featured, showstopper

An American Pie

With Don McLean’s song stuck in my head, I set out to create what Paul Hollywood described as “a good American pie,” which he claimed, in order to make, “you almost have to be British.” He believes American pies are too sweet, adding, “To be honest, most of the American pies I’ve had before, I wouldn’t go back for another one.”

So when asking for an American pie, the Great British Bake Off judges didn’t really want an American pie at all. They didn’t want a double-crust pie, and they clearly didn’t want it served in a pie tin, like most pies in America are. Most of the contestants used a sweet crust pastry, while my experience with American pie is that it usually has a simple shortcrust pastry made with flour, shortening and water. What they were really asking for, in my opinion, was a tart.

Nevertheless, I wanted to impress the Paul and Mary in my head, so I sought to produce the “subtlety of flavors” that Paul was looking for and a pie that would achieve what Mary wanted—that “every single slice will look beautiful on the plate.”

For inspiration, I turned to what I already had on hand: A batch of lime curd I had made some time ago and stored in the freezer, and something I’d been wanting to try in my bakes for a while now, some culinary lavender I had added to an Amazon order to get the free shipping. In trying to come up with another flavor that would complement those two, I landed on coconut—which I thought would balance out the zesty tang of lime with the floral notes of lavender.

Building on this idea, I decided to create a sweet crust pastry shell with crushed lavender, fill it with coconut cream, top that with a thin layer of lime curd and garnish it with lavender-infused mascarpone whipped cream.

I found a recipe for a lemon tart with lavender-scented crust on ditchtherecipe.org. I used that for my pastry base. The coconut cream filling came from tastesbetterfromscratch.com’s Old-Fashioned Coconut Cream Pie recipe. And the lavender-infused mascarpone cream came from puffpastry.com. The lime curd, if my memory serves me correctly, came from this recipe.

Using my experience making the Showstopper Fruit Tart as a guide, I didn’t have as many problems with the pastry this time. After mixing and chilling the dough, I rolled it out quickly so it was still cold when I transferred it to my springform pan by wrapping it around the rolling pin. Knowing I could patch any holes that occurred in the transfer process made it less stressful this time around.

After blind-baking the pastry shell, I made the coconut cream filling. I chose this recipe because it had three types of coconut—toasted, coconut milk and coconut extract—to really give it an oomph of flavor. Otherwise I was afraid it would be completely overpowered by the lime curd and lavender. The one change I made to the recipe was to use mascarpone instead of cream cheese. I wanted the creaminess that mascarpone could give the custard filling without the tanginess of its more more well-known cousin.

I already had the lime curd thawing in the refrigerator, so my next step was to make the mascarpone whipped cream. I’d never infused cream before, and in my research, I discovered that there is both a hot and a cold method. Since I had already chosen this recipe, I went with the hot method, which is quicker than the cold method anyway.

After simmering half a cup of whipping cream with the lavender, I let it cool in the refrigerator before straining it and stirring it into the mascarpone, using the whisk attachment on my mixer. Then I whipped another cup of whipping cream separately with a quarter cup of sugar and folded it into the mascarpone mixture, one half at a time.

To assemble the pie, I piped the coconut custard filling into the pastry shell with a plain round tip, smoothed it out with my offset spatula, and then spread a thin layer of lime curd on top of that. I used a star tip to pipe on the lavender cream, making two rows of rosettes around the edge of the pastry shell, leaving the center bare. I sprinkled some leftover toasted coconut in the middle and used some thin slices of lime for garnish.

I was very pleased with the result. The filling was thick enough to make every slice look beautiful, as Mary requested, and the flavors all came through, just like Paul wanted. Although the lime curd was dominant, you could definitely taste the coconut and lavender, and the overall flavor combination was luscious! My husband and I each gave it two thumbs up!

Coconut Cream and Lime Curd Pie with Lavender-Infused Cream

Credit for pastry: DitchTheRecipe.org
Credit for coconut custard: TastesBetterFromScratch.com
Credit for lime curd: AlaskaFromScratch.com
Credit for lavender-infused cream: PuffPastry.com

For the pastry:

  • 1 ¼ c. all-purpose flour (+ have extra on hand)
  • ½ c. powdered sugar
  • ¼ t. salt
  • ½ – 1 T. dried lavender flowers, crushed (I used a mortar and pestle.)
  • ½ c. (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • ½ t. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Directions

  1. Combine flour, sugar, lavender and salt in a mixer bowl. If you want more lavender flavor in the crust use 1 tablespoon, otherwise use ½ tablespoon for a more mellow flavor. Cut cold butter into small chunks and mix in with your fingers or a pastry cutter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg and vanilla and mix just until dough is no longer dry and starts to pull together in large clumps.
  2. Form dough into a ball and flatten slightly to make a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place a 10-inch tart ring on top. (Or use a springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.)
  3. Remove dough from fridge and let it soften slightly for about five minutes. On a lightly floured surface, use a floured rolling pin to bang and flatten the dough into a disk about ½ inch thick. Working quickly so the dough doesn’t get too warm, roll from the center of the disk outward, and gently rotate it one-quarter turn after each roll to ensure it is evenly stretched into a circle. Make sure the work surface is well floured so the dough doesn’t stick to it, and make sure the dough itself is floured well enough to keep the rolling pin from sticking to it. Roll it out into a circle about 2 inches in diameter larger than the tart ring or pan. It should be just under ¼ inch thick.
  4. Roll the dough loosely around the rolling pin and transfer it to the tart ring or pan by gently unrolling it over the pan. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan, covering the entire bottom and up the sides at least 1 inch. Use any scraps or odd pieces to patch up any tears or holes. You can also use a small ball of dough to press all the way around the sides of the pan or ring to make sure there are no air pockets. Trim the edge of the dough so it is even with the rim of the ring, or about 1 inch up the sides of the pan. Cover pan in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. This will help keep dough from shrinking while it bakes.
  5. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  6. Remove pastry from freezer. Place a piece of foil or parchment paper large enough to hang over the sides of the pastry shell inside the unbaked shell and fill it with pie weights or dry beans. Bake crust for 20 minutes—foil will not stick to dough when it’s ready. Remove weights and foil, then put back into the oven for 5-10 minutes longer. If edges are getting too dark, cover loosely with foil. Crust should be dry and starting to turn golden. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool completely.

For the coconut custard:

  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut , divided
  • 14 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1½ c. half and half, divided
  • ½ c. sugar
  • ¼ t. salt
  • 1/3 c. cornstarch
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3 oz. mascarpone cheese, diced
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • ½ t. coconut extract, or to taste

Directions

  1. First, toast the coconut in a large skillet over medium-low heat, stirring and tossing frequently, until the flakes are mostly golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine coconut milk, 1 c. half and half, sugar and salt. Over medium heat, bring mixture nearly to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, whisk together remaining ½ c. half and half and cornstarch until well blended.
  4. In another small mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks together. Slowly pour ½ cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly (to temper the eggs). Pour egg yolk mixture and cornstarch mixture into saucepan, stirring constantly.
  5. Cook, stirring vigorously, for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and add in mascarpone cheese, vanilla extract and coconut extract; stir until well blended.
  6. Stir in ½ to ¾ cup coconut, reserving the rest for garnish. Pour custard into a bowl, and immediately cover the entire surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on top. Let custard cool to room temperature, then chill it in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.

For the lime curd:

  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ c. sugar
  • ¼ c. key lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 t. key lime zest
  • 4 T. butter

Directions

In a saucepan, whisk together eggs and sugar until well combined. Whisk in the key lime juice and zest. Turn the heat on to medium-low, and stir briskly and constantly until the mixture is warmed through. Add the butter a little at a time until it melts and becomes smooth. Continue cooking and stirring until the curd begins to thicken and coats the spoon. Pour the curd through a fine mesh sieve to strain out the zest. Allow to cool.

NOTE: This recipe yields about 1 cup. You will only need about half a cup for the pie. Whatever is left over can be stored in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to two weeks or in the freezer for up to a year.


For the lavender-infused cream:

  • 1 ½ c. heavy cream, divided
  • 1 T. dried lavender blossoms
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese, softened
  • ¼ c. sugar

Directions

  1. In a 1-quart saucepan over medium heat, bring ½ c. cream and the lavender to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and cook for two minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand for 30 minutes. Chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Pour the infused cream mixture through a fine sieve into a mixing bowl. Discard the lavender. Add the mascarpone to the bowl. Stir the mascarpone and cream until combined and the mixture is smooth. Use an electric mixer with whisk attachment, if desired.
  3. Beat the remaining cream and the sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Do not overbeat. Fold half the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture. Fold in the remaining whipped cream just until combined.

To assemble:


1. After pastry shell has cooled, remove from tart ring or springform pan.
2. Using a plain round tip, pipe the coconut custard into the bottom of the pastry shell, filling to about ¼ inch from the top edge. Smooth the surface of the custard with an offset spatula.
3. Spread a thin layer of lime curd over the custard, leaving a small gap between the edge of the lime curd and the pastry shell.
4. Using a star tip, pipe the lavender cream in two rows of rosettes around the edge of the pie, leaving the center bare. Sprinkle some of the leftover toasted coconut in the center of the pie. Garnish with slices of lime, if desired.
Next week: Sponge Puddings

5 thoughts on “An American Pie”

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