Not to get too new agey and introspective, but I am really thankful that every experience teaches me something new. Regardless of whether something is a good experience or a terrible experience, everything I do keeps me growing and exploring things that I'd never even considered. 2010 has been particularly poignant year for me at work and the kitchen. Never a dull moment!
So coconut cream pie... I've eaten a few slices in my day, but I had never actually baked one. I had never baked a cream pie, period. I think I've mentioned before that in my hometown in Kentucky, the ability to bake good pies is something that can make a person virtuous in the eyes of the masses. Something I remember fairly clearly from college is reading and discussing Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Here's what Wikipedia says about his concept of virtue:
"In Aristotle's sense, it is excellence at being human, a skill which helps a person survive, thrive, form meaningful relationships and find happiness. Learning virtue is usually difficult at first, but becomes easier with practice over time until it becomes a habit."
I don't remember it being explained that way college, but it applies particularly well to the virtue of pie baking, especially in the American South and Midwest!
I baked my pie in my grandmother's kitchen, using her equipment including this very effective egg separator:
The custard filling was easy to make, but I didn't get mine quite thick enough. The recipe said to let it get as thick as cream and then leave it a minute longer. I left mine even longer than that, but it apparently wasn't long enough. It was delicious but runny. Oh well, better luck next time!
Once again we used Delia's recipe for crust, but this time I used standard American cup and spoon measurements instead of a digital scale. It rolled out great and transferred to the dish beautifully, and I was psyched! But alas, it was tough after being baked. Darn it! I have no idea what went wrong.
As you can see, I pricked the bottom of my crust with a fork but I failed to do it to the sides, which resulted in some puffiness. Lesson learned.
I poured the filling into the shell, whipped up the meringue in the Kitchen Aid mixer (enviably easy compared to hand-whisking!) and spread the meringue and coconut atop the pie:
And after the oven...
The ladies in the picture are my Grandma Sue and my Aunt Becki. They're the most famous bakers in my family, and I have learned a lot from both of them. I don't know two people who bake more. Comically, my Aunt Martha is the celebrity coconut cream pie baker in my family, and I didn't get a shot of her.
So here's my finished product:
The filling was runny, the crust was tough, and I'll be honest, I threw a teeny tantrum. I wanted it to be wonderful! But my family looked on the bright side and gave it rave reviews despite its shortcomings. Sometimes it's good when people lie to you. :)