My favorite childhood photograph is of my mother, my sister and me on Easter morning. We are dressed alike in matching spring coats, hats and gloves, holding our Easter baskets. But I remember that as tempting as the candy in the basket was, all I could think of was the luscious coconut cream pie my grandmother had made for dessert.
For me, that pie was magical, with its homemade flaky crust and rich silky custard. It spoke of home, of leisurely enjoying a slice. Pies still inspire me today. Some restaurants have wine programs. Mine has a pie program.
My grandmother's coconut cream pie is made from a cooked custard similar to a creme anglais, which is thickened with egg yolks and cornstarch. The thick custard then is poured into a prebaked pie shell, topped with meringue and baked. But as much as I love that pie, I felt the need to tinker. I wanted the same flavors but with less work.
I kept the prebaked — or properly called blind-baked — pie shell. It's the key to ensuring the crust is flaky, not soggy. The easiest way to do this is to form the pie dough in the pan, then set a sheet of parchment paper on it with dry beans or weights holding it in place. It then is baked until golden, then cooled.
My version of coconut cream pie is perfect for anyone, especially those new to baking pies because the custard is simply stirred together in a bowl, then baked in the shell. I also add a little fresh orange to the custard to complement the coconut and remind me that warmer weather is near.
Orange-Scented Coconut "Cream" Custard Pie
Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes, plus cooling (15 minutes active)
8- or 9-inch prepared raw pie crust