Hawaii has become a home away from home as I’ve spent a good amount of time out here for the past few years. During that time, I’ve learned about all the unique foods and flavors of the state, which have, in turn, influenced my cooking. This year will be my third Christmas on the islands and, with each year, my holiday menu is reflecting more Hawaiian flavors, like this Chocolate-Coconut Cream Pie.
When I was asked to cook my favorite holiday treats for today’s The Nate Berkus Show, this pie immediately came to mind because it was an instant classic at our holiday table. The concept of Hawaiian-style coconut pie was first introduced to me at Oahu’s North Shore pie shop, Ted’s Bakery. I’ve spent a good amount of time with my friends on the North Shore and it’s hard to pass Ted’s without slipping in for a slice of pie. Their famous Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie is made with a flaky pie crust topped with chocolate custard, a firm coconut custard (known as haupia pie here), and some whipped cream.
I made my own version of the pie so I could have it whenever the urge set in. My take is simple to make with a no bake crust, a quick custard, and just a few hours of waiting for the pie to set up. The crust is made from chocolate wafers and then painted with melted chocolate, which helps to underline the chocolate flavor and give the crust a nice crisp texture to contrast the custard filling. The chocolate layer also “waterproofs” the crust so it doesn’t get soggy (allowing you to make this pie a few days ahead).
My goal was to get a deeper coconut flavor than other pies, so I used all coconut milk for the custard and topped it with toasted unsweetened coconut. The coconut custard is looser than at Ted’s because I’m not a fan of rigid custard pies; however, feel free to add more cornstarch if that’s your thing. Also, if you wanted to further heighten the coconut flavor, you could add a dash of coconut extract to the custard, but I really like how in this version the coconut flavor is subtle yet present.
Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie Recipe
If you can find them, buy the Nabisco Famous Wafers for this recipe because they have a deep chocolate flavor. If you can’t find them, use chocolate graham crackers instead. As for the coconut, I use raw flaked coconut not the more common, sweetened angel flake coconut.
- Makes 1 (9 inch) pie (about 8 to 12 servings)
- Total Time: 30 minutes, plus cooling time
- Hands On Time: 30 minutes
- For the crust:
- 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter
- 2 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (from an 8 oz box)*
- For the filling:
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 (14 ounces) cans coconut milk (about 3 cups)
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 1/3 cup water
- For the topping:
- 1 cup chilled heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon rum (optional)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut, toasted
For the crust:
Melt the butter and mix with cookie crumbs until thoroughly moistened. Transfer to an 9 1/2-inch pie plate and, using the back of a cup or measuring cup, press mixture into the pan, evenly covering the bottom and sides of the pan. Set in freezer until set, at least 10 minutes. (Can be made through this step up to 2 days ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the freezer.)
For the filling:
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a small pan over very low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. (Alternatively, place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave at 15 second intervals, stirring between each interval, until melted.)
Pour chocolate into the crust and, using the back of a spoon, quickly spread the chocolate over the crust in a thin layer. Return crust to the freezer to set up, at least 10 minutes. (Can be made through this step up to 2 days ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the freezer.)
Make the coconut custard: Combine coconut milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, place cornstarch in a small bowl then gradually whisk in the water until smooth. Reduce heat to low, stir the cornstarch mixture into the coconut milk mixture, and cook until it has thickened enough that it looks like yogurt, about 1 more minute. Pour hot coconut custard into the pie crust and refrigerate until set and cooled, at least 4 hours. (Can be made through this step up to 2 days ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator.)
For the topping:
When the pie is thoroughly chilled, prepare the topping. Place cream in a large, clean bowl and whip with a clean whisk until it becomes fluffy and light, with soft peaks, about 3 minutes. Whisk in sugar, rum, and vanilla until cream is just thick enough to hold onto the whisk.
Spread whipped cream evenly over the top of the cooled pie then sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes and serve. (Can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and stored, covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator. Top with toasted coconut just before serving.)
*Note: To make cookie crumbs, place cookies in a food processor and process until broken up into crumbs. (Alternatively, place cookies in a resealable plastic bag and hit with a meat mallet or rolling pin until you have small crumbs.) You want 2 cups of cookie crumbs for this recipe.