At Tom Douglas's three Seattle restaurants--Dahlia Lounge, Etta's Seafood, and Palace Kitchen--the triple coconut cream pie is a perennial bestseller. We love the miniature version (and have made them even smaller here, since they're so rich). Prep and Cook Time: about 1 1/2 hours, plus at least 3 hours of chilling time. Notes: Pastry cream can be made ahead and kept, refrigerated, for two days; unbaked, formed pastry shells keep, frozen, a few weeks. The baked shells can be filled with the pastry cream several hours ahead, then topped with whipped cream and garnishes just before serving. "Chip"--or large-shred--coconut, which is sold at natural-foods stores and Whole Foods Markets, looks like little curls and makes the prettiest garnish, but regular shredded coconut works just fine. Toast coconut in a 350° oven until golden, 10 to 15 minutes.
Sunset AUGUST 2007
1. Make the pastry cream: Put milk and coconut in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean and add both seeds and bean to saucepan. Bring mixture to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, and flour. While whisking, drizzle about 1/3 of the hot milk mixture into egg mixture, then slowly whisk egg-milk mixture back into saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking, until pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in butter, and discard vanilla bean.
3. Spoon hot pastry cream into a bowl and set in a larger bowl of ice and cold water, stirring occasionally, until cooled to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto surface (to prevent a skin from forming) and chill until cold, at least 3 hours.
4. Fill the pies: Carefully remove baked shells from brioche molds. Spoon pastry cream into shells, filling each a little more than halfway. With an electric mixer, whip cream with sugar and vanilla until it holds stiff peaks. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (no. 6) with whipped cream and pipe a double layer of cream onto each pie, or simply spoon it on (use all the cream--the pies should look like beehive hairdos).
5. Garnish the pies: With a vegetable peeler, scrape wide curls or shavings from the chunk of white chocolate. Sprinkle curls or shavings over pies, dividing evenly, and top with toasted coconut. Serve immediately.
Note: Nutritional analysis is per mini pie.
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