It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and I’ve made this pie twice.
As you may know, pumpkin pie has never been my first choice – but I’m starting to change my mind about it. I make at least one a year regardless for the pumpkin pie lovers in the family – and for the most part, since I’m not really the one eating it, I stick to the same recipe. But this year, since I adore coconut milk – and coconut cream pie – and since both Mike and my dad have recently developed an intolerance to lactose, I decided to give it a try in place of the cream or evaporated milk I typically use in pumpkin pie filling.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!
For pie beginners, pumpkin is about the easiest kind to manage. Stir together the pumpkin, coconut milk, sugar – I’ve been experimenting with coconut sugar, which is kind of the New Big Thing – eggs, spices – yes, pumpkin pie spice in actual pumpkin pie, where it was meant to be. Shall we call this pumpkin pie spice pumpkin pie? The coconut flavour is subtle and complementary – it still tastes like pumpkin pie. If you want to boost it a bit, a capful of coconut extract along with the vanilla would do the trick. Or shower the top with thick-cut sweet toasted coconut. (I would have tried this, but I ate the whole bag before the pie was done.)
Some people pre-bake their crusts – I do not. There is no shame in a store bought crust – as I’ve said before, no one will complain if you’ve made pie. I admire those who produce stunning pies adorned with pastry leaves and the like, but I don’t have much patience for doing it myself. Besides, it’s all going to get smothered with whipped cream anyway.
Yes, Grace Foods asked me to come up with a seasonal recipe using their coconut products – an easy challenge, as they were already on my shelf – and crazily enough their coconut cream is, lately at least, the product I most often find myself describing to people: that little green box alongside the coconut milk in the international foods section! – even more so since my friend’s mom Theresa used it in her coriander chutney, which was a revelation. It’s quite easy to find – a condensed, more streamlined version of coconut milk, halfway between coconut milk and coconut oil, that adds more richness to curries and dishes of that ilk. Inside the little box is a little package of pure coconut cream – nothing else is added. I’ve seen it in many of the kitchens I’ve been invited to cook in for my Swerve series.
I’ve since made this pie with an entire can of Grace coconut milk – regular and organic – and I’ve kept back about 1/3 cup in the can because I was making a curry and just wanted a splash, and used the rest in the filling. If you’re planning to whip some of the solids that often settle on top of a can of coconut milk – YES, YOU CAN DO THIS! – you could spoon it out and pour the rest into the filling – it works just fine either way. If you’re using one of those deep dish Pyrex pie plates, you may want to lean toward the whole can; if you’re using a smaller tin pie plate because you like the aesthetic it adds, like I did, expect it to be full.
The trickiest part, I think, is the knowing when it’s done. It will be set, but not completely – sort of evenly jiggly, without looking liquidy in the middle, and like most pies of this sort the cooking time will fluctuate by about ten minutes depending on the pie plate you happen to have. The egg will make it puff up a bit as it comes out of the oven, and don’t worry about a slight crack around the edge. As it cools, it will settle into itself, flattening on the surface and firming up. It’s a good idea to let it do this, rather than attempt to slice it hot – it can be cooled on the countertop, or chilled in the fridge – whichever you like.
Big thanks to Grace for pushing me out of my pumpkin pie comfort zone – and making it so the men in my life don’t have to take Lactaid with their pie this Thanksgiving.