to avoid creating a skin on the custard.  (If you do not want to use plastic wrap, parchment paper will make a good substitute as long as it covers the surface of the filling.)

Refrigerate the pie until it is well chilled, about 4 hours or overnight.  When ready to serve top with whipped cream and sprinkle the toasted coconut over the cream.  


To whip the cream, place the chilled whipping cream in a deep bowl, add the sugar and vanilla and whip on high until stiff peaks are formed.  Be careful not to over whip and turn the cream into butter!

To toast the coconut, place the coconut on a baking sheet or pan and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes.  Stir several times during this time.  Once the coconut has reached the desired shade, remove from oven.  

Makes a 9-inch pie with 6-8 servings.  


Coconut Double Cream Pie
Use the recipe above but increase the cornstarch to 6 tablespoons. Chill the cooked filling.  Increase the whipping cream to 1½ cups and add 3 tablespoons sugar.  Remove a heaping 1 cup whipped cream and fold it in the chilled filling.  Spoon the filling in the prepared pie crust.  Pile the remaining whipped cream on top of the pie and chill at least 3-4 hours before serving.  Sprinkle the top of the pie with toasted or plain coconut before serving.   Makes 6-8 servings.



Measure the coconut milk and add enough whole milk to measure 3 cups.

In a saucepan bring coconut milk and whole milk to a simmer over medium low heat.  

Mix the cornstarch, sugar and salt together in a small bowl.

Pour the cornstarch and sugar mixture into the hot milk, whisking or stirring constantly. I switched to a non-stick pot which works very well with custards.

Continue cooking and stirring over medium low heat until thickened and bubbles are breaking the surface.  

Beat the egg yolks and slowly pour a little of the hot pudding over the yolks while stirring so the eggs will not cook.  This is called tempering the eggs.  Pour the tempered eggs back into the hot milk mixture and combine well.

Return pot to the stove and cook a minute or two to make sure the eggs are fully cooked.  Try to keep the heat low so the mixture does not come to a rapid boil.

Turn heat off and add the vanilla and butter.  Stir through.  Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove any little lumps or cooked egg.  Once the mixture has been strained stir in the coconut.


If you want a stronger coconut flavour you can add a teaspoon coconut extract.  Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't.  I'm sure that doesn't help.  


After the coconut has been added to the filling, cover with plastic wrap and cool to lukewarm.  Do not chill.


Smooth the top of the filling and cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 4 hours. 

When ready to serve, whip the cream and pile on top of the chilled pie. 

 Sprinkle the top of the pie with toasted or plain coconut. 

I found these large baked coconut chips at the grocery store. I thought they would be quite striking on the top of the pie. I toasted them a few minutes to deepen the colour.  If you use something like this make sure you sprinkle them on the pie just before serving because the large coconut chips loose their crispness if left overnight on the cream.

Of course, regular shredded coconut makes a wonderful garnish for the pie. 


 The cold pie cuts well into slices.


 Here's the first slice!


Ready for company.


A luscious Coconut Cream Pie for dessert!



Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Chocolate Cream Pie with Whipped Cream or Meringue Topping


Chocolate Cream Pie is a chocolate lovers dream come true. Creamy, smooth, rich, deep chocolate filling topped with either a billowy, golden meringue or heaped high with swirls of whipped cream will not only satisfy a sweet tooth, but will put you in good standing with family and friends.  

I wouldn't say I don't like Chocolate Cream Pie because I've eaten several piece of this one and was looking for another slice!  I'm certainly not a chocolate lover but I am a chocolate liker and this pie is a keeper.  

A few months ago I decided I should have a chocolate pie in my repertoire of recipes.  I've made dozens and dozens of chocolate pies but no two were alike.  Some were just an instant pudding poured in a pie crust, some were cooked from a package or from scratch but none were the same.  It came to a head a few weeks ago when I decided to clean out my fridge and cupboards to make a couple of pies to take to a church potluck.  I had a tub of plain Greek yogurt, that although past its best before date, was still fresh as the day it was bought.  It had gotten pushed to the back of the fridge and its whereabouts was all but forgotten. I had scraps and pieces of dark and milk chocolate left over from some baking project, a chocolate instant pudding and a couple of baked pie crusts that needed to be eaten and some whipped topping.  I mixed the yogurt, pudding and melted chocolate together and then decided to add some grated orange zest.  I poured the filling into the pie shells, topped them with a big dollop of whipped topping and brought them to church.  I thought they tasted good.  Not too much chocolate and a hint of orange.  And they did taste good. But the chocolate lovers were disappointed.  "Orange? Orange! I thought it was a chocolate pie!"  were the comments I received from those who are near and dear to me.  Ha, ha.  I wasn't too worried.  All but two pieces of the pies were eaten which Don later devoured at home.  But the need for a good chocolate pie recipe was now front and centre in my mind.

There were several recipes that I wanted to try.  I actually made four pie fillings before I settled on the one that I'm posting.  The first filling was so thick it felt like peanut butter in my mouth. The taste was good so I lightened that one up with whipped topping and divided the filling between three smaller pie crusts.  I gave them away to Linda and Ray to share with their family.  The next trial was good in texture but I thought it lacked a depth of chocolate flavour and was slightly salty.  But it was still a good filling.  I divided that one into two smaller pies and gave one to Verna and Bruce and one to our new neighbours Amy and Colin.  There was just enough filling left to make a small individual pie for Nan Gill. The third filling was the same recipe as the second but I added some cocoa to the mix and it was really good but still tasted a little salty.  I had forgotten to decrease the salt!  That one was poured into a full size 9-inch pie crust and Evelyn took it home to her family.  

They say the third time is a charm but for me the magic number was four.  Back to the stove I went with the new and improved recipe and finally, finally I had the filling which I might say was perfect. I was tempted to call it the "World's Best Chocolate Cream Pie" but that would be setting myself up for some well-deserved criticism.  "World's Best" is just too subjective.  But it is very, very good.  It is creamy, smooth and rich with chocolate.  It also cuts nicely into pie wedges. 

So here you have it, "The World's Best Chocolate Cream Pie" Chocolate Cream Pie.  A very, very good pie.


Chocolate Cream Pie
2 tablespoons cocoa (You may use less if you don't want a deep chocolate flavour.)
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoon cornstarch
1¼ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
3 cups milk
3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, roughly chopped
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

9-inch baked pie crust. You can find recipes here, here and here 

or a 9-inch graham cracker pie crust

Sift together the cocoa, flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt.  Mix it well making sure all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.  Lay aside until needed. 


In a saucepan, over medium low heat, combine the chocolate and the milk.  Stir or whisk, occasionally,  until chocolate is melted in the milk.  The milk should not come to a boil but should get hot. You may still have specks of dark chocolate not fully melted but they will continue to melt as the filling cooks.


When the chocolate has melted into the hot milk, add the sugar mixture, whisking constantly until there are no visible lumps and the mixture is starting to thicken.  Continue whisking or stirring with a spoon or spatula until the mixture thickens and bubbles start to break the surface. Reduce the heat a little and cook and stir an additional 2 minutes.  The filling should be thick and smooth and there should be no raw flour/cornstarch taste.  If there is a raw taste continue cooking another minute or two. When cooked stir a small amount of the hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks.  This will temper the yolks so they do not scramble when adding them to the hot mixture. Return the egg and chocolate mixture to the saucepan, stirring constantly. Cook and stir over low heat a minute or two to cook the egg.  


Remove the cooked filling from the heat and add the butter and vanilla, stirring until combined. Strain the hot filling though a sieve to remove any little lumps or pieces of cooked egg that may have formed.  This is not necessary but it ensures your filling will be velvety smooth.  


Cover the surface of the filling with plastic wrap to avoid a skin forming on the surface and let cool to lukewarm.  Pour the lukewarm filling into the pie crust.  If using the meringue topping add it now and follow the directions below.  If topping with whipped cream cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 4 hours and then spread with whipped cream topping.   


Makes 1 9-inch pie.



Whipped Cream Topping

1 cup chilled whipping cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
Shaved chocolate or chocolate curls, optional

Before serving, whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla to medium firm peaks.  Pile on top of the pie.  Garnish with  shaved chocolate or chocolate curls, if desired.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  


Meringue Topping

2 egg whites
4 tablespoons sugar 
⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Place egg whites in the mixer bowl. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until frothy before adding sugar.  Increase speed to high and gradually add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.  Pile and swirl the meringue on the pie sealing carefully to edge of pastry shell. Bake in 350 degree oven for 12-15 or until meringue is golden brown. Cool away from draft and then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and ready to serve. 




After much searching I found the perfect recipe for Chocolate Cream Pie. Of course I had to fix it to my liking. The recipe is from the Homemaker's Cookbook and Guide to Nutrition. This is the same edition of the cookbook my mother owned.  David and Peter found one and gave it to me for my birthday a couple of years ago. 


Sift together the cocoa, flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt.  Mix it well making sure all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.  Lay aside until needed. 


In a saucepan, over medium low heat, combine the chocolate and the milk.  Stir or whisk, occasionally,  until chocolate is melted in the milk.  The milk should not come to a boil but should get hot. You may still have specks of dark chocolate not fully melted but they will continue to melt as the filling cooks.


I forgot to take a picture of the chocolate milk but this is the same method. When the chocolate has melted into the hot milk, add the sugar mixture, whisking constantly until there are no visible lumps and the mixture is starting to thicken.  


If the mixture still has specks of unmelted chocolate the filling has not cooked long enough. Keep stirring.


Continue whisking or stirring with a spoon or spatula until the mixture thickens and bubbles start to break the surface. Reduce the heat a little and cook and stir an additional 2 minutes.  The filling should be thick and smooth and there should be no raw flour/cornstarch taste.  If there is a raw taste continue cooking another minute or two.


When the chocolate mixture is cooked stir a small amount of the hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks.  This will temper the yolks so they do not scramble when adding them to the hot mixture. Return the egg and chocolate mixture to the saucepan, stirring constantly. (Sorry about the blurry picture.) Cook and stir over low heat a minute or two to cook the egg.  


Remove the cooked filling from the heat and add the butter and vanilla, stirring until combined. 


Strain the hot filling though a sieve to remove any little lumps or pieces of cooked egg that may have formed.  This is not necessary but it ensures your filling will be velvety smooth.  Cover the surface of the filling with plastic wrap to avoid a skin forming on the surface and let cool to lukewarm. 


When the filling is lukewarm pour into the prepared pie crust.  I'm using a Graham Cracker Crumb Crust for my Chocolate Cream Pie. If you want a meringue topping spread it over the pie and bake. Cool away from draft and then chill until serving time. Sorry, I don't have a picture of the meringue topping.


If topping with whipped cream cover the filling with plastic wrap to avoid a skin forming and chill at least 4 hours.  Top with whipped cream and, if you wish, garnish with shaved chocolate or chocolate curls.


Refrigerate the pie until ready to serve.


 Everyone wants a slice of the creamy, smooth pie!

Here, have a bite!

Creamy, smooth, rich Chocolate Cream Pie.


Monday, May 08, 2017

Homemade Graham Cracker Pie Crust


Homemade Graham Cracker Pie Crust is a versatile and tasty choice for any chilled pie filling. Crunchy, sweet graham crackers are crushed and mixed with a little sugar and melted butter and pressed into a pie plate.  It only takes a few minutes to prepare and has a far superior taste compared to store-bought graham crusts.

Graham Cracker Pie Crust is one of my favourite dessert bases.  (Well...they're all my favourites, ha, ha.) The sweet, nutty flavour of the crackers go along with so many fillings and flavours.  Think chocolate pie, cheese cake, key lime pie, ice cream pies. . . and the list can go on and on as there are so many. I must admit, in the past, I have occasionally bought the pie crust already made and formed in an aluminum pie pan but was always sorry as I bit into the pie. It's just not the same as a homemade crust (even though the crackers are not homemade).  I suppose the lure of already-made was overpowering to a busy woman and the thought of being able to throw something together in minutes was too good to pass by. Those days are in the past.  I now pass by those pie crusts with a mere glance and reach for the crackers because nothing beats the flavour and texture of a homemade Graham Cracker Pie Crust.  So, if you are not too busy, try the homemade crust.  You won't be disappointed. 

Graham Cracker Pie Crust is quite forgiving and it's not hard to remedy a mistake when making it. Too many crumbs: add more butter. Too much butter:  add more crumbs.  I like to use honey grahams when making this crust but any favourite brand graham crackers will do. It's hard to sometimes judge how many crackers you will use to make 1½ cups crumbs because different brands are scored into different sizes.  I use 20-22 square crackers which make the amount of crumbs needed.  I suggest you use the amount you think will make the 1½ crumbs and adjust accordingly.  You may also use purchased graham cracker crumbs but, again, the flavour will not be as nice.  I don't know what they do to the crumbs but there is an almost raw flavour to them if they are not baked.  I much prefer making my own crumbs from the whole crackers.


Graham Cracker Pie Crust
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs, about 20-22 square wafers/crackers crushed 
2 or 3 tablespoons white or brown sugar, to taste
6 tablespoons melted butter
½ teaspoon cinnamon, optional

Crush the crackers in a food processor or in a plastic food storage bag using a rolling pin.  Make the crumbs fine but not powdery. Place the crumbs in a medium size bowl.  Mix in the sugar and melted butter.  This should be enough butter but if, for some reason, the crumbs are very dry and won’t stick together when pressed against the side of the bowl, add a little more butter until the right consistency is achieved.  

Pour the crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie plate and press in firmly with the back of a spoon.  Go up the sides to the edge of the plate.  

If you are using the crust in an unbaked dessert, chill for 1 hour before filling.  If baking, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake 8-10 minutes or until crust is just beginning to turn a golden colour. Let cool before filling.  

Makes 1 9-inch pie crust.  

Note: If you are using shallow 7 or 8-inch aluminium pie pans you may be able to get two crusts.  


Crush the graham crackers in a food processor or in a plastic storage bag with a rolling pin.  You will need about 20-22 square crackers. The crumbs should be fine but not powdery.


Place the crumbs in a medium bowl.  Mix in the sugar.  You can use white or brown sugar.  Stir in the melted butter and thoroughly mix until the crumbs clump together.  Firmly press the crumbs up the side and bottom of a 9-inch pie plate.


If using the crust for an unbaked pie, refrigerate 1 hour before using.  Or bake the crust in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden.  


When the crust is cool add your favourite filling. This is a Chocolate Cream Pie but any chilled filling will taste delicious in a Graham Cracker Crust.  And don't forget baked or unbaked cheesecake just begs for a Graham Crust.


Crunchy, sweet Graham Cracker Pie Crust ready for your favourite filling.


Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Raspberry Oatmeal Muffins


Raspberry Oatmeal Muffins give a hint of summer with fragrant raspberries nestled among moist toasted oatmeal muffin batter.  Use fresh or frozen berries to make these delicious muffins for breakfast or a well deserved snack in the afternoon.

I've had this muffin recipe in my file for years and never made it until recently.  I don't know where or from whom this recipe hails. It is different from most oat muffins in that you toast the oats and add them at the end like you would nuts. The toasting of the oats gives them a nice nut-like flavour but without the expense of nuts. That's a real bonus for anyone with nut allergies.

The raspberries, of course, lend a wonderful summer flavour that only raspberries can impart. It's been a long, cold and snowy winter so these muffins are made to order for anyone longing for the promise of summer. Fresh raspberries would be marvelous in these muffins but they cost a king's ransom, especially if one was baking these on a regular basis, so I generally use frozen raspberries and the flavour is delicious.  But today I splurged, when I made them for this blog post, and bought fresh berries.  They were on sale at $3 for a 6-ounce container, which is about 1 cup.  I could devour a cup of raspberries in a few minutes if given the opportunity.  I had to keep my paws off that special cup of berries so I'd have enough for the recipe, ha, ha.


Fresh or frozen raspberries work equally well in this recipe.


Raspberry Oatmeal Muffins
½ cup oatmeal, uncooked
2 cups flour
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
⅓ cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla, optional
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

In a frying pan over medium low heat, toast oats until lightly browned, stirring constantly.  This will take about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.  You can do this the night before if you want to make muffins for breakfast next morning.

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease, pan spray or line a 12 cup muffin pan.

In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In small bowl, beat egg, milk, oil and vanilla (if using) until blended.  Make a well in the flour and pour in the liquid ingredients; stir just until moistened (batter will be lumpy).  Gently fold raspberries and toasted oats into batter. If you are using frozen berries, stir them in frozen. 

Spoon batter into each muffin cup by ¼ cup measure. I use a #16 ice cream scoop which measures ¼ cup. Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes (22 minutes if using frozen berries) or until golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Let muffins sit in pan for a minute or two and then remove them and cool on rack until cool enough to eat. Serve as is or with a little butter or cream cheese spread.

Left over muffins should be stored in a covered container and can be reheated in a microwave 10-15 seconds, if desired.  

Makes 12 muffins.



Toast the oats over medium low heat, stirring constantly.  This will take 5-10 minutes.  Be careful not to burn the oats.


The oats will turn a golden brown colour when they are toasted. The oats on the left have not been toasted.  The oats on the right were toasted in the frying pan.


Rinse and dry fresh berries.  If using frozen make sure they are separated and not all stuck together in large clumps.


Mix the dry ingredients together, excluding the toasted oats.  Make a well in the centre.


Beat the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla together.  


Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir until just moistened.

Gently fold in the toasted oats and raspberries.  You don't want to crush the berries so "easy does it".


When the oats and raspberries have been mixed through the batter it should still look a bit lumpy and ragged.  Muffins should not be over mixed. 


Fill 12 muffin cups with about a ¼ cup of batter each.  I left out 12 raspberries to put on top of each muffin. Bake the muffins in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20-22 minutes or until golden brown.


A #16 scoop makes quick work when filling muffin or cupcake pans.  If you don't own a scoop, go buy one.  It's a dandy thing to have in the kitchen.


Let the muffins sit in the pan for a minute or two to cool enough to handle.  They will still be extremely hot so you may want to use a tea towel when taking them from the muffin cups.


Let the muffins cool to your preferred temperature.  Some like muffins warm and some like them completely cooled.  These are good either way but a warm muffin is something special.


When the muffins have cooled sufficiently, sit yourself down with your favourite hot or cold drink and have yourself a well deserved break.


You can see the specks of toasted oatmeal peaking through the muffin.

I'll have a little butter on my muffin, please!

Did I mention, I like butter on my muffin? The muffin is just warm enough to start melting the butter. What a great breakfast or snack!


Have a taste of summer all year long!