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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Is Food Love?

I know I haven't been sharing many recipes lately.  I have been on somewhat of a creative dry spell.  However, I didn't create The Essential Rhubarb Pie just to share recipes, but to share all of my thoughts about food and cooking.  Today I am going to discuss something that's been on my mind for a while.

Three years ago, when I started out the Lean Eating program (refer to my other blog for details) my teammates and I were musing on the message boards about how much, and in what ways, we would be restricting our eating.  Many of us agreed that we loved to eat.  We really loved it.  We enjoyed delicious food.  How much would we have to curtail such a pleasure in order to lose weight?

The discussions brought down a virtual handslap from the coaches and mentors.  The message was clear.  If we loved to eat, it was indicative of deep-seated emotional issues.  We were medicating our psychological issues with food.  It was impossible, according to the coaching team, to like food just for food itself.  Enjoying the act of eating had to be indicative of greater issues.

"Food is not love," the health experts love to say.  "Food is fuel.  Food is what you use to power up your daily activities."  You are not allowed to be emotionally attached to eating.

Do you know what I find strange? Every day we allow ourselves all sorts of sensory pleasures.  We stare at works of art, climb to the tops of mountains and tall buildings to enjoy the view, and watch dancers and performers.  We get massages, pet our furry animals, and have sex with our loved ones (or at least our lusted ones).  We go to concerts, plug into our iPods, or simply savor the sounds of rain on the roof or ocean waves.  We wear perfume, stop to smell the roses, and love the scent of a crackling fire.  No one considers these acts of sensory pleasure to be indicative of some larger emotional issues.  Why is the simple sensory pleasure of taste so different?

I love going to the store and planning my meals.  What looks good?  Is there a product I haven't tried yet that I want to try?  What if I can't find everything I need for the meals I want to make?  What should I substitute it with?  Can I come up with recipes on the fly?

I love going to farmers' markets and seeing the beautiful visual displays of fresh produce.  I love the fresh smells of all of those fruits and vegetables.  I especially love them in the summer when they are bursting with so many different varieties of everything edible.

I love trying new restaurants.  I love trying new ethnic foods.  I love to see how professional chefs will transform ingredients.  It doesn't matter if the restaurant is a five-star gastronomic paradise or a greasy spoon diner.  I want to experience all the ways someone else can cook for me.

I am not a very artsy or crafty person. I don't knit, crochet, or sew.  I don't draw or paint.  I don't build decorative objects out of wood or mold them from clay.  Cooking is one of the few ways I can successfully create.  I love taking raw ingredients and putting them together into a meal.  I find inspiration anywhere.  Sometimes a random ingredient will pop into my head and I'll decide I want to cook it.  Sometimes I'll read a passage in a book about a particular food and decide I want to cook it. I see recipes online and on TV that I want to cook or adapt.  I never stop wanting to create meals and recipes.  The best part of this type of craft is that I can enjoy it by eating it.  After it nourishes my soul, it nourishes my body.

What means the most to me is cooking is easy to share with other people.  The best part of cooking is that is can easily be shared.

I truly believe the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.  There is a reason why Ina Garten's roast chicken recipe is nicknamed "engagement chicken".  I have won over more than one potential romance with brownies.  I was on an internet forum years ago where one of the female members recounted the chicken dinner she made the night before and one of the men on the forum said reading that post was a huge turn on (there was nothing sexual in the post).  When you cook for a partner you give him a sensory pleasure and also show you are willing to put some effort into caring for him. (Men, this works in reverse as well.)

Throughout the course of human history, families have gathered around food.  All cultures around the world have holidays with foods specific to each one and the memories surrounding these foods are as important as the people we share them with.  Throughout history food is how family and friends connect.  We share meals together and as we share food, we share so much more.  

The Diet Police will tell us that families need to find new activities to do other than eat.  We should all start healthy new traditions.  How exactly do you do that?  How do you get multiple family members, with various temperaments, in different generations, to all enjoy the same activity?  Eating is one thing everyone in the family can agree on.  Eating is an act of intimacy.  When we share a meal, we are all eating the same things (or at least some of the same things).  These foods touch every part of our bodies.  They eventually become part of us.  I know when I cook a meal for the people I love, they will always have a part of me with them.  Eating is one of the essential components of life itself. Why not make a celebration of that life?

Food will not cure depression.  It will not permanently alleviate sadness (although I will argue it can provide some excellent temporary cheer).  It is not a replacement for human companionship.  Food will not fill the empty spaces in your life (unless we're talking about your hungry stomach). 

But  I will say that food is love.  Embrace your love for food.  See all the ways that food can love you back.



Friday, August 11, 2017

Goodbye Blackberries. Welcome Corn

One of my summer fruit dessert goals was a blackberry dessert.  Unfortunately, blackberries were arriving sooner than I expected and peaked while I was on vacation and unable to bake.  The week I returned from vacation was too full of appointments to squeeze in any baking time.  I worried I would not be able to find any blackberries at my next trip to the farmers' market.  I had been looking forward to making that blackberry cobbler and I might not realize that dream this summer (unless I wanted to do a supermarket cheat - and that would defeat the purpose of baking with local seasonal fruits).

Fortunately there were still blackberries at the farmers' market this week.  There were still raspberries too.  I was shocked to see one vendor still had strawberries. I'm not sure if these fruits are not truly local or if there is some kind of fruit voodoo going on in these farms.  Either way, I decided to buy some and do my best to convince myself I was getting fresh, local, berries.

So this week there was cobbler.

This was another effortless recipe.  I used my basic drop biscuit recipe that comes together easily in the food processor.  The berries were tossed with sugar and cornstarch and flavored with a touch of lime.  Then into the oven it went,.

While berries are beginning to disappear, other summer specialties are still in abundance.  Good tomatoes are arriving.  Peaches are making an appearance.  Best of all corn is here.  I love summer corn.  I can't get enough of it.  I want to cook it a hundred times before the season ends.  I want corn, corn, and more corn all summer long.

I wanted my first corn recipe of the summer to be a main course.  Corn wasn't just a side dish.  I wanted it to be the starring player.  I came up with the idea of corn gazpacho.  It would be an easy weekend recipe that would only require cooking up the corn and then blending a bunch of ingredients together.  Seemingly effortless.

I looked at a few corn gazpacho recipes for inspiration.  I took my main inspiration from Spoon Fork Bacon that suggests using white beans rather than bread as a thickener.  That sounded much more virtuous - lots of fiber and more nutrients.  My outside inspiration stopped there.  Most chilled corn soup recipes have a Mexican flare to them with chili peppers and lime.  I wanted to use up the bumper crop of mint I have on my balcony this summer.  I made mine with garlic, mint, and lemon.


I used too much garlic and not enough liquid.  I know the recipe would have been better with more corn (I used 3 ears), more veggie stock (I used a half a cup), and less garlic (I used three cloves).  My recipe below is what the recipe should have been and not what it was.  As with every recipe I provide, if you feel it should be adjusted more, feel free to experiment.

Corn Gazpacho

Ingredients
  • Kernels cut off of 4 cooked ears of corn
  • 1 15 oz. can white beans
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 good handful fresh mint leaves
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
Blend all ingredients together in a food processor.  Serve chilled and garnished with corn and fresh mint leaves if desired.

My cobbler recipe has a high crust:berry ratio.  It's almost more of an upside-down shortcake.  This is on purpose.  I wanted lots of crust to absorb the juice.  Also, most people really love crust - even if they won't admit it.


Blackberry Cobbler

Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbl sugar
  • 1 Tbl baking powder
  • 1 stick of cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbl cornstarch
Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together berries, sugar, juice zest and cornstarch in baking dish.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, mix the dry ingredients together.  Add the butter and pulse until the butter and flour are integrated and the mixture looks like crumbs.  Put the dough in a bowl and gentle stir in the milk.

Drop spoonfuls of biscuit dough over the berries in the dish until they are mostly covered.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is golden.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Now It's Time for the Blueberries

I am continuing with my project of making a dessert with every major summer fruit (or as many of them as possible).  So far I have done strawberries, cherries, and raspberries.  This week it's blueberries.

Blueberry pie is one of my favorite fruit pies (second only to cherry pie), but I already did pie this summer, so I turned my attention to cake for this week's dessert.

I used my basic pound cake recipe that I have used as the base for the my Orange Bourbon Pound Cake, Chocolate Chip Bailey's Cake, and Hazelnut Brown butter cake (a recipe in bad need of tweaking because it was too dry).

I made a few tweaks for this cake.  I decided to work with brown butter again, because most desserts taste better with the butter browned (if you haven't tried Emily's chocolate chip cookies with brown butter, you are missing out).   I wondered if it needed more butter because browning the butter makes some of the liquids evaporate.  Rather than add more butter,  I decided to try using sour cream instead of milk.  This would supply extra fat and give the cake a softer texture.  I had to research what tweaks I needed to make a cake with sour cream.  I just needed less fat, less baking powder, and some baking soda.  I crossed my fingers that this would work.

It worked.  I brought the cake to the office and it received rave reviews. I personally thought it could be a bit sweeter.  If I make this again I might add a bit more sugar (I considered adding brown sugar this time around and I may try that).  The sour cream gave it a perfect texture.  I was the only person who didn't think the cake was sweet enough, so I would say the experiment a success regardless.


Brown Butter Blueberry Sour Cream Cake

Ingredients
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 1 pint of fresh blueberries.
Heat the butter over low heat until melted and foamy.  When the foam subsides, carefully continue heating it until it turns amber and smells nutty.  Immediately remove from heat.

Pour into a bowl set over a larger bowl full of ice water.  Cool until it is solid again, but soft. (Alternately, you can refrigerate it and remove when it is solid and slowly let it come up to room temperature again.  You will need to do this way ahead of time.)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a Bundt pan with baking spray (or just butter and flour it, but baking spray will make it easier for you to get into all the crevices of the pan).

In a medium bowl combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Set aside.

Beat the butter in an electric mixer.  Stream in the sugar and beat until fluffy.  Add the eggs a small amount at at time, making sure each spoonful is absorbed before adding the next.  Continue beating until it is pale and gaining volume.  Beat in the vanilla.

Turn the mixer to low and begin alternately adding the sour cream and the flour.  Do it in about 3 or 4 batches, ending with the flour.  When it is well blended, gently fold in the blueberries.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until toothpick poked in the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

It's The Raspberry's Turn

This summer I made a vow to make at least one dessert with each of the major summer fruits: strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, and peaches. Each dessert would be a different dessert type as well.  I started off with my Strawberry Shortcake White Chocolate Coconut Trifle back in May.  Last week I made a cherry pie (it was a basic cherry pie, so I didn't post the recipe here).  Today's recipe features raspberries.

Some of my past raspberry recipes include  raspberry buttermilk cake and raspberry truffle brownies, so I wanted to take this dessert away from cakes and bars.  I saw some intriguing raspberry bread pudding recipes online and that sounded delicious.  I decided to make my own version.  I love making bread pudding because it's simple to make, but lends itself to a million sweet and savory variations.

I started with challah bread for my base as I love the texture and sweetness of it.  If you prefer a different bread, feel free to substitute. I added chocolate chips, because I can't go a whole summer without including chocolate in some of my desserts.  It just isn't done. Finally I wanted to add a deeper flavor dimension to my custard. Cinnamon and vanilla both work well with most bread pudding dishes, but I wanted something that would really play against the rapsberries.   A shot of liqueur or spirits is also common in my bread pudding recipes.  In this case I wasn't sure what would highlight both the raspberries and the chocolate.   I decided to use a bit of orange liqueur.



It came together easily and was popular both at home and at work.

Raspberry Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf (about 1lb of challah bread)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs*
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur such as Triple Sec
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
A day before you make the pudding, cut the bread into chunks and allow to dry out for a day.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 8" square baking dish (you can also use 9" x 13", but you will need to adjust your baking time by 10-15 minutes).

Mix together eggs, sugar, half and half, and liqueur.  Toss bread cubes in the batter and make sure they are evenly coated.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Lay some of the bread cubes in the baking dish and sprinkle gently with raspberries.  You want to avoid crushing them too much, so the idea to to layer the bread and sprinkle the raspberries over it.  Pour any remaining custard over the top.

Bake for about 50 minutes or until the top is springy. 

*I used four because I bought my eggs at the farmers' market where I don't have much choice over size.  My eggs were on the small side.  If you are buying uniformly large eggs at the supermarket, you may want to consider using fewer.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Just For Fun: The World's Most Overrated Foods

Hello TERP Muffins.  I know I continue to be rather absent from my beloved blog.  I continue to have a bit of writer's block when it comes to fresh recipes.  I realize that's not really an excuse.  I started this blog not just to share recipes, but to share all kind of food related topics.  I am supposed to be reviewing restaurants, books, and new food products as well as share my inane, food-related thoughts. In that spirit, I thought I'd share a fun post today. 

I say I am a failure as a foodie because I'm too picky.  There are too many foods in the world I consider inedible:  Peas, grapefruit, olives, blue cheeses, and anything born in the water and bearing a fishy flavor (including, but not limited to crustaceans, mollusks, and fish with fins).  There are foods I can choke down, but don't like (beets, Brussels sprouts, and the all-too-ubiquitous pumpkin).  I know I'm not alone in many of my dislikes. I just feel guilty about them as a food blogger.

Today's post is not about what I dislike outright.  It's about those foods so many people seem to love and I just don't get.  I don't hate them, but I can't say any of the foods on this list taste particularly good.  How can you get excited about some of this stuff?

So what are these overrated foods?

Quinoa
I get it.  The plant kingdom is a bit short on complete, bioavailable proteins.  I'm sure vegans  have it rough.   Not everyone likes tofu and soy is one of the most common food allergies.  I'm sure it's easy to tire of rice and beans.  Quinoa must seem like a perfect protein solution for vegans.

I just don't get why everyone else thinks this stuff is so great.  I'm told it tastes "nutty", but I never tasted a nut that tastes like quinoa.  To me quinoa tastes like a combination of soap, birdseed, and nothing at all.  Seriously omnivores, what do you like about this stuff?

Kale
Dark leafy greens are good for you.  I believe that one can say most edible dark leafy greens are good for you.  What makes kale so special?  It doesn't taste all that good.  Some people find it too bitter.  I don't think it's bitter as much as it just tastes blandly vegetal with an undertone of dirt.  It's not bad when you roast it into kale chips, but most vegetables will taste better in crunchy chip form, especially with plenty of salt.  Put it into my soup and it just tastes like slimy green stuff.  If I want some greens with my dinner, I'll stick with chard or spinach.  I think whoever decided kale should be called a "superfood" is playing a nasty joke on the rest of us.  How much kale will the masses eat if we tell them it's the most nutritious vegetable in existence?

Yogurt
I call this a "disappointment food".  There is something tempting about yogurt.  It looks so creamy and sweet.  I can remember my first tastes of it as a child.  I saw this stuff that looked like pudding or ice cream.  I wanted it to taste good so badly.  Too bad no matter how many times I tried it, I was eating this nasty sour stuff.  I used to put this one on the list with peas and olives, but the introduction of strained yogurt to mass market shelves has helped me to tolerate it a bit.  Strained or "Greek" yogurt (or Icelandic Skyr) has a pleasant texture and less torturous tartness.  I am still not too keen on eating it by itself.  It makes a nice dressing and it adds protein to a smoothie without resorting to chemical-laden powders.  I just don't understand how anyone can consider it dessert.  I once watched a travel show where the host made a mango shortcake and used yogurt instead of whipped cream.  If anyone ever does that to me, I will see to it she regrets it for the rest of her life.

Oatmeal
Do you love oatmeal?  When was the last time you had oatmeal?  How was it prepared?  Did you use one of those instant packages laden with sugar?  Did you make a bowl of quick-cooking oats from a can?  How did you eat those oats?  I'll bet you put something on it.  Maybe you poured sugar or honey or maple syrup on it.  Maybe you garnished it with fruits and nuts and nut butter.  It's possible you even poured butter or cream on top. How could you not love oatmeal when you just took that boring batch of gruel and covered it with dessert?  I say to people oatmeal is bland and joyless and the retort is usually, "I love oatmeal I eat it with..." and then proceed to tell me at least three toppings that go on top of their bowl of oatmeal.  Cook yourself a bowl of oatmeal and don't put anything on it and tell me how much you love it.  If you need to put a plethora of toppings on your food to make it taste good, then it doesn't taste good to begin with.  Oatmeal, while it doesn't taste inherently bad, is a joyless bowl of mushy starch.  It has little merit on its own.



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Name of This Dessert Is Too Long for a Post Title

What do you do when you have a half a bag of coconut left in the fridge from your Almond Joy Pie and you want to use it up?

On top of having too much coconut in the house, it's also the start of strawberry season and you are craving strawberry shortcake?

Additionally, you are invited to a party and you have to take a portable dessert for a crowd?

This was my dilemma this week.  I was finally starting to see local strawberries in the farmers' markets and I was thinking about how good they would taste over homemade sweet biscuits and topped with fresh whipped cream.  Unfortunately, strawberry shortcake is not a practical potluck party dessert.  The party seemed like a better excuse to use up the coconut.

I needed to come up with a recipe that would use up  the leftovers in the kitchen that would still satisfy my cravings for strawberry shortcake.  When I ask my brain to come up with a new recipe, it always gurgles and scrunches, but it eventually spits out an answer.  Some answers are more edible than others, but I always receive an answer.

The answer was trifle.  I could make the trifle similar to strawberry shortcake and incorporate the coconut.   Instead of pound cake or sponge cake, I would use biscuits.  I would layer my biscuits and strawberries with coconut custard and top the whole thing with fresh whipped cream.

I decided to take it one step further.  One of my favorite pies is coconut and white chocolate cream pie. One of my favorite layer cakes is a white chocolate and coconut layer cake.  Even though I'm not enthusiastic about white chocolate, it does combine beautifully with coconut.  With this in mind, I added another layer of flavor and made my coconut pastry cream into white chocolate and coconut pastry cream.

I called this dessert Coconut White Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake Trifle.  I couldn't seem to come up with a better, shorter, or more clever name.  I am simply telling you exactly what the dessert is.

I made my base with drop biscuits.  There is no need to make rolled biscuits for a dessert where they will be buried under goo.

I don't have a go-to pastry cream recipe. I need to find one at some point.   Every time I want to make a dessert with pastry cream, I end up on the internet searching recipes until I find one that's not too complex.  I also need to find one that works.  I have often tried pastry cream recipes that flopped.

The recipe I tried this time turned out pretty well, so maybe this will be the one.  It worked well with coconut milk replacing most of the dairy milk.

I layered the biscuits, then the cream, and then the berries.  When they were all used up, I topped it with a light cap of fresh whipped cream.  (Cream not shown in photo.)


The custard was tight and I wonder if it were less tight if it might have soaked the biscuits a bit better. I thought they stayed a tad too dry.  The cream was also a bit too sweet.  More strawberries might have also improved things.  I didn't get any complaints at the party though.  The dish was a hit, so maybe I'm too picky.


White Chocolate Coconut Strawberry Shortcake Trifle

Ingredients

Biscuits
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 Tbl sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbl baking powder
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup milk
Pastry Cream
  • 1 15oz can coconut milk*
  • 1/4 cup half and half*
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 oz good white chocolate cut into pieces 
  • 2 Tbl Malibu rum (or a tsp of coconut extract if you prefer)
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
Topping and Assembly
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbl confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 pints strawberries stemmed and sliced.
First make the biscuits.  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Pulse together flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a food processor.  Sprinkle the butter over the top and pulse until the butter is evenly distributed and the mixture looks like crumbs.

Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and gently mix in the milk.  Drop by large tablespoon fulls onto a baking sheet and bake until the tops are golden (about 15-20 minutes).  Remove from oven and set aside.

To make the custard place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl and set asside.  Whisk together half of the sugar, the egg yolks, a half cup of the milk and the cornstarch.

In a saucepan, heat the remaining milk and sugar over medium heat without stirring.  Bring to a simmer.

When the milk on the stove is simmering, whisk it to combine.  Then add some of it to the egg mixture and whisk it together quickly.  Quickly whisk the egg mixture into the milk on the stove.  Stir over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until it thickens.  Strain the custard into the bowl with the chopped chocolate.  Stir until it is melted and smooth.  Stir in the rum.  Finally, fold in the coconut.  Place a plastic wrap over the top and refrigerate to cool.

When you are ready to assemble the trifle, place 5 or 6 biscuits at the bottom of a trifle bowl, breaking them up if you need them to cover the bottom.  Cover them with strawberries.  Then cover the strawberries with the pastry cream.  Add another layer of biscuits to the bowl and continue layering the berries and cream.

Beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a chilled bowl (cream whips faster in a cold bowl) until fairly stiff.  Spread over the top of the trifle.

Allow to sit for a few hours for the flavors to blend and serve.




Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Almond Joy Pie for Mother's Day

My family rarely ever celebrates Mother's Day like normal people.  For one thing, we often don't celebrate Mother's Day on Mother's Day.  The Saturday night before Mother's Day is always so much more convenient for celebrations. 

We also don't do wimpy brunches. I never understood why Mother's Day is always about brunch.  After all our mothers do for us, don't they deserve more than brunch?  Kevin and I like to serve our mothers something more substantial.  Last year I made a pot of Sunday Sauce and piles of good ziti.  Pasta is my mother's favorite food and why should I serve her anything other than what she loves for her day?

This year I decided to maintain the tradition.  Big pasta dinners make everyone happy (except for my nephew, and I'm sure he'll outgrow his aversion to tomato sauce eventually). 

This year's Sunday Sauce is the same as last years.  I made a hearty sauce and filled it with meatballs, sausage, and beef shanks.  I  prefaced it with a bit of antipasto consisting of olives, roasted peppers, cheese, and some local salumi.  I accompanied all of it with fresh bread and good wine.  This is what family dinners are supposed to be about.


The one part of the meal I changed this year was dessert.  I haven't made any new desserts lately and I was itching to make a new pie. I decided to create a a new pie recipe that incorporated two of favorite flavors: chocolate and coconut.  I took that over the top by adding almonds to the mix too. 

My new creation was appropriately called Almond Joy Pie, in honor of the similarly flavored, beloved, candy bar.  It consisted of an almond flavored crust, chocolate coconut filling, and a topping of almond whipped cream garnished with crunchy almonds and toasted coconut.

My plan to make an almond flavored meant I wanted to make a crumb crust out of almond flavored cookies.  This was one of the biggest challenges.  It's not easy finding an almond flavored cookie that makes a suitable crumb crust.  The most common type of almond cookies are biscotti, and biscotti are rock-hard.  I was afraid they would make a hard crust.

Eventually I found these almond wafers.  These were perfect since thin wafer cookies make the best crust.  Unfortunately, they were a little too strong in the ginger department with little pronounced almond flavor.


I crushed them up, mixed them with butter, and baked them. The flavor might not have been perfect, but I had a useable crust that was neither too soft nor too hard.

The other tricky part was adapting a chocolate pastry cream recipe that would incorporate the coconut flavor. I didn't just want to add a bag of coconut to chocolate pudding.  I wanted the flavors to blend together seamlessly.  The best way to do that was to make coconut milk part of the custard base.  Would that work?  I have made coconut cream pie with coconut milk in the custard before (thank you Elaine Corn), but I haven't ever tried it with chocolate.  It would be an interesting experiment.  I crossed my fingers and adapted my favorite chocolate cream pie recipe using coconut milk as a replacement for some of the cream in the pudding.

Finally I topped the whole thing with fresh whipped cream blended with amaretto.  I topped it with more toasted coconut and sliced almonds.

It was a hit!  I will definitely do this one again.

Almond Joy Pie

Ingredients

Crust
  • 1.5 cups crushed almond wafer cookies
  • 2 Tbl sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 Tbl butter, melted
 Filling
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1 can coconut  milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 Tbl butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
 Topping
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 2 Tbl amaretto
  • 1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds 
Heat over to 350 degrees.  Mix together crumbs, butter, sugar, and salt.  Gently press into 9" pie plate.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until firm and set. 
Whisk the sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in 1 cup half and half. In a separate bowl whisk together the remaining half and half and the coconut milk with the egg yolks.  Whisk them into the mixture on the stove.

Keep whisking the mixture over medium high heat until it thickens and boils.  This should take about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and add the chocolate and butter, whisking until smooth.  Stir in the vanilla. Transfer filling to crust, press a piece of plastic wrap over directly over the top, and chill for at least 6 hours.

Beat cream, sugar, and amaretto on high speed until thick and fluffy.  Spread on top of pie.  Sprinkle generously with almonds and coconut flakes.