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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Crust less Coconut Custard Pie

National Pie Day:

You heard me. I can't tell you what I'm more excited about: this "No Crust" Coconut Custard pie, or that tomorrow is National Peanut Butter Day... God Bless America.

Speaking of America, an auspicious day, like today, deserves a little history. Pie, which by definition is a filling (meat, cream, fruit etc) baked in a pastry crust, has been a part of the world diet since the very dawn of time. Pies, or "pyes" in Medieval England, were used in Ancient Greece and beyond to preserve spiced meat fillings. Our sweet fruit and cream pies, like the incomparable American Apple, did not begin to appear until much later. More popular, and economical, were meat pies like lamp, pork or, notoriously, magpie. By the 1700s there were still only a handful of so-called "sweet" pies. Even the famously popular Pumpkin Pie was not popularized in America until the 1800s. Pie making, however, has come a long way since then. Modern conveniences, like pre-made refrigerated crusts or canned fillings, makes it easy to enjoy a slice every night of the week; which, is a good thing since pie remains one of the homeliest, most down to earth, desserts on the books.

Bearing this in mind, the American Pie Council has designated January 23rd National Pie Day. Appropriately, they suggest to bake a pie today, and share it with friends. You might even try something new: Banofee, Kentucky Derby or Key Lime are good places to start. Or, save the date and visit the "Pie Capital of the World" April 9-10th in Celebration, Florida. [Link] I can't promise this Bandita will be going, but would I ever like to! What could be bad about enjoying the infamous "Never Ending Pie Buffet"and then a short walk to Walt Disney World, and later a two hour drive to South Beach? Did I mention South Beach? I am just itching for an excuse to go - or didn't you notice? Did I mention there will be pie too?

Notes: I love a coconut custard pie; I love coconut. This pie, however simple, falls a little short of perfection for me. I'm a snob about some things. An infinitely creamy custard filling, the kind where you don't know where it begins and ends or if you're in heaven or hell, is one of them. But, in a Tuesday-night-after-work sort of way, this pie is the bee's knees. The coconut flavor is delicate and just sweet enough to be on the cusp of decadent. Adding a few curls of fresh citrus, I used orange, really dials up the delightful, fruity quality of the pie.

The recipe was originally called "Makes Its Own Crust Coconut Pie", but that was just an exaggeration. The custard is thicken enough that, when paired with the beautifully crunchy top, you don't need a crust; however, that doesn't mean one magically appears in the bottom of your pan, either. [Disappointment] If you want to, you can easily slide a traditional crust into your pan before adding the filling, and be even more satisfied. Plainly said, this recipe gets an "A+" for easy execution, ingredients and classic flavor, but a "B" in overall Bandita satisfaction for matters of not-quite-celestial texture.

Conversion (if you need it):
Self-rising flour = 1 cup (all purpose) flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt

Crust less Coconut Custard Pie
By Betty White, from Golden Anniversary Cookbook Oriental Chapter #30

4 eggs
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup self-rising flour
1 1/2 cup coconut, shredded
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon each vanilla, rum extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla)
orange zest (optional), to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 10" glass pie plate.
2. Whisk the eggs lightly in a large bowl.
3. Add the remaining ingredients, in order, to the eggs. Blend all ingredients well with a whisk until thoroughly combined.
4. Pour into the greased pie plate, and baked for 45 minutes or until puffed and golden.
5. Let the pie come to room temperature, and then refrigerate it for at least an hour before serving.

Mayer, Laura. "A Brief History of Pie", Time Magazine(2008). link.
American Pie Council. "The 2011 Great American Pie Festival® Sponsored by Crisco®" link.

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