Thursday, July 29, 2010

Testing...testing....Please give me your opinion!

I need your help. I don't know which pie to make so I am taking a poll. Please tell me what you think.

Here's the story:

On Sunday I am making the desserts for a small wedding. There will be no wedding cake, only an assortment of pies. At the tasting several months ago with the bridal couple and the bride's parents, the flavors of pies were chosen for the wedding. The list included banana cream, chocolate cream, peach pie, berry pie, pumpkin pie, strawberry rhubarb and also....coconut custard pie.

The mother of the bride suggested coconut custard. When she did, someone else said, "You mean coconut cream pie?" to which she replied, "No! Coconut custard pie!"

I confess that I had never made a coconut custard pie but I consented to making it because I was confident that I could with a recipe. But in researching recipes I am finding that coconut custard pie isn't easily defined.

This week I tested two recipes that are very different from each other. I am still unsure what I should make for the wedding. If you have any experience at all with coconut custard pie, I would appreciate some input! It is not part of my pie lexicon so I'm not sure if there is a strong opinion about what coconut custard pie should be. Pies are often regional in their origin and sometimes they are brought down through families with a cultural history. I don't know if this is true for the bride's mother. I have no way of asking her either. Help me out if you have any ideas!

Here is my first coconut custard pie. The recipe is from the Williams Sonoma Baking Book.

By the way, I'm sorry you can't give these pies a taste test. That would be helpful wouldn't it? I'll describe them for you though.

This pie had an egg, milk and sugar filling with toasted coconut. The coconut floated to the top and the filling underneath was very sweet. The style of the pie reminded me of a pecan pie. There was lemon zest in the filling and the flavor of it was very prominent. This pie was not very coconutty, even with the toasted coconut. If I made it again, I would eliminate the lemon because it was just too strong and I would use coconut milk instead of whole milk to try and bring out more coconut flavor.

The second pie I tried is a Martha Stewart recipe for Coconut Custard Pie.
The filling was cooked like a custard on the stovetop with coconut milk, eggs and sugar. I added some untoasted, sweetened, shredded coconut to the filling.

My tasters all loved this pie the most. It was smooth and creamy like a... coconut cream pie. From what I can tell with my research the only reason this wouldn't be called a coconut cream pie is that it doesn't have a layer of whipped cream on the top.


A custard is basically an egg pudding. Usually it has milk or cream in it. So a banana cream pie and a chocolate cream pie are actually made with custard too. I think that this second pie is technically a coconut custard pie but is it the kind of custard that the MOB was thinking of? (MOB= Mother Of the Bride)

Other recipes I have seen for Coconut Custard are more similar to a pumpkin pie (which is also a custard, made with eggs and milk) where you bake the mixture of eggs, coconut milk and sugar in the crust instead of cooking it on the stove top. This would be another possible way to go.

So please help me out here. Which do you think is the type of pie that I should make to give the distinction of being a Coconut Custard Pie?


  1. I vote for the thousand dollar apple pie.

    Wait- what?

  2. Because the MOB insisted on Custard, you should do one that doesn't LOOK like cream pie, even if the cream pie tastes best. I'd say try one like a pumpkin-pie-type, and make sure it is yellow, not white, like custard, you know...
    The first one you pictured looked way too sweet, not very custard-y. The second one looked marvelously CREAMY. Next time we do want taste test.

  3. I have an old Charity League cookbook from NC published in 1955. There are Coconut Cream Pie and Coconut Custard Pie recipes listed back-to-back. The cream pie calls for cooking in a double boiler and pouring into a cooked pie shell. The custard pie is baked in the oven 'until custard sets'. So I think it all depends on personal opinion. I'm one of those that would call the MOB and ask her for her favorite recipe!

    I would love to taste test for you.

  4. Yeah, I've always thought that a CREAM pie is one in which the precooked filling is poured into a prebaked pie crust and then the whole thing is refrigerated until set. A custard pie is baked all together in the oven... At least, that's what I always thought.

    You should have been testing those recipes while you were here... :-D

  5. SC and RK- that sounds like a reasonable explanation!

    And Katie- it was just too hot to get into baking so much! Besides, you had me painting all the time. ;-) And holding baby.

  6. Both my All New Joy of Cooking and my 1942 Modern Family Cookbook agree w/ SG and RK. Cream is chilled and custard is baked. Joy says the trick to a custard pie not having a soggy crust is to prebake the pie crust with an egg wash. Then add the hot custard to the hot pie crust and bake the custard til all but the center is set. I can't imagine managing that without burning the crust in the second baking.
    To me the first pie above _looks_ like a coconut custard pie. But I've never made one, just eaten them.

  7. I pick the first one, too. Plus, it's really pretty! (Says the girl with the degree as a professional baker - I should know that pretty isn't the most important, but well, sometimes being a girl wins out!)

    Personally - I'd never put a bite of either into my mouth - blech - no cream or custard or gooey stuff like that - and no evil white stuff on top of anything, either. YUCKY!

    BUT - were I to choose one to serve - I'd definitely go with the first one.

  8. Thank you very much for your comments!!

    Here is an update: I emailed the bride and she spoke to her mother. The MOB expressed that she was thinking of a baked custard pie "almost like a baked flan filled with coconut and baked in a pie shell." So.....I'm going to try another recipe from the web and if it looks good I'll take it. If it doesn't look good I'll taste it. :-)


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