So, this weekend Job #1 was creating my first commissioned work, a chocolate coconut meringue pie. Except that I couldn’t find a recipe for that exact pie and I am not so talented as to be able to bake sans recipe…so, long story short, I decided to do a chocolate cream pie and a coconut meringue.
The coconut meringue recipe I found on Epicurious.com called for cream of coconut (is there a big difference between that and coconut milk??) and FreshDirect didn’t have cream of coconut, so I had to go to the grocery store anyway. I also needed to buy coconut extract and was impressed by the extract selection they had at my little Met Foodmarket…but, unfortunately, all the extracts of the Met Foodmarket rainbow did not include coconut. Vanilla (natch), almond, lemon, imitation butter (!!)…but no coconut.
I also had to use Oreos with the frosting scraped out instead of Nabisco chocolate wafers. Improv!
And…I *thought* I had unsweetened baker’s chocolate at home but I really had semisweet baker’s chocolate (and only an ounce!) so I improvised by using all of the bittersweet chocolate I had purchased for the occasion (7 ounces instead of 5) in addition to the last ounce of semisweet baker’s chocolate I had to my name. (For the record, I am officially out of baker’s chocolate now.)
The chocolate cream pie recipe called for forcing custard through a sieve…which, if you recall, is what I had to do with that Boston Cream Cake-thing. Even though it was kinda gross…I have to admit that the end result – homemade pudding, I guess – was seriously one of the greatest things I have ever had in my mouth. Period. It quite literally made my tastebuds dance and sing. (Says the recipe: “This beautiful pie is great for entertaining, since the rich, creamy filling will be a surefire hit with anyone who likes chocolate pudding.” I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a HUGE chocolate pudding fan…but, oh, man. It was good stuff. I would even be tempted to secretly make it in my apartment where I live by myself and where no one would ever know…and just eat it all myself. With my cat. Except then I’d be a cautionary tale…and I’m thinking here that by putting that statement out into the cosmos that perhaps it will be a deterrent…but, who am I kidding? I’m totally going to do it anyway…might as well embrace spinsterhood with gusto.)
I still haven’t figured out the single crust. I rolled it out a LOT so that there was enough to fill the pan and spill over the edges, but then it seemed too thin…and it ended up bunching a little…and I tried to crimp the edges to make them pretty, but have in my notes here that I was worried about it being tough…probably because I thought I had handled it too much.
You also have to pierce the bottom of a single crust with a fork (or use pie beads or some such nonsense?)…and it came away from the sides during baking.
Cream of coconut kind of looks like lard.
Meringue takes FOREVER. I spent a good 20 minutes beating the hell out of it with my hand mixer on high…and it’s the first time I have ever used the “power boost” feature. But the recipe called for “stiff, glossy peaks” and it was definitely glossy at a certain point, but whether or not it was actually stiff when I gave up and said, “To hell with it…” is debatable. I’m surprised my arm isn’t sore today.
“In keeping with the tradition of southern desserts, this [coconut meringue] pie is sweet. Dr. Stallworth uses buttermilk in the filling to provide a hint of tang, but northerners may want to accentuate it even more by adding a tablespoon of fresh lemon or lime juice to the filling,” Epicurious says.
In homage to my Southern roots, perhaps, I stuck with the buttermilk for “a hint of tang.” And, while I am obviously not allowed to sample my commissioned work, I think it smelled pretty darn good. (And I was able to store it in my beloved Elegan cake holder.) Fingers crossed my coworker has a happy anniversary…
Look! It says, “This pie, an easy take on toffee with bananas (hence the name), made its debut at The Hungry Monk, a pub in England, in 1972. Traditional recipes involve boiling unopened cans of condensed milk, but since that sometimes results in explosions, we thought you might prefer our method.”
I’m very excited about this pie…so much so that I thought I could make it after midnight and had to actually abort the mission when I pulled out a pathetic single crust from my oven and realized I was too tired to give it the attention it deserved.
In order to avoid explosions, you have to open the cans of sweetened condensed milk and pour the “milk” into an empty pie pan and cover it with foil and place it in a roasting pan and add boiling water and then leave it be for two hours (refilling the water as necessary…). I used a roasting pan I borrowed from a friend of a friend at Thanksgiving and still haven’t returned (oops) and was kind of scared I was going to scald myself when removing the water bath from the oven. Thankfully, this story ends happily.
I was really excited when I removed the foil and discovered that I had made toffee! It kind of looked like brains though. (Stirring it up and chilling it should – fingers crossed – eliminate any brain-like consistency.)
And here’s my great-big England tie-in: coincidentally, the second Bridget Jones movie was on TBS all weekend. I think I’ve already established my position on that film, so I won’t beat a dead horse. But, it was sort of like a car wreck in that I couldn’t exactly look away…and then at the end, I heard a familiar voice singing, “Your Love is King.” I had to verify this online just now, but I was right! It was Will Young! For those of you who were not watching reality TV in the UK in 2001, he was the winner of England’s Pop Idol long before Simon Cowell (okay, a year before Simon Cowell) hopped across the pond to insult would-be American singers. Will Young and Gareth Gates were the final two contestants and I was a HUGE Will fan. (Gareth was pretty in a boyish sort of way, but Will had the pipes). My boyfriend’s mother had 4 sisters and all of them voted obsessively for Gareth and I got all caught up in it – i.e., “If there is any justice in this world, Will Young will win Pop Idol!” And so he did…and now he makes cursory appearances in Mrs. Henderson Presents and on Bridget Jones soundtracks. (Ironically, this realization came on the same night that Anderson Cooper interviewed Simon Cowell on 20/20…but please don’t think less of me for watching Pop Idol – it was the first year of the show! It was a new and exciting phenomenon! It’s not like I voted for Clay Aiken. [Although perhaps I should admit that I *did* actually vote for Mario Lopez in a moment of weakness in the final episode of Dancing with the Stars last season. But Saved by the Bell, like, defined my generation. And Screech lives near my cousins!])
In any event…after the horrifying Bridget Jones sequel was over, Wimbledon was on! And say what you will about romantic comedies, but this one was filmed in Brighton which was where I went to school for two years and so I have lots of happy memories there. (And, one might also argue, it was exceedingly appropriate since banoffee pie originated in the U.K…)
But, sadly, I left the crust dough out too long and it was a *little* too dry by the time I tried to actually work with it…and I thought I could be really smart and fold over the excess crust to compensate for any thinness and make it easier to crimp…and I was really excited when I realized that each and every pie I attempted to bake required stiff peaks at one point or another…but then I removed my single crust from the oven and found that it did a weird creeping-down-the-sides-thing and seemed a bit gummy, so I decided to cut my losses and save banoffee for another night. But I’m halfway there with the toffee!