Every celebration deserves a fun dessert, and for Cinco de Mayo I discovered Coconut Pie. This pie is from the Yucatecan region of Mexico with a nutty crust and a creamy fresh coconut filling. This is not a custard pie, more like a giant nutty coconut macaroon. Coconut pie has a nice balance of sweet, nutty and light caramel flavors with crumbly and chewy textures.
This recipe originated from Rick Bayless, Yucatecan-Style Fresh Coconut Pie, in Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen. My intention was to make his coconut pie recipe as directed with fresh coconut, then adapt it. Unfortunately, my first pie did not work out as I planned, and left me with more unanswered questions than not.
The truth is, after cracking open my coconut, the shell had moldy looking spots on the inside. This unappetizing vision shattered my tropical dream and forced me to consider if the coconut was going bad. So, instead of reveling in fresh coconut perfume and fantasizing about sunny Mexican beaches, I scoured the world wide web. Google, “Do coconuts go bad?” The unanimous answer is, yes. Normally I am up for any culinary adventure, but this experience left me feeling there was too much work involved for something with a high chance of not working out.
Nowadays, coconut products are widely available in all stores. Purchased coconut water and dried shredded coconut may not be fresh, but they have their merits. The biggest merit being, I could confidently buy them seeing the expiration date in clear view. But more importantly, buying the coconut water, coconut flour, and shredded coconut made it easier to make this delicious pie.
About Double Coconut Pie
Traditionally, Pay de Coco, Estilo Yucateco has an almond and breadcrumb crust and filled with grated fresh coconut, slivered almonds and condensed milk. Rick Bayless altered the traditional coconut pie recipe by replacing the condensed milk with a reduction of fresh coconut water and heavy cream. He essentially made a condensed milk, but with extra coconut flavor.
I liked his idea of using coconut water, but because I planned to buy it, I needed to figure out how much to use. Based on the amount of coconut water that dribbled out of my expired coconut, I estimated a 1/2 cup of coconut water. You could add more, 3/4 cup, but keep in mind the time needed to reduce the cream will take longer.
Gluten Free Double Coconut Pie
As much as I wanted to make a traditional Mexican dessert, the original crust seemed dry. Additionally, I wanted to make a gluten-free pie. Alice Medrich has a delicious gluten-free pie crust recipe in Flavor Flours, using coconut flour and shredded coconut. I believed if I adapted her recipe and substituted it for the traditional one, the integrity of the Yucatecan pie would still be intact. Also, this gluten-free coconut pie crust adds extra cookie-like texture and doubles the coconut flavor. I included ground almonds in the crust with the shredded coconut to keep the warm nutty flavor of the traditional coconut pie recipe.
Hungry for more Mexican Food? Try Poblano Chili Cream Sauce with Grilled Chicken
With my recipe adjustments, I made coconut pie easier to make, yet maintain the appeal of the original recipe. By using store-bought products I cut down on the time commitment, and the risk of buying a bad coconut. If I ever live in a tropical environment, I will certainly make it with fresh coconut. Until then, my tropical daydreams will continue while enjoying coconut pie. Not only is this a great dessert to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, it will be well received any time of the year.
Taste of Mexico: Double Coconut Pie
- Pie Crust:
- 1 cup / 122 g almond slivers
- 1/2 cup / 112 g granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup / 40 g coconut flour
- 1/2 cup plus 1 Tb/ 50 g unsweetened dried shredded coconut
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 6 Tbs / 85 g unsalted butter - very soft
- 1 large egg white
- 1/2 cup / 125 ml coconut water
- 1 cup / 250 ml heavy cream
- 2/3 cup / 147 g granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 cup grated dried coconut - flaky coconut 1 1/4 cup / 94 g and shredded coconut 1 1/4 cup / 105 g - plus more flaky coconut for garnish
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla
Preheat the oven for 325F / 160C / Gas Mark 3. Place the almonds on a sheet pan and toast in the oven until lightly golden, about 7-10 minutes. Halfway through the toasting, stir the almonds and turn the sheet pan from front to back.
Once toasted, measure 1/2 cup / 61 grams of the almonds and set aside for the pie filling.
Put the remaining almonds and the sugar in a food processor and pulse until the almonds have a fine texture.
In a medium size bowl, mix the almond-sugar, coconut flour, shredded coconut, baking powder, salt, softened butter and egg white until well combined. Your clean hands will do the best job of getting everything all mixed through.
Press the coconut / almond mixture evenly across the bottom and up the sides of a tart pan. The sides should be thicker than the bottom of the pan.
Place the pan on a sheet pan and bake in the oven for 12 minutes, or just starting to turn golden at the edge. Remove the crust from the oven and set aside.
Raise the oven temperature to 350F / 175 C/ Gas Mark 4
While the crust is baking, simmer the coconut water, heavy cream and granulated sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the liquid to 1 cup / 250 ml. It could take from 15-20 minutes from the time the cream reaches a good simmer. The cream will become thicker and lightly golden. And bubbles will be larger and less foamy. I measure it in a heat proof liquid measure just to make sure.
Add the reduced cream to a mixing bowl, then add the reserved slivered almonds, shredded and flaky coconut, egg yolks, and vanilla. Stir until well combined and spoon into the pie crust. Make sure the filling is up against the sides. Place the pie on a sheet pan then bake in the middle rack in the oven for 30 - 35 minutes until lightly golden. Check the pie half way through and make sure the crust is not browning too much. Cover the edge with foil if needed
While the pie is baking, scatter a couple of handfuls of flaky coconut on a sheet pan and toast in the oven with the pie, until it is just beginning to brown in the oven. Watch the coconut carefully so it does not get too dark and burn. About 4-5 minutes. Slide the toasted coconut on a plate to cool. Set aside.
Once finished, cool the pie on a wire rack for 10 minutes then slip off the rim of the tart pan by placing the tart on top of a secure glass, and easily slide the side rim down. This will help prevent the crust from sticking.
The pie slices easier when it is cool or cold, but tastes best warm. If you wish, completely cool the pie or chill it, then slice the pie into serving pieces and warm in the oven.
Garnish with toasted coconut flakes and creme fraiche.
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