Using your standard pie crust recipe, or even a frozen crust, you simply pre-bake the empty crust and then prepare the filling. I've found that getting this right is mostly a matter of staying at the stove top and whisking the filling continuously were noted in my recipe. Even though I've made these pies hundreds of times, I still follow the written recipe to ensure I end up with a good cream pie, and not ice cream topping (scorching during cooking or even slightly wrong quantities of ingredients can cause a cream pie to fail to set properly.)
For coconut cream, I prefer a tall meringue topping (as shown in the photo at the top of this entry.) If having a dinner party, I try to make the crusts the day before. Then the morning of the party I make the filling refrigerating it in the shell with a film of plastic wrap to stop it from developing a membrane. An hour or so before company arrives, I'll use the egg whites left over from the cream filling to make the meringue topping. I finish it with a blow torch to add browning, and refrigerate until serving. While meringue is easy to prepare, always remember to use a little cream of tartar powder to stop it from shrinking and a wet clean knife when cutting each slice.
I'm sure your guests will love these pies as much as I do. Below you will find my master recipe for cream pie, which is the base for all of my cream pie variations.
Ingredients: (for 2 deep dish cream pies)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/8 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
7 1/2 cups milk
9 egg yolks
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 baked pastry pie shells
9 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
Mix sugar, flour and salt in a heavy saucepan. Add milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Lower heat, cover and cook 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally.
Place egg yolks in a mixer bowl and attach wire whisk. Turn to Speed 8 (moderately high) and beat 1 minute. Slowly add small amount of milk mixture to yolks. Add to pan and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until the mixture is thick and beginning to bubble. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla. Cool and pour into baked pie shell.
The trick to this pie is all in the wrist. It is essential that you continuously stir the filling where indicated in a rapid manner, using a whisk.
This is the base for my other cream pies. To make both pies into the below flavors, do the following. For one pie of each, cut the ingredients in half.
Coconut Cream Pie: Add 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract and 1 1/2 cups flaked coconut to filling before pouring into shell. Sprinkle 3/4 cup flaked coconut on meringue. Brown in oven or with blow torch.
Chocolate Cream Pie: Add 6 ounces melted, unsweetened chocolate to filling along with butter and vanilla. Proceed as directed above. Top with just slightly sweetened whipped cream rather than Meringue Topping.
Butterscotch Cream Pie: Reduce sugar to 1/2 cup. Add 22 ounces melted butterscotch morsels to filling along with butter and vanilla. Proceed as directed above. Top with sweetened whipped cream rather than Meringue Topping.
Banana Cream Pie: Replace the vanilla above with 2 teaspoons banana extract to make two pies. Slice one whole banana for each pie and place the slices on the bottom of the crusts. Add two more sliced bananas to the cream and proceed as directed above. Top with sweetened whipped cream at serving time.
Meringue Topping: Preheat the oven. Combine the egg whites and sugar in a large mixing bowl and set the bowl in a pan of simmering water. Stir gently for a minute or so, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm. Remove the bowl from the water and add the cream of tartar and salt. Beat the egg whites at high speed until they stand in peaks. Gently spread the egg whites over the pie filling, competely covering the filling to the edges of the crust. Slip into the top 1/3 of the oven for 1 or 2 minutes, or until the peaks are brown or use a kitchen blow torch.