White Cherry, Coconut Crème Brulee Pie

Summer, Sweet Recipes • 30 Jul 2015

Today I was drunk on heat. Bulbous sweat pearls beaded on my forehead and steadily dripped down my flushed skin. I could taste the liquid salt on the edges of my lips, tinged with my summer sunscreen. The sun’s rays beat down on our exposed necks, the heat tickling our bare skin with its fiery fingers. We’re in the midst of summer, hot as hell, and I’ve submitted.

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My motivation in this weather is infinitesimal. I’m currently sitting alone, at my kitchen table, a stack of veggies from our farm share bleeding moisture onto the sated wooden countertop. I’m entirely too lethargic to tuck them away.

My neck is tight yet the rest of my limbs are soft and langorous, the obstinate tautness that defines me momentarily lost. Moments of solitude have been sparse this summer and I’m trying to concentrate on the rustling of tree leaves in the gentle breeze, a bee’s frenzied yet hypnotic buzz outside my window. My mind is replete with white noise, the silent void fleshy. I’m depleted of energy and thankfully, the ripe, persistent hum of everyday life.

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As I said, I’m not often alone lately. My son, my only child, has been home with me this summer. And I’m home with him. This summer is his epilogue, a last hurrah before he begins kindergarten. We are bridging the gap between toddlerhood and bona fide “bigkidhood,” and we’re doing it together. While I truly relish witnessing his youthful tenderness and being present in his mundane, July has nullified my spiritual ego; I’ve been swept up in a hurricane of selflessness. This summer is all about my child’s needs, activities, and emotional health and certain days proffer challenges that highlight the dearth of personal time and space, which is necessary to good parenting. Luckily there’s my oven- my sane-making, incalescent oven. And baking has cultivating equanimity, in spite of the heat that stings me.

The other day we set out to make pie. It has to be pie; I was craving flaky, buttery pie crust and had a pint of local white summer cherries on the verge, about to turn. I had been saving them for a galette but had dragged my heels. They were decidedly less ivory, less milky opaline than when I purchased them. Their subtle sepia bruises were easily disguised by silken custard, constructed partially from cream and eggs, partially from coconut milk, which I reduced to amplify its intensity. This creamy, custard pie, dappled with “on the verge” cherries, dusted with sugar and brûléed until crackly had to happen, with a mug of strong, hot tea (heat be damned).

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The pie is milky, silken, sweet and tart and juicy. I’m not going to sugar coat it, the top of the pie was very sweet, the kind of sweet that causes sugar highs and cavities and pairs just splendidly with tart fruit. The crackly exterior encased a simultaneously juicy and creamy interior, a successful contradiction. The cherries retain their moisture and subtle tartness; the silken custard cream is slightly reminiscent of rice pudding in flavor, thanks to the coconut milk.

This dessert hovers somewhere between the pies and the tarts, a bit crème brûlée, a bit clafoutis. It is diamond ring rich: all butter and eggs and sugar and bad-for-you ingredients that taste so good, all luscious on your tongue and lips.

White Cherry, Coconut Crème Brûlée Pie

Pie crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) extremely cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
4 tablespoons ice cold water

Filling:
1/2 vanilla bean, split down the middle, seeds scraped out
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup reduced coconut milk from 1 14-ounce can
1/2 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons
4 egg yolks
1 large egg
Pinch of salt
1/2 vanilla bean, split down the middle, seeds scraped out
1 cup halved cherries (I used local white cherries)

To make the dough:

1. In a large bowl mix flour, salt and sugar with a whisk. Add about half the butter and mix to coat butter in flour. Using a pastry cutter, fork or bench scraper, break down the butter to mix with the flour until you get pea-sized lumps.

2. Incorporate the rest of the butter and work it in the same way. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, mixing gently with your hands. When the dough holds together and is still a tiny bit flaky, stop adding water. Do not over work the dough. Ball up the dough, flatten it into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours, or overnight, until very cold.

3. When the dough is chilled, roll out on a lightly floured surface until about 1/2-inch thick. Transfer to a pie pan, cut off the overhang and crimp the edges as desired. Poke holes in the dough with a fork.

4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In the meantime, put the lined pie pan in the refrigerator or freezer for about 10 minutes. Remove and line the dough with foil and fill the shell with dried beans. Bake, on middle rack, for about 10 minutes. Remove beans and foil and continue to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. Cool completely before filling.

To make the filling:

1. To make the reduced coconut milk, bring the coconut milk to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. When it begins to bubble, reduce to medium-low heat. Stir occasionally with a rubber spatula and simmer for about 30 minutes, until reduced to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and cool completely.

2. Reduce the oven to 325 degrees. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the heavy cream, reduced coconut milk and vanilla bean seeds to a slow boil. Remove pan from heat and let steep for 30 minutes.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar, egg yolks, egg and salt. Pour into cream mixture and whisk until smooth.

4. Place the pie pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Line the crust with pitted cherries and pour the custard into the shell. Bake until set, about 50-60 minutes. Remove pie from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

5. Before serving, sprinkle remaining sugar over the top of pie. Move the flame of a kitchen torch 1 to 2 inches above the surface until bubbles form and it turns glossy brown.

6. Using a sifter, cover top of pie with confectioners’ sugar. Serve immediately.

3 Responses

  1. Danielle McKnight

    I’ll be too hot to bake anything for a while, but I have to say this sounds delicious, and the photos on here are especially gorgeous!

  2. Heather Cowen

    Kate,

    Your food writing is sultry and palpable. This recipe feels like something familiar and comforting blended with the exotic and undiscovered. I love both brulee and sour cherries but have never tasted them together.

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