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January's Light Coconut Cream Pie

A few of you might be thinking, 'Can this be real? A delicious coconut cream pie that is actually light in calories and saturated fat?' Yes! It can! I found this recipe in Cooking Light and found it to be better than the traditional version of coconut cream pie. So thank you Cooking Light!

I made this pie for our New Years Eve celebration. I was thinking, 'Let's go light, because all we've done for the last month and a half was eat!' I'm so glad I came across this recipe on the internet. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical that a light recipe for such a classic pie would still give the same rich and creamy taste. I am here to say that this recipe exceeded my expectations!

Traditional Coconut Cream pie has flaked coconut in the filling. This pie does not so don't be surprised! It uses coconut infused milk. That is where all the flavor will be in this pie and trust me - you will taste the coconut! There is no doubt that this is a coconut pie! The flavor is that prevalent! Promise!

This pie is involved, so make sure to plan accordingly. I started early in the morning, and the pie finished it's last 'chilling' in the late afternoon. I would consider this to be a moderate to difficult recipe, but if you have a spare day and a craving for something sweet that won't make you cringe at the calorie intake, this pie is worth the work! You can use a purchased refrigerated pie crust or you can make your own. I used my easy-peasy water whipped pie crust recipe that I have used for at least 20 years. I will be posting it here later this month, so make sure to look for it! I prepared the pie dough and chilled it in the refrigerator the day before I made the filling. The morning of preparing the pie, I rolled out my pastry dough and pre-baked the shell. I let the shell cool completely.

I highly recommend you read through this recipe (and all recipes you prepare! Cooking 101 here), in case there are special equipment and techniques involved. This one has a few, but I'll try to explain them best I can in this post! Yes, this pie can be complicated for a novice cook and even involved for a seasoned cook like myself, but the results are amazing! If you love to bake and create delicious desserts, I really encourage you to try this pie - you won't regret it!

Bon Appetit!

Ingredients for Coconut Cream Pie filling:

-Pastry for 9-inch (one crust pie), pre-baked according to pastry instructions and cooled completely

-2 cups 1% low-fat milk

-1 cup half and half

-1 and 1/2 cups flaked sweetened coconut

-1 vanilla bean split lengthwise

-2/3 cup sugar

-1/3 cup corn starch

-1/4 teaspoon salt

-4 large egg yolks (reserve 3 egg whites for meringue)

-2 tablespoons butter

Ingredients for Fluffy Italian Meringue:

-3 large egg whites at room temperature

-1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

-1/2 cup sugar

-1/4 cup water

-1/4 cup flaked sweetened coconut, toasted

Directions for Coconut Cream Pie filling (with hints from Sandra):

First of all if you just want to see the basic recipe without my own hints and tips skip down to the next bolded text. It should say, 'Basic Directions for Coconut Cream Pie filling', which means none of my helpful hints! I mostly go over the more complicated troublesome bits in this one.

Start by gathering all your ingredients together. I like to separate my eggs immediately.

Place the 4 large egg yolks in a small bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the yolks. This will prevent them from drying before you can get to them. Place the 3 large egg whites in a very clean non-reactive medium size bowl. 'Non-reactive' means stainless steel, ceramic, glass, and metal cookware with enamel coating. Set the egg whites aside on your counter for later. You want them to be at room temperature for when you prepare the meringue.

Next, on a small cutting board with a very sharp paring knife, split vanilla bean down the length of the pod. Using the sharp edge of the knife, scrape down the length of the pod, scraping out the tiny seeds. At this point, I like to pull out a bowl, cheesecloth, and sieve. That way they are ready to use when I finish with cooking the filling on the stove! If you don't have a cheesecloth, you can purchase one at any kitchen supply store.

So now the fun begins - the filling! To cut the calories and fat, Cooking Light uses 1% milk along with half and half. Believe it or not - it works! You combine the milk with the half and half in a saucepan over medium heat. I have a 3 and 1/2 quart non-stick saucepan that works great (but use whatever you have, just make sure it is at least 3 quarts). After this, add to the combined milks, the coconut, vanilla bean, and the scraped seeds from the vanilla bean pod.

Bring this mixture to a simmer and remove from heat. Cover with a lid and let it sit for 15 minutes. What you are doing here is infusing the coconut flavor (along with the vanilla) into the milk mixture. This right here, is what makes this pie so yummy! Every bite is a creamy coconut dream!

After the 15 minutes have passed, pour the coconut milk mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve with the bowl underneath both items. You need to make sure you get out all that delicious coconut flavor by gathering up the cheese cloth and squeezing out all that goodness!

So now, it is time to thicken the filling! When combining the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks, it will look like a lumpy mess. You can do this with a whisk or fork but do not be alarmed at how it looks - I promise everything will come together just fine!

Once you got your lumpy mess together, gradually whisk in your milk mixture. See it looks much better, doesn't it?

Using the same saucepan (I quickly wash it), bring your milk and egg yolk mixture to a boil - make sure you stir/whisk constantly to avoid lumps! Your filling should be nice and thick. Remove from heat and add the butter. Whisk or stir until the mixture is smooth. Just so you know, this is a classic pudding recipe, so if you like pudding, now you know you can make it at home (if you have the time) instead of buying it at the store! Homemade is so much better!

Place your saucepan in a large ice-filled bowl for 6 minutes, stirring until cool. Pour into the prepared crust and chill in refrigerator for one hour (at the least). After that you top it with the meringue. You can make the meringue while it chills!

Basic Directions for Coconut Cream Pie filling:

Combine milk and half and half in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 and 1/2 cup coconut. Scrape seeds from the vanilla bean; stir seeds and pod into milk mixture. Bring milk mixture to a simmer; immediately remove from heat. Cover and let stand 15 minutes.

Strain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a bowl. Gather edges of cheesecloth; squeeze over bowl to release moisture. Discard solids. Combine 2/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks in large bowl, stirring with whisk. Gradually add milk mixture to egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add butter; whisk until smooth. Place pan in a large ice-filled bowl for six minutes, stirring to cool. Pour into prepared crust. Cover and chill at least one hour.

Fluffy Italian Meringue

I confess that I have never made an Italian meringue until doing this recipe. I've made classic French meringue, where you slowly add sugar into beaten egg whites. French meringue is my go-to meringue for my Lemon Meringue Pie. Italian meringue is made by beating a hot sugar syrup into beaten, soft peaked egg whites. As the syrup is beaten in the egg whites, they become stiff peaked. This is supposedly the hardest meringue technique, but I had no difficulty with the meringue coming out beautifully. If you have never done a meringue before now, it may seem daunting (especially, if you have heard horror stories about meringue and avoided making it). But I assure you, if you follow these tips, you will likely have success!

1. Egg whites should not have any yolk in them. Fat from the yolk will not create a light and airy meringue.

2. Make sure all your equipment is 'squeaky' clean. Again any fat, grease, or dirt will not make a light and airy meringue.

3. Egg whites must be at room temperature.

4. Use a glass or stainless steel bowl (again 'squeaky' clean).

5. Try not to make a meringue on a rainy day. It may weigh down the egg whites and the results will be less than stellar. Use caution on very humid days too (it might work but not be perfect).

6. Soft peak is when you lift your beaters and the beaten egg whites hanging of the beaters have a soft curl to them.

7. Stiff peak has little or no curl on the beaters.

I really encourage you to try this Italian Meringue! Follow the recipe directions and the above tips, and your meringue should turn out beautifully. Make sure you have an accurate candy thermometer and use the smallest saucepan you own for a precise temperature reading.

Italian Meringue has a rich creamy taste that would compliment any pudding based desserts. It is simply delicious! And so very yummy!

Directions for the Fluffy Italian Meringue:

Place 3 egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl.

Beat with mixer at high speed until soft peaks form.

Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a sauce pan; bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until candy thermometer registers 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pour hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over egg whites, beating at high speed until thick.

Once your meringue is done, spread that glorious topping over your pie filling - bringing the meringue to the edge of your crust.

Put your pie back in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Add the toasted coconuts to the pie before serving. I like to toast the coconut in a nonstick pan over medium heat, stirring constantly until toasted. I have tried toasting in the oven, and the results were not to my liking. I feel that I have better control on the stove-top.

Serves 12.

Per serving: 266 calories, 11.5 gram fat, 5.7 grams saturated fat, 1.3 grams mono fat, 3 grams poly fat, 4.2 grams protein, 36.4 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 79 milligrams cholesterol, 189 milligrams sodium, 79 milligrams calcium

(edited by Anna Weicht)

#pieofthemonth #pie #january #coconut #light #healthy #coconutcream #intermediate #difficult

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