Tom Douglas may be one of the founding father of Seattle's ever-growing culinary scene, but perhaps the most famous thing to come out of his 18 restaurants is this old-school, diner-style triple coconut cream pie. Everything about it, from the coconut-flecked crust to the fluffy coconut milk pastry cream to the toasted flakes sprinkled on top is equal parts delicious and nostalgic.
And it's not just any pie—this creamy dessert has garnered national attention: Former President Obama used to ask for it by name, Salt & Straw transformed it into a limited-edition flavor and Douglas's Dahlia Bakery cookbook featured it as a headlining recipe. It might be a labor of love to make, but let us be the first to tell you that the return is well worth the effort.
To learn more, read "Northwest Ordinance."
Triple Coconut Cream Pie
Recipe from Tom Douglas, Dahlia Bakery, Seattle, WA
Yield: One 9-inch pie
Prep Time: 45 minutes, plus chilling and resting time
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes, plus chilling and resting time
For the Coconut Pastry Crust:
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch dice
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
⅓ cup ice-cold water, or more as needed
For the Coconut Pastry Cream:
1 cup milk
1 cup canned, unsweetened coconut milk, stirred
2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2 large eggs
½ cup, plus 2 tablespoons, sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons room-temperature, unsalted butter
For the Whipped Cream:
2½ cups heavy cream, chilled
⅓ cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces unsweetened chip or large-shred coconut (about 1½ cups), or substitute sweetened shredded coconut
Chunk of white chocolate (about 4 to 6 ounces, to make 2 ounces of curls)
1. Make the coconut pastry crust: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, coconut, diced butter, sugar and salt. Pulse to form coarse crumbs. Gradually add the water, a tablespoon at a time, pulsing each time. Use only as much water as need for the dough to hold together when gently pressed between your fingers. Don't work the dough with your hands; just test to see if it is holding. (The dough will not form a ball or even clump together in the processor—it will still be quite loose.)
2. Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the coconut dough onto it. Pull the plastic wrap around the dough forcing it into a rough flattened round with the pressure of the plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes to an hour before rolling.
3. To roll the dough, unwrap the round of coconut dough and put it on a lightly floured board. Flour the rolling pin and your hands. Roll the dough out into a circle about ⅛ inch thick. Occasionally lift the dough with a board scraper to check that it is not sticking and add more flour if it seems like it's about to stick. Trim to a 12-to-13-inch circle.
4. Transfer the rolled dough to a 9-inch pie pan. Ease the dough loosely and gently into the pan. You don't want to stretch the dough at this point, because it will shrink when it is baked. Trim any excess dough to a 1-to-1½-inch overhang. Turn the dough under along the rim of the pie pan and use your fingers and thumb to flute the edge. Chill the unbaked pie shell for at least 15 to 20 minutes while the oven preheats.
5. Preheat the oven to 400°. Place a piece of parchment in the pie shell, with sides overhanging the pan, and fill with dried beans. (This step prevents the bottom of the shell from puffing up during baking.) Bake the piecrust for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pastry rim is golden. Remove the pie pan from the oven. Remove the paper and beans and return the piecrust to the oven. Bake for another 10 to 12 minutes, or until bottom of the crust has golden-brown patches. Remove from the oven and allow the pie shell to cool completely.
6. Make the coconut pastry cream: Combine the milk, coconut milk and shredded coconut in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Use a paring knife to scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add both the scrapings and the pod to the milk mixture. Place the saucepan on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture almost comes to a boil.
7. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and flour until well combined. Temper the eggs by pouring a small amount (about ⅓ cup) of the scalded milk into the egg mixture, while whisking. Then add the warmed egg mixture to the saucepan of milk and coconut.
8. Whisk over medium-high heat until the pastry cream thickens and begins to bubble. Keep whisking until the mixture is very thick, about 4 to 5 minutes more. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
9. Add the butter and whisk until it melts. Remove and discard the vanilla pod (or save for another use). Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and place it over another bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally until it is cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a crust from forming and refrigerate until completely cold. The pastry cream will thicken as it cools.
10. Make the whipped cream: Whip the heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla to peaks that are firm enough to hold their shape.
11. Garnish the pie: Preheat the oven to 350º. Spread the coconut chips on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes, watching carefully and stirring once or twice until lightly browned, since coconut easily burns. Remove the coconut from the oven and allow to cool, then sprinkle over the top of the pie. Use a vegetable peeler to scrape about 2 ounces of the white chocolate into curls on top of the pie. If you prefer, you can cut the pie into wedges and put the wedges on plates, then garnish each wedge individually with coconut and white chocolate curls.
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