I haven't made a coconut cream pie or tart in years. After discovering Tartine's velvety indulgence, I figured what was the point. How could I replicate their flaky crust topped with a layer of dark chocolate and caramel (and, I think, a few flecks of fleur de sel?) and then crowned with a rich coconut pastry cream? And then something happened. I began to crave coconut cream but was too busy and lazy to drive across the bridge to purchase one from Tartine. So, with Easter only a few days away and a holiday dessert in order, I decided I would create my own coconut concoction -- something that reminded me of the sweet perfection available across the bay, but different enough that I wouldn't constantly compare my tart to it.
While deciding how to make my tart, I mentally ran through a possible list of ingredients. More than anything I knew what I DIDN'T want to use. Sweetened coconut flakes -- which are essentially coconut that has been shriveled under the weight of excess sugar and preservatives --was out. Although Americans have become used to the flavor of this ingredient in coconut desserts, I wanted my tart to have a purer coconut flavor which meant avoiding a saccharine sweetness. I also had no interest in using coconut extract. Although I couldn't live without my bottles of vanilla, orange and almond extracts, in this case, I felt this type of addition would perfume the pie with a coconut flavor while I wanted it to be imbued with the taste of real coconut.
So what did I use? I started by making a simple pastry cream, but instead of using only milk and eggs, I added in a little coconut milk for a burst of tropical flavor. I then chose unsweetened coconut flakes, which are, and therefore taste like, real coconut to add in some texture. All this helped to make a lush and thick coconut cream that tasted like the real deal. I also wanted to add a whisper of chocolate and caramel into the mix to mimic the flavors in Tartine's dessert, but wasn't sure how to go about doing this. Although melting chocolate and making homemade caramel seemed like the right path, I eventually rejected this plan as I feared creating a thick layer of candy that would detract from the tart and its flavors. So, with my microplane in hand, I simply shaved some Scharffen Berger onto my just-baked pie crust and then sprinkled on some sugar before I set the shell under the broiler for about a minute. When I removed the crust from the oven the chocolate was perfectly melted and the sugar had caramelized
After assembling my tart, I had a dessert I was proud of. The cream filling, which was rich and silky, was infused with a genuine coconut flavor that was authentic without being overbearing. The subtle additions of chocolate and caramelized sugar to the crust then added nuance and helped to balance the flavors in the tart. Was it Tartine? No. Was it worth making? Definitely.
Coconut Cream Tart
Makes: 1 9-inch tart
1 pastry crust (see recipe below)
Coconut pastry cream (see recipe below)
1 oz good bittersweet chocolate
1-2 Tbsp sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream whipped with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Roll out chilled pastry dough and set in a tart pan. Line with foil and then either enough pie weights or dried beans to cover the bottom. Bake for 15 minutes.
3. Remove beans or pie weights along with the foil and then poke holes along the bottom of the crust with a fork. Continue to bake for 10-15 minutes or until the tart crust is golden brown.
4. Remove crust and then set oven to broil.
5. Shave enough chocolate to cover the entire bottom of the tart and then sprinkle on enough sugar to thinly cover the chocolate. Set the tart pan under the broiler for 1-3 minutes or until the chocolate melts and the sugar caramelizes. Be careful not to burn the pastry.
6. Let crust cool for at least an hour or until room temperature. When ready to serve, spread the cooled coconut pastry cream into the prepared tart shell and then top with the whipped cream. Sprinkle the coconut flakes on top as well as some microplaned chocolate if desired. Serve.
Coconut Pastry Cream
Makes: Enough for One Tart
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup light or regular coconut milk (either is fine)
3 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
4 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1. Heat milk and coconut milk on medium heat in a sauce pan until liquid simmers and starts to rise in the pot.
2. Beat egg yolks in a medium bowl with sugar until fully mixed and light yellow. Add in the flour until fully incorporated.
3. Temper the egg mixture with some of the warmed milk by adding about a half cup milk to the egg mixture and quickly mixing. Then add the entire egg mixture to the pot of warmed milk and mix quickly and thoroughly.
4. Add in the coconut and then heat on medium for 2-3 minutes, continually mixing and scraping the sides with a heat proof spatula or wooden spoon to prevent burning.
5. When the mixture is thick and resembles the consistency of pudding (which is basically what it is), turn heat off and add in butter and vanilla. Stir until butter melts.
6. Place custard in a medium-sized bowl and cover with plastic wrap (laying the wrap directly on the custard to prevent a skin from forming). Set in the refrigerator for two hours or up to one day.
Makes: Enough for one 9-inch tart
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
6 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/4+ cup ice water
1. To make the crust, in the bowl of a food processor, stir together the flour, and salt. Sprinkle the butter over the top and process for a few seconds, or just until the butter is slightly broken up into the flour but still in visible pieces. Sprinkle the water over the flour mixture evenly, then process until the mixture just starts to come together.
2. Dump the mixture out of the bowl onto 2 large sheets of plastic wrap. Press the dough together into a mound and then wrap with plastic and press into a flat disk. Refrigerate the dough until chilled, about 30 minutes or up to 1 day, or freeze for up to 1 month.