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Key Lime Cheesecake Bars

It’s spring and the sun is shining enough that you don’t look crazy if you wear sunglasses and people are starting to walk outside without their winter coats on but those people are IDIOTS.  Do not believe what you see…it is still freezing outside.  Yes, cold enough that I actually needed to wear gloves on my way home today, despite the sunny deception in the sky.  I am not sure how much longer this cold snap is supposed to last, but I am for sure ready to move on from my winter coat.  I am also over tights.  In short, spring is technically here according to my calendar but I would like to have the proof.

pink curlique

Anyway, because it should be beautiful outside and we should be sitting on patios, refreshing and light desserts should be out in full force.  And that means hello, citrus.  So I decided to try and tempt some warmer weather to come out and play by making key lime cheesecake bars.  Key lime = Key Largo = Beach Boys = Beach = Warmth.  See how that works??  Anyway, despite the fact that I had to eat these bars while shivering inside in front of a space heater, they were still pretty darn good.  And they’ll be even better when I finally get to eat them on a patio in some sunshine!!

pink curlique

Key Lime Cheesecake Bars

Ingredients

For the Crust:

1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 cup pecans (after measuring, finely chop them in a food processor…)

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

.5 cup granulated sugar

For the bar filling:

4 egg yolks

2 cans (28 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

1 cup lime juice (fresh if possible)

pink curlique

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter the bottom of a 9×13 in baking pan, and then line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang for easy removal.

For the crust:  Make sure the graham cracker crumbs and pecans are finely ground.  Whisk together with the sugar, then blend in the butter.  Once the crust mixture is clumping together, press into the bottom of the prepared pan, also spreading the mixture up approximately one inch on each side of the pan.  Bake in the oven until the crust is set and golden brown, approximately 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let the crust cool.  (*Note:  If you get distracted like I did when I was making this and you forget the prebake the crust, it’s not the end of the world.  It will mostly set if you leave the bars in about 5 minutes longer.  But if you prebake, you definitely get better results!)

For the bar filling:  In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk under smooth.  Add the lime juice and continue whisking until well-combined.  Pour the mixture into the cooled crust and use an offset spatula to make sure it is evenly distributed in the pan.

Place in the oven and bake until the filling is set, approximately 15-20 minutes.  Once set (the bars will still seem a little jiggly) remove the pan from the oven and let the bars cool in the pan.  Once cooled, place the bars in the refrigerator to chill for about an hour.  Remove from the fridge, lift the bars out of the pan by the parchment paper, cut into squares, and serve!

I love a good graham cracker crust...so I sprinkled some extra on top of the bars as soon as I removed them from the oven!

I love a good graham cracker crust…so I sprinkled some extra on top of the bars as soon as I removed them from the oven!

Don't be fooled by the yellow color...these bars are actually lime not lemon!

Don’t be fooled by the yellow color…these bars are actually lime not lemon!

 

So hurray for key lime cheesecake bars.  But seriously, if it doesn’t hurry up and warm up soon, I am boycotting this city and moving somewhere warmer.  Although I was told today that even Mississippi isn’t as warm as it usually is in April.  I repeat, 45F is not April weather.  Hashtag sigh.  Hashtag crisis.  How’s that for global warming???!!

Thinking sunny thoughts, 

zlj-signature

Key Lime Pie Cake

The end of summer is the worst.  The only thing that makes it acceptable is the beginning of fall, which happens to be one of my favorite times of year.  I like summer because I like sunshine, and sitting outdoors, and picnics, and frozen drinks, and vacations.  (I can also list a whole boatload of things I like about fall, but right now let’s focus on a tribute to summer.)  I will miss lazily reading my Martha magazines outside on a sunny (and very hot) weekend morning while sipping iced coffee and mentally planning ahead to afternoon popsicles.  I’ll miss checking my tomato and pepper plants every day to see if anything new has sprouted.  Once it gets cold I know I’ll give anything to be able to run across the street for an ice cream treat in a tank top and leggings and I’ll want nothing more than to sit and eat my lunch on a rooftop for a good midday dose of vitamin d.

The first day of autumn was this past weekend, and that made me think that a) this year has gone by waaaaay too quickly; and b) 80-degree weather is not autumnal.  Which makes me think we may have a week of so left to say goodbye to summer.  But since when I think citrus I think sunshine, there is no better way to salute another great summer than by making a key lime cake – another Bakerella brainchild.  The cake itself doesn’t contain any butter, and it’s pretty dense and rich, as well as very lime-y!  It’s a good, festive cake to eat a big slice of in your favorite sunny spot before the cold creeps in!

Key Lime Cake

Ingredients

Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour

1.5 cups granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

.5 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2/3 cup key lime juice

3/4 cup lowfat sour cream

 

Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter

16 oz. cream cheese

2 lbs confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup key lime juice

Green gel food coloring (optional) – I used a small amount of Wilton leaf green

 

Whipped Cream

16 oz. heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Directions

Cake

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour two round 8-inch pans.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the three eggs, gently beating the mix after each one.  Mix in the oil and lime juice, and beat until smooth.

Once thoroughly combined, fold in the sour cream, and then continue beating on medium until the mixture is smooth.

Pour evenly into the two prepared pans.  Bake approximately 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of each cake comes out clean.  (The cake will be slightly pale looking.)  Cool in the pans, then run a knife around the edge of the cakes, invert, and let cool completely on a wire rack.

 

Frosting

In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth.  Slowly add in the confectioner’s sugar, beating constantly.  Beat in the vanilla and the lime juice, and add more confectioner’s sugar if the mixture is not thick enough.  Stir in a small amount of green gel food coloring until the frosting has reached the desired shade.  Set aside until it is time to frost the cake.

 

Whipped Cream

In a metal bowl, beat the whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla together until stiff peaks form.  Chill until ready to use.

 

Assembly

Take about half a cup of frosting and stir a few tablespoons extra of confectioner’s sugar into this frosting until it is quite stiff.  Place this frosting in a piping bag, and pipe around the top of the inside of one of the cake rounds.  This will form the “wall” for your cake frosting filling.  Once the circle has been piped, spoon frosting into the inside of that piped circle, and spread evenly with an offset spatula.

Gently place the other cake round on top of the frosted cake round and lightly press down.  Frost the outside of the cake with an offset spatula, making sure to avoid any crumbs.  Use a generous amount of frosting, but not so much that the frosting starts to sag!

Once the cake is completely frosted (sides and top), fill a piping bag with the whipped cream, and use a Wilton #18 tip to pipe swirls around the top of the cake.  Then pipe a shell border around the bottom of the cake – or use the whipped cream to pipe on any other decorations you would like!

*Adapted from Bakerella

Key lime frosting – and the perfect shade of key lime green

 

The partially-frosted cake

Frosted and ready for whipped cream!

 

Whipped cream and some sprinkles, and there’s summer in a cake!

 

And for the record, this whipped cream is amazing.  In fact, if you were to make some key lime cupcakes, it would actually be delicious to just pipe a generous poof of this whipped cream right on top of the cupcake, sprinkle with a few silver or green sprinkles, and serve right away!  But definitely keep this whipped cream recipe on file – it will be perfect for the fall lineup of pies, hot chocolate, and all things pumpkin!!

So long, summer!

‘Merica S’mores

A week ago, I should have been sharing a delightful and patriotic treat with you all to celebrate the Fourth of July.  Instead, I was eating said treats and preparing to celebrate America by floating down the river in a red and white seersucker bathing suit, on a blue tube, with a distinctly American beverage in my hand.  Priorities, right?  I like to think that the Founding Fathers would have approved of my choice.

Luckily I am also a firm believer that you can celebrate America each and every day you want to.  And s’mores are a classic summer go-to.  Or you can just save these for next year.  (You’re not going to wait that long.)

So let’s get down to it.  Homemade s’mores are funny things, because most people will take “homemade” in this instance to mean that you put store-bought graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate together at home and called it a day.  Not so.  In this case, you make the graham crackers, make the marshmallows, and then you cheat by sandwiching everything together with melted chocolate.  Breathe easy, you don’t have to grind up fresh cocoa beans to make the chocolate or anything crazy like that.  Be warned though, these do take some time to make and assemble.  Worth it?  You betcha.

Homemade S’mores (makes 24)

Graham Crackers (from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients

2.5 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

.75 teaspoon salt

7 tablespoons cold butter

1/3 cup clover honey

5 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Add in the butter in cubes, “pulsing” the mixer until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla.  Slowly add to the flour mixture, continuing to pulse, until the dough just comes together.  (It will be sticky.)  Shape into a rectangle, place in lightly floured saran wrap, and chill overnight in the fridge.

When dough is ready, preheat the oven to 350F.  In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon.

Roll out the dough onto a floured surface, to about 1/8 inch thick.  Use a 2-inch square cutter (or a fluted square cutter like I did!) and begin to cut out squares.  You should get about 48 squares.  On 24 of the squares, use a mini star cutter to cut out a star from the middle of the square.  Place the stars on a separate baking sheet.  Place the 24 star squares and the 24 regular squares on sheets lined with parchment paper, and then sprinkle the sugar/cinnamon topping mixture evenly on top of each square and star.  Bake for about 15 minutes.  I made the graham crackers a little softer just because I find that they are easier to eat as s’mores that way, but bake for a little longer if you like them crispier!!

Remove from oven and let them cool.  Snack on a couple stars while you’re waiting!

Marshmallows (from Marshmallow Madness!)

Ingredients

4.5 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin (I use Knox)

.5 cup cold water

3/4 cup granulated sugar

.5 cup light corn syrup

.25 cup water

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

.5 cup cornstarch

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together the gelatin and .5 cup of cold water and let stand for about 5 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, stir together the sugar, .25 cup of light corn syrup, .25 cup of water, and salt over high heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 240F.  (Use a candy thermometer!)  As this is heating up, beat the remaining .25 cup of corn syrup into a medium bowl.  Microwave the gelatin mixture for about 30 seconds, or until completely melted.  Slowly pour the melted gelatin into the bowl containing the corn syrup and continue beating on low speed.

When the syrup has reached 240F, pour it into the mixing bowl, increase the speed to medium, and beat for 5-7 minutes.  Increase to medium-high and beat for another 5 minutes, then to high and beat for 2 more minutes.  Then beat in the vanilla.  The mixture will be very white and fluffy, and will have dramatically increased in volume!

Butter or spray a 9×13 pan (or an 8×8 pan for very thick marshmallows).  Pour the marshmallow into the pan, making sure it is evenly spread.  Use an offset spatula to get the mixture into the corners as well.

In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch.  Gently sift over the top of the pan of marshmallow.  (You will not use all the mixture.)

Let the marshmallows set for about 6 hours or overnight.  Once ready, cut them into 2-inch squares (it helps to trim the edges off first!).

Assembly

Ingredients

1 bag milk chocolate chips

4 tablespoons shortening

3 oz. white chocolate

Sprinkles (red, white, and blue if you’re following my theme!)

Directions

The assembly is pretty straightforward.

In a small bowl, melt the milk chocolate and 2 tablespoons shortening, mixing until smooth.  Take one graham cracker square and one star cut-out graham cracker square.  Using an offset spatula, spread melted chocolate generously on the bottom side of each graham cracker.  Place a marshmallow on the square graham, then press the star cutout cracker on top and press down gently.  Repeat until all the graham crackers are assembled.

In another small bowl, melt the white chocolate and 2 tablespoons of shortening (be careful not to burn the white chocolate!)  Spoon some of the white chocolate into the middle of the star cutout, and then using an offset spatula, draw out the points of the star to make sure it is prominent.  (If you simply fill in the hole of the star cutout, the true star shape will likely look a little sloppy because it will have baked together a little bit in the oven.)  Use the cutout shape more as a guideline for your star rather than the strict template.

One the star has been made from the white chocolate, coat the white chocolate with sprinkles, and gently shake off any excess.  Repeat until all the stars are completed!

No toasting required!

Star cutout graham crackers

Stars, perfect for snacking while you assemble.

 

An assembled s’more!

 

Up-close of the star decorations, because sprinkles make everything more fun!

 

The finished, s’moretastic project. Amen, America!

 

Marshmallows are easy and so fun to make, and ditto for the graham crackers.  I think it is so satisfying to make homemade versions of items you can buy in stores.  Of course it takes quite a bit more time, but the next time you are at a campfire, you can easily elevate the classiness (cough snobbiness) of that affair to the next level with all these homemade components!  And then throw in a couple Hershey bars just to round it all out…

A toast to America, 

New Obsession: Torani Syrups

I am really obsessed with Torani syrups.  Sure, I liked them before – hello, caramel lattes from Starbucks – but I have recently discovered what great additions they are to just about everything.  Some Torani syrups are sold in supermarkets, but you can also find tons of them through their website, or even a good selection in stores like World Market.

These syrups literally come in pretty much every flavor.  You’ve got your standard vanilla, caramel, chocolate, hazelnut (and all their sugar-free versions), plus other fun ones, like toasted marshmallow, peanut butter, coconut, cupcake, cookie dough…I want them all.  Then I could technically have cupcakes for breakfast and not be judged.  Sounds like a win!  However, Torani also has a bacon syrup.  That’s right, BACON.  Those of you who know me know that I have a minor bacon obsession.  (I obviously tried the bacon sundae at BK already.  If you want to talk about judgment, woah.  Just tell people you’ve tried it and see what happens.  Apparently most people aren’t that committed to bacon.)

Bacon Sundae. It happened. Deal with it.

Anyway, sometimes once I get started on how much I love bacon, I can’t stop.  So back to the syrups.  And one additional wild sidenote:  rumor has it that Torani is coming out with a chicken and waffles syrup.  what.  the.  heck.

Like I said, these are great in coffee when you want a little flavor pick-me-up, but they are also so great for baking!  Lately, I have been adding a couple teaspoons of salted caramel Torani to my chocolate cupcakes, and it boosts the chocolate flavor and made them just that much moister.  Excellent.  I added some vanilla syrup to a whipped vanilla frosting, and it made the frosting just a little bit creamier and added an extra kick of vanilla.  Plus, it is clear, so the frosting ended up being a purer white than it is when using normal vanilla extract.  Perfect.

Torani also makes a whole bunch of fruit-flavored syrups, from blackberry to passion fruit and everything in between!  (Right now I feel like a toss-up between a spokesperson for bacon and for Torani syrups.  Sorry but I am just really into both these things.)  Fruit syrups are great for additions to baking as well (super strawberry frosting!), but they have one other fantastic use, and that is for making italian sodas.  All you need is some tonic water or club soda, a couple pumps of your favorite fruity Torani syrup, and a few ice cubes.  Presto, a refreshing little drink for a perfect summer picnic.  Or use the syrups to add a splash of extra fruit flavor to your sangria recipe.  Or ohmygodthepossibilitiesareendless.

And one more thing I excited to use Torani syrups for?  Flavoring homemade ice cream.  That’s right.  It will happen.  I will be stocking up on flavors and using them to make treats and drinks even more delicious all summer.  In fact, I want a Torani cabinet like some people have a liquor cabinet.  And seriously, that bacon syrup is first up.

Bacon and cookie dough and apple, oh my, 

Say Goodbye to Summer 2011

I’m back from vacation!  And what a glorious vacation it was!  Sadly, I have returned from the world of fun and sun, and Labor Day weekend has come and gone.  Summer, my friends, is unofficially over.  There’s no reason not to continue embracing the bbq and shorts while the weather holds, but deep down we all know that once Labor Day weekend has passed, we’re edging slowly but surely into Fall territory.

The Summer of 2011 has been pretty interesting.  There have been natural disasters – hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding, tropical storms – as well as political disasters – Libya, the bombings in Oslo, the expulsion of Israeli diplomats from Turkey.  But summer, in my opinion, is best thought of in little moments, which 2011 brought lots of as well.  Runs outside in the (cooler) summer night air.  Sweltering days when all you could do was sit inside with a cold drink and a good book.  Beach weekends.  Outdoor concerts where dust, grime, and the sounds of your favorite band fill the air.  Backyard bbqs.  Ferris wheel rides.  New bathing suits, old friends, blonder hair, and darker skin.  Ice cream cones.  Who could ever get sick of summer??  Celebrate the best moments of your summer with this tricky little treat – cannolis in an ice cream cone!  These treats are so cheerful, and since they only look like ice cream, you can even make them in the winter when you might need a little reminder that summer will eventually come back to us!

Ice Cream Cone Cannolis

Ingredients

1 pound ricotta cheese (drained)

12 sugar cones

4 oz. milk chocolate, melted

6 tablespoons sprinkles (pick your favorite!)

3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

8 oz. cream cheese

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 oz. mini chocolate chips

24 mini marshmallows

 

Directions

Break off a small piece of each ice cream cone – creating approximately a 1.5 inch semi-circle on one side of each cone.  Dip about 1/4 inch of the rim of the entire cone into the melted chocolate, and then immediately press the chocolate-covered part into the sprinkles to coat.  Lay the cones to dry/set on a sheet of parchment paper, ensuring that the side with the semi-circle is facing upwards.

In a large bowl, mix together the drained ricotta cheese, confectioner’s sugar, cream cheese, and vanilla extract.  Mix until well incorporated and quite thick.  Fold in the chocolate chips (plus more if desired!).

Drop two mini marshmallows in the bottom of each sprinkled cone.  Holding each cone upright, spoon the cannoli mixture into the cone (a few tablespoons per cone).  Do not fill too full – it won’t leak out the bottom because of the marshmallows, but could spill out of the top where the semi-circle is if you are not careful!

You can top with some more sprinkles, a little cherry, or even some whipped cream – or just leave them plain and enjoy as is!

*Recipe adapted from the June 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living (see magazine workbook for original recipe!)

Say Goodbye to Summer

Serving up a bowl of "ice cream cones"!

Sprinkles = happiness

All good things come to an end, so celebrate your best summer moments, and start counting down the days until summer is here again!

For all those summer nights, 

Smart Travel Safety

You know that saying, “it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt”?  That’s how I feel about unfortunate travel-related incidents.  You don’t want to think about something bad happening to you while you are in the midst of a fun and relaxing vacation, but let’s face it.  Sometimes these things happen, and it is how you are prepared that will help to mitigate any dire interruptions to your well-deserved rest!  Here are my top five tips for preparing for the worst!

1.  Your passport is your best friend.  Treat it like one!  When you are actually in the airport, passport cases are annoying because you will need to take them out for the customs agents, but once you have arrived at your destination, they are handy for keeping all of your travel documents together.  Always make sure your passport is in a safe place (it’s generally not recommended to just leave it lying in your hotel room, for example).  As well, it’s important to make sure that you have a photocopy of your passport in a place separate from your actual passport when you travel.  I like to write down the address and phone number of the U.S. (or whatever your home country is) Embassy in the country I am traveling to on that photocopy.  That way, if your passport is lost of stolen, you have proof of identification, your passport number, and the information that you will need to obtain new travel documentation all in one place.  I also leave a photocopy of my passport with a trusted friend or family member back home when I travel.  In this age of technology, it is also a great idea to email yourself a pdf of your passport so that you can access it from virtually anywhere in the event of an emergency!

the cute outside of a travel wallet...

...and the inside! keep everything organized!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Speaking of emergencies, they can happen!  Anything from civil unrest (London riots, anyone??) to natural disasters (tsunamis, etc) can occur, and you can’t predict when trouble will arise.  It might sound silly, but it is a smart idea to take a few minutes and register your travel with the U.S. State Department (or again, a similar program in your home country).  In the event of an emergency, especially if your government calls for its citizens to be evacuated, you will be on record, which will essentially make you a priority.  A great example of this is the evacuations from Egypt earlier in the year.  Most of the registration is easy to complete with just a simple online form, found at the U.S. State Department website.  http://www.state.gov/travel/

3.  Fanny packs can be cool.  Not just in an ironic hipster way, but in a “look at how convenient this is for walking around a foreign country” way.  Keep your fanny pack (or the super slim tuck under your shirt “fanny packs”) facing front so you will notice any grabbing hands, and make sure it stays zipped up.  I also like to ensure that any messenger bag I am using, particularly on longer trips, fully fastens.  Open bags will make you a target for opportunistic pick-pockets!  It also helps to keep some small bills right on your person.  That way, to make a quick, small transaction, such as buying a drink from a roadside vendor, you don’t have to unzip your bag and fumble around.  This again will make you less of a target and will help you to move around faster!

try to tell me you are not into these bad boys...

4.  Let’s talk about luggage tags.  They are necessary, because if your luggage gets lost (WORST), it’s helpful to be able to say “it has a tag with my name and address, etc.” rather than, “it’s a black rectangle…”!  That being said, in a day and age where identity theft is a concern, placing your address out there for the world to see can be a less-than-optimal option.  So get creative!  I always use the luggage tags with a “flap” that hides your personal information, but those are quickly and easily accessed by anyone who can touch your luggage.  So I also make my own luggage tag inserts.  One side of a thicker piece of cardstock contains my relevant information – name, address, and a home phone number or email are probably the standard.  The other side simply states “If found, please reverse this card for contact information”.  If your luggage is lost, someone will be able to pull out your data, but chances are that someone who is up to no good will forgo the effort (and time!) it will take to remove the card from the luggage tag and flip it over.  The more difficult you make it for someone to steal from you, the safer you will be!

deterrence is key!

5.  Don’t panic.  If something bad does happen to you, stay as calm as possible.  Utilize your country’s Embassy as an aid if you have lost your documents, experience a family emergency, or need to leave the country for any number of reasons.  Ask for help from persons you encounter on your travels (no, probably not that awesome backpacker from New Zealand), such as hotel concierges or a travel agent.  By writing down even one or two key phone number contacts before you leave for your trip, you can minimize feelings of panic if anything should happen to you while traveling and you don’t know where to turn right away.  If the incident doesn’t turn out to be life-threatening (or maybe even if it does!), remind yourself that one day, it will make a great…no, a legendary story to tell friends and family!

I’m counting down the days until I leave for my trip!  I haven’t completed even a quarter of the items on my “pre-trip to do list”, but I’m slowly working on it.  (And this weekend, I will be not-so-slowly working on it!)  As someone recently reminded me, always think of the “5 P’s” – Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.  Just think in this instance of “poor” as “terrible” and “performance” as “travels” and you have a slightly less catchy, but very much true, mantra to guide you!

Making a packing list and checking it more than twice, 

Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut reminds me of summer, plain and simple.  There’s nothing like catching that first scent of coconut-based sunscreen, or, if you’re really lucky, sipping drinks from coconut shells on a tropical beach.  Regardless of how you get your coconut fix, I think coconut should be considered a vital part of the summer experience.  It’s an exotic, fresh, sweet flavor that pairs well with lemonade and gives you a sugar fix without being too heavy during the hottest days of summer.  There are tons of coconut treat options out there, from being a feature such as in coconut macaroons to serving as a complimentary ingredient in recipes like 7-layer bars.  You can’t really go wrong with a coconut dessert, especially when kept on hand as a 3pm pick-me-up because you aren’t on that tropical beach, but one of my all-time favorite coconut desserts happens to be none other than coconut cream pie.

Confession:  I have a slightly odd obsession with trick food…that is, a food that tricks you into thinking it is something else entirely.  Example:  cupcakes that at first glance look like mini-burgers (I’ll post them here eventually!).  A less in-your-face example of this kind of food trickery is coconut cream pie.  When you look at an unsliced coconut cream pie, you AUTOMATICALLY assume it’s a lemon meringue pie or a key lime pie.  Not so, friends.  Not so.  Slice this cake open and you have a smooth and creamy coconut filling paired with the melt in your mouth deliciousness of a meringue topping.  It can’t be beat!!

Coconut cream pies can be a bit time-consuming to make, but they are definitely worth it.  I also have a shortcut for this recipe, and this shortcut is called store-bought pie crust.  Sacrileg, I know, but sometimes I just am more excited about eating a piece of pie then I am about rolling out dough and finding my pie weights when it’s 98F outside.  So do yourself a favor when it’s boiling hot out and you just want some pie.  Grab a pre-made 9-in. round pie shell, and get started on the filling!

Coconut Cream Pie

Ingredients

9-in pre-made pie shell (or make your own with your favorite pastry recipe.  Up to you!)

1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes

1/4 plus one teaspoon cup cornstarch

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups lowfat milk

2/3 cup CREAM of coconut (not to be confused with coconut milk…!)

4 large eggs, separated, plus 3 large egg whites

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375F.  Make sure your pie shell is cooked according to the directions on the package, or be a go-getter and make your own.  (I baked mine for 15 minutes, until the crust was golden brown.)

Spread out 1/4 cup of the coconut on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and toast until light golden in color (about 5 minutes).  Do not do anything else while you are toasting the coconut…it will burn to a crisp if you blink, so make sure you are watching it every second it is in the oven!!  When toasted successfully, set aside.

For the filling:  Combine cornstarch, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan.  Whisk in milk and cream of coconut.  Stir over medium heat, constantly stirring, until the mixture is bubbling and very thick.  This process will take about 5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk 4 egg yolks together, and then slowly pour and whisk hot milk mixture into the yolks.  Pour the combined yolk and milk mixture back into the saucepan, and place back on medium heat until the mixture returns to a boil, which should only take about a minute.  Make sure that you keep stirring as this happens!  Once the mixture has reached a boil, remove from heat.  Take this opportunity to prepare an ice bath.

Stir the butter and vanilla into the mixture, and then fold in the remaining 1 1/4 cups of coconut flakes.  Take this custard mixture and pour it back into the medium bowl, and place over the ice bath. Cover the surface of the custard itself (not just stretch across the bowl) with plastic wrap, so that a skin does not form over your custard.  Set this aside.

For the meringue topping:  Combine 7 egg whites and the remaining 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar in a heat-proof bowl.  Set this bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk briskly until all of the sugar has dissolved.  At this point, the egg whites should be hot to the touch.  (This will take approximately 6 minutes.)

Remove the egg whites bowl from the heat, and, with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy, white peaks form.  This will take at least 10 minutes, so especially if you are using a hand mixer, don’t give up!  For a good meringue, the peaks definitely need to be stiff.

Take the prepared pie crust, and spoon the cooled custard mixture into the crust.  Smooth the surface.  Using a spatula, pile the meringue on top of the custard filling.  Spread the meringue fully over the piecrust, ensuring that it reaches all edges, in order to seal with topping in.  Touch the spatula to the surface of the meringue and then quickly lift up, doing so all over the pie, in order to form the traditional meringue peaks often found on coconut cream/lemon meringue/key lime pies.

Place the pie in the oven on the broiler setting, and broil under the meringue turns golden brown.  Again, ensure that you have your eagle eye on, because the meringue will burn if you leave it too long!!  The meringue will brown in likely less than 30 seconds.  (You could also use a hand-held kitchen torch if you have one!)

Remove the pie from the oven, and cool for at least 2 hours.  Sprinkle the toasted coconut on top of the cake directly before serving.

Recipe adapted from www.marthastewart.com 

Coconut Cream Pie

I did not get a picture of the inside of this pie, but if I could take the liberty of describing the pie filling in one word, that word would be “dreamy”.  This coconut cream pie is definitely a crowd-pleaser, and it’s a great summer treat!  The smell of tropical sunscreen has nothing on a slice of this pie!

For the love of coconut, 

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