Don’t you hate when the only coconut in something that’s supposedly coconut cream pie is a garnish of coconut shreds over the top? Or strawberry cake that’s actually vanilla cake topped with gluey strawberry gel? Or, worse – brownies that have just enough cocoa to look chocolate-flavored, but after one bite, you realize are just sugar-flavored. If a dessert is going to claim to have a primary flavor, that flavor had better really dominate.
I wanted to stuff as much coconut into this tart (that turned into pie when I couldn’t find my tart pan) as possible, so I was excited when I stumbled upon coconut flour in the store. What a perfect way to turn the crust into a tender coconut cookie that’s still sturdy enough to hold up an inch or so of pastry cream.
I love Tartine’s pastry cream because it uses whole eggs instead of yolks, which results in a lighter, looser, silky cream. Its only downside is that it’s quick to form lumps when it’s cooked, although a quick whisk and a pass through a fine-mess strainer smooths it out. However, my friend and I were working on this pie/tart together, and she slowly dribbled the tempered custard mix into the hot milk, carefully stirring all the while, and what do you know – no lumps. I should try being careful more often myself.
With coconut extract and unsweetened coconut flakes stirred into the pastry cream, coconut flour in the crust, plus a spinkling of sweetened toasted coconut over the top of the pie, this was coconut all the way. You could add swirls of whipped cream, but wouldn’t that dilute the coconut that you tried so hard to make shine? This pie is perfect just the way it is.
Coconut Cream Tart (crust adapted from Dorie Greenspan; filling adapted from Tartine)
If you can’t find (or just don’t want to buy) coconut flour, replace the coconut flour in the crust with an additional ¼ cup all-purpose flour (to make a total of 1½ cups all-purpose flour).
Consider using half coconut milk in the filling instead of some of the whole milk! I forgot, but I think would add another delicious layer of coconut.
For the filling:
2 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cornstarch
4 ounces (½ cup + 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon coconut extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 cubes
1¼ cups (3.5 ounces) unsweetened small-flake coconut
For the crust:
1¼ cups (6 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup coconut flour
½ cup (2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons total) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
¼ cup shredded sweetened coconut, toasted, for garnish
whipped cream (optionial)
1. For the filling: Add the milk and salt to a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl, then whisk in the eggs. When the milk boils, pour just a bit of it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Keep whisking and very gradually add the rest of the milk to the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the pot and whisk constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens and just starts to boil; it will only take a few minutes. Quickly pour the pastry cream into a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl (I use the same bowl I originally mixed everything in). Use a rubber spatula to push the pastry cream through the strainer. Let the pastry cream cool for a few minutes, occasionally stirring it, and then mix in the butter, 2 cubes at a time. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate it until completely chilled, 3-4 hours or overnight.
2. Prepare the crust: Add the flours, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until the butter is cut into the dough but some pieces are still pea-sized, 2-3 seconds. Add the yolk and process continuously until the dough begins to form clumps, 30-45 seconds, stirring once or twice.
3. Spray a 9-inch tart pan (or a pie pan, but then your crust will be thicker, like mine) with nonstick spray. Lightly pat the dough onto the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Freeze the lined pan for at least an hour before baking.
4. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray one side of a 12-inch square of foil with nonstick spray; press onto the crust, oiled side down. Bake 25 minutes; remove the foil and continue to bake until the crust is golden brown, about 8 minutes more. Cool completely.
5. Assembly: Remove the chilled pastry cream from the freezer and stir in the unsweetened coconut. Spread the pastry cream into the cooled crust; smooth the top. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the filling and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. During this time, the coconut will soak up moisture from the filling, become softer and thickening the filling further.
6. When ready to serve, remove the plastic wrap and top with toasted coconut and whipped cream, if desired.