Wednesday, September 6, 2023

In which your humble writer once again goes to battle with custard

It's that most wonderful day once again: Pieathalon Day! I don't usually cook except for when the delightful Yinzerella of Dinner Is Served 1972 facilitates a recipe exchange among a group of people who blog about old recipes and cookbooks. Everybody sends a vintage pie recipe to Yinzerella, she sends us someone else's recipe, and then we have to bake and post about whatever we got. 

This year, I got Coconut Cream Pie from A Picture Treasury of Good Cooking (1953). Camilla sent it in, and she is clearly a nicer person than I am.

Doesn't the version in the book look pretty? Of course, since I hate just about everything (except sugar snap peas and Reese's peanut butter cups), I hate this recipe. Why throw sunblock-flavored pencil shavings on top of a perfectly good pie?

Luckily, I have a family member who loves coconut cream pie and rarely gets to have it because she is the only person in the entire family who likes coconut. This one is going to be for her.

The first step is making the pie shell. I was going to buy a frozen one and bake it, but of course my grocery store was out of the regular ones! They only had deep dish shells (which might be too big) or gluten-free, and I didn't really feel like paying extra to get a shell that might not even be good, so I opted for a refrigerated dough disk to use in my own pie plate. Then when I unrolled it at home, I remembered that my pie plate is a stupid size-- 9-1/2 inches-- so it's always a little too big for standard 9-inch pies. The crust just barely fit and definitely didn't leave enough space for doing anything fancy with the edge.

And then it shrank a little when I baked it.

At least it's a pretty golden-brown.

Then I started on the filling. It initially got a little lumpy when I was mixing it up, but I used my immersion blender to get it nice and smooth before I heated it.

Once it thickened, I quit stirring, covered the pan, and cooked it for an additional 10 minutes, per the recipe instructions. Here's my improvised double boiler with an improvised lid. It was a little tricky to get everything to balance, but I managed not to dump anything, so that's a win!

And when the filling came out, it was thick and lumpy. I mean, really THICK and LUMPY-- so much so that I was having flashbacks to the 2021 Pieathalon. I tried using the immersion blender again, but the filling just laughed. It was way too thick for the immersion blender to have any effect on it, so I busted out my vintage food processor, dumped in the custard, and blended the heck out of it. Then I added the vanilla and blended some more. I would have taken pictures, but throughout the process my hands got progressively more and more coated in the filling. I was in too deep for pictures. Finally, I got a thin layer of whatever filling was left (and not hopelessly stuck to the bowl in which it was cooked, the immersion blender, my hands, the food processor, or the rubber spatula I was wrangling it with) into the slightly-too-large pie shell. 

Nothing is quite so inviting as crust covered with a thin layer of glue.

Once that was cooling, I toasted the coconut. I'm not really sure I got the right kind, but the grocery store had unsweetened flaked coconut, so that's what I bought.

And I didn't burn it! So I was briefly impressed with myself.

I got fancy and made stabilized whipped cream since the pie would be going on a half-hour road trip on a 90° day. I mean, we put it in a cooler, but still, it's a lot to go through if you're a pie. Here's the assembled pie at the point just before it became nasty-- at least, if you love coconut as much as I do.

When we got the pie to its destination, my coconut-loving relative was excited, but she was kind enough to let my special guest (introduced on Saturday) take some pictures with the pie before everyone got to try it. As my sunglasses-wearing friend Nada surveyed the pie, something seemed to be off...

Oh, no! His Saturday appearance must have tipped off the authorities after all! I accidentally led them right to him. 😨

Luckily, my coconut-cream-pie-loving relative set her foot down. They were not having a showdown in her kitchen. They were just going to try the pie.

I asked the guests what they thought. Nada just kept looking back and forth between the coconut topping and the ugly guy, saying, "I don't like this one bit." I know the feeling! 

The ugly guy kept yammering about how the old cynicism is gone and we don't need pessimism. I guess that's a positive? My relative started worrying that Nada would shoot up her kitchen trying to kill the ugly guy and kicked them both out, but I promised Nada I would tell all of you to wear the sunglasses.

Finally, my long-suffering relative then tried the pie and proclaimed it the best one I've ever made. She loved the rich custard (that luckily was not lumpy after all, and thick enough not to run the second we removed a slice!) and the way the perfectly toasty coconut contrasted the smooth, rich filling. 

To be honest, she probably did not get to eat as much of the pie left as she'd hoped because the coconut-haters had sizable slices too. A couple of us (including me!) scraped off the coconut and just enjoyed a mildly sweet and very creamy slice of pie. A couple of avowed coconut-haters even ate the coconut because they liked the toastiness so much that they didn't mind the addition. This recipe is a winner!

As always, a bit THANK YOU to Yinzerella for putting this together. You can see her Villa Pie at Dinner Is Served 1972.

Kari of The Nostalgic Cook is probably planning to murder me for sending in the recipe for Aspic Salad Pie. When you see it, you will consider this a very reasonable reaction. I deserve it.

The charming Dr. Bobb at Dr. Bobb's Kitschen made Anthony Hopkins 4-Star Shepherd’s Pie, and I am trying to restrain myself from making a Silence of the Lambs joke here.

The hilarious and thorough SS at A Book of Cookrye made the summery-sounding Peach Glaze Pie.

Camilla of Culinary Cam did not chicken out when she was assigned Ballymaloe Chicken Pie.

Surly of Vintage Recipe Cards tried a Hot Fudge Pie.

Battenburghbelle at Kitchen Confidence got ready for the Halloween season with Vincent Price’s Apple Pie.

Jenny at Silver Screen Suppers got a good excuse to eat hash browns with Beef and Hash Brown Pie.

Taryn of Retro Food for Modern Times has a product placement recipe: Hershey Pie.

Note that posts will go live at various times, so check back later if links are still missing or do not work.

If you're interested, here's a list of my previous pies:

Year Six: Banana Split Pie
Year Seven: Avocado Lime Pie

I hope you enjoyed the Pieathalon!


  1. As a coconut lover, this looks delightful! xx

  2. I'm glad that the coconut cream pie that I made for a friend this summer involved instant pudding, cool whip and a prepared graham cracker crust. There's something to be said for modern convenience foods. At least you didn't end up drinking your pie this year.

    1. Given that so many of our recipes come from the '70s, it's kind of a surprise that the recipe I got wasn't all convenience foods.

  3. Thanks for being a good sport...I almost spit my coffee out of my nose when I read your bit about 'sunblock-flavored pencil shavings.' OMG. You are hilarious!

    1. If anyone deserves credit for being a good sport, it's Kari. In any case, my coconut-loving family member is grateful for your contribution!

  4. I love coconut cream pie. 100% would eat

    1. This was definitely a good one if you're a coconut cream pie lover.

  5. I totally identify with using a food processor to fix lumpy custards. The pie looks delicious! I cracked up when you called it a crust covered with glue.

    1. I was half-convinced I'd accidentally made glue at one point. That filling was sticky!

  6. I was a little worried that the Aspic Salad Pie would be my tipping point from mildly annoyed person to supervillain bent on revenge and destruction, constantly muttering, "Poppy Crocker!" as I went around shaking my fist in the air. But I think the world is safe... for now!

    Your pie looks great! I love coconut anything, but coconut cream pie is in my top 10 desserts.

    1. Thank you for being such a good sport about getting my contribution! It's good to know I won't have to reinforce the Crocker Cave.

      Sorry I got a pie that you probably would have liked. It looks like I'm about the only person who wouldn't appreciate this recipe.

  7. Coconut always tastes like soapy fireworks to me so love your likening it to sunblock-flavoured pencil shavings. Apparently it is a "thing" for certain people to have a weird flavour reaction to coconut. We are the chosen ones. Bravo for making the pie and scraping off the coconut - I would do exactly the same! Jenny from Silver Screen Suppers