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Weekend Recipe: French Coconut Pie

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Photo courtesy of Cook's Country
Photo courtesy of Cook's Country

In the two years I lived in France, I never came across coconut pie, so I was curious: does the pie really have French origins? According to America's Test Kitchen, the pie was invented in the U.S. during the 19th century. Coconuts from French Guiana were plentiful in port towns like New Orleans and Charleston. The sweet flesh of the fruit was popular with Southerners -- and it ended up in a pie.

French Coconut Pie
Serves 8 to 10

Look for shredded unsweetened coconut, about ¼ inch in length, in the natural foods section of the supermarket. It sometimes goes by the name "coconut flakes." Do not use large flaked coconut in this recipe.

1 (9-inch) store-bought pie dough round
1 1/4 cups (3 3/4 ounces) unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough into 12-inch circle on lightly floured counter. Loosely roll dough around rolling pin and gently unroll it onto 9-inch pie plate, letting excess dough hang over edge. Ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with your hand while pressing into plate bottom with your other hand.

Trim overhang to 1/2 inch beyond lip of plate. Tuck overhang under itself; folded edge should be flush with edge of plate. Crimp dough evenly around edge of plate using your fingers. Wrap dough-lined plate loosely in plastic wrap and freeze until dough is firm, about 15 minutes.

Line chilled pie shell with two 12-inch squares of parchment paper, letting parchment lie over edges of dough, and fill with pie weights. Bake until lightly golden around edges, 18 to 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and carefully remove parchment and weights. (Pie shell needn't cool completely before proceeding.)

Meanwhile, combine coconut, buttermilk, and vanilla in bowl. Cover with plastic and let sit for 15 minutes.

Whisk sugar, butter, eggs and yolk, flour, and salt together in large bowl. Stir in coconut mixture until fully incorporated. Pour coconut-custard mixture into warm pie shell. Bake until custard is set and golden-brown crust forms on top of pie, 40 to 55 minutes.

Transfer pie to wire rack and let cool completely, about 4 hours. Serve at room temperature. (Cooled pie can be covered with plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Let come to room temperature before serving.)

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