Tis’ the season for sugar, spice and everything nice. And pie. Lots and lots of pie. If you’re like me, you always look forward to the pies at the end of any holiday meal. Typically, it’s the classics: pumpkin, pecan, berry. Don’t get me wrong, I love pie in all forms and I will gladly down a slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream. But this year, I want to shake things up and try something new. These two pies are utterly delicious, and will be a welcome surprise to anyone dining at your table this year.
Lemon and Coconut Cream Pie
Coconut cream pie is a classic. It may not be a holiday tradition, but it’s definitely one you should try. This one has a graham cracker crust for extra flavor, and a dose of tart lemon. It’s the perfect end to a heavy holiday meal.
1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs (10-14 crackers)
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup butter, melted
4 large egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup coconut cream
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream or thick coconut cream (or a combination)
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted
Preheat the oven to 350F.
In a medium bowl, mix together the graham crumbs, coconut and melted butter. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a pie plate and bake for 8-10 minutes, until pale golden around the edges.
In the same bowl (no need to wash it), whisk together the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, lemon zest, vanilla and salt. Whisk in the lemon juice and coconut cream, whisking until the mixture is smooth and slightly thicker than it was when you started.
Pour the mixture into the crust and bake for 20-25 minutes, until set – it will be slightly jiggly in the middle, like a cheesecake. Cool completely, then refrigerate for 2-3 hours, until well chilled.
When you’re ready to serve it, whip the cream and sugar until you have stiff peaks; spread over the cooled pie and sprinkle with the toasted coconut. Serves 8.
Caramel Pear Pie
This is a fantastic alternative to apple pie. Pears are wonderful winter fruits, and their natural sweet juices make a delicious pie filling. Pears can be a bit tart, so an extra dose of caramel balances the flavors out beautifully.
Homemade or Pre-made Pie Crust (two crusts)
6 cups 1/2-inch chunks of peeled pears (about 5 pears)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
6 Tablespoons salted butter, room temperature cut up into 6 pieces1
1/2 cup heavy cream2
1 teaspoon salt
egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon (15ml) milk
optional: coarse sugar for sprinkling on crust
Make the caramel. Heat granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn.
Once sugar is completely melted, immediately add the butter. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added.
Stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted, about 2-3 minutes. A whisk helps if you find the butter is separating from the sugar.
Very slowly, drizzle in 1/2 cup of heavy cream while stirring. Since the heavy cream is colder than the caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble and/or splatter when added. Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Allow to cool down before using.
Make the pie. Make the filling: Stir the pears, granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, ginger, and lemon juice together in a large bowl. Set filling in the refrigerator as the oven preheats.
Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).
Roll out the chilled pie dough: On a floured work surface, roll out one of the discs of chilled dough (keep the other one in the refrigerator). Turn the dough about a quarter turn after every few rolls until you have a circle 12 inches in diameter. Carefully place the dough into a 9×2 inch pie dish. Tuck it in with your fingers, making sure it is smooth.
Spoon the filling into the crust, leaving any excess liquid in the bowl (you don’t want that in the filling– discard it). Drizzle 1/2 cup of caramel evenly on top. Stick the pie in the refrigerator as you work on the top crust.
Arrange the lattice: Remove the other disc of chilled pie dough from the refrigerator. Roll the dough into a circle that is 12 inches diameter. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut ten 1-inch strips. (I cut four of the strips in half, as you can see above.) Remove the pie from the refrigerator and carefully thread the pie dough strips over and under one another to create the look in the pictures pie, pulling back strips as necessary to weave. Press the edges of the strips into the bottom pie crust edges to seal. Use a small knife to trim off excess dough. Flute the edges or crimp with a fork. (Alternatively, you can simply cover the filling with the 12-inch pie dough circle. Cut slits in the top to form steam vents. Trim and crimp the edges.)
Lightly brush the top of the pie crust with the egg wash mixture and sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired.
Place the pie onto a large baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Keeping the pie in the oven, turn the temperature down to 350°F (177°C) and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes. After the first 20 minutes of bake time, I place a pie crust shield on top of the pie to prevent the edges from browning too quickly.
Allow the pie to cool for 3 full hours at room temperature before serving. This time allows the filling to thicken up. Before serving, drizzle leftover caramel on top of pie or on each slice. Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.