Last week, Ogden Publications (publishers of Mother Earth News and GRIT) held a pie contest as a fundraiser for our coworkers at the Minot Daily News in Minot, N.D. (About 20 employees had sustained various levels of flood damage to their homes, some which will require a complete tear-down and rebuild.) So I decided to pull out all the stops with the hopes to raise a few dollars for those folks in need. I am not a dessert-pie girl so much--my repertoire is limited to pumpkin, pecan, and pizzas and quiche--so I trawled the Cook’s Illustrated website (an ultra-smart investment for anyone who loves to cook) for a good pie recipe. This recipe is based on one I found on that site, though I made many of my own tweaks. For example, theirs called for a crust made with animal crackers—I wanted a traditional pie crust made with lard, and a nip of nutty flavor in the form of hazelnut meal. I did however, take advantage of their vodka-in-the-crust tip:
“Since water bonds with flour to form gluten, too much of it makes a crust tough. But rolling out dry dough is difficult … Using vodka, which is just 60 percent water, gave us an easy-to-roll crust recipe with less gluten and no alcohol flavor, since the alcohol vaporizes in the oven.” Genius!
At the end of the day, the vote tally revealed that my pie had won! Thank you to Ogden for a fun “competition” and an unexpected opportunity to help those in need. Ogden matched the funds raised by the pie contest.
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
¼ cup hazelnut meal (Bob’s Red Mill)
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into ¼” slices
¼ cup lard, cold, cut into large chunks
2 tablespoons vodka
2 tablespoons ice water
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, hazelnut meal, salt, and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter and lard until you have pea-size chunks.
Drizzle the vodka and water over the mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dough over and onto itself until it sticks together. Flatten the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic; refrigerate for 1 hour.
Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand for up to 5 minutes. Generously flour your work surface (up to ¼ cup flour) and roll the dough into a 12-inch circle, 1/8” thick.
Using a thin metal spatula, loosen the dough from the work surface and carefully transfer it to a 9” pie plate. Fit the dough into the plate, leaving a 1” overhang. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Remove dough from refrigerator and trim the overhang, leaving ½” to fold under itself. Flute the edge with your fingers; refrigerate for another 15 minutes.
Place foil or parchment paper over the dough and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes; remove foil and weights; rotate plate in the oven; bake an additional 10 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Cool completely before filling.
1 can whole coconut milk (not light)
1 cup whole milk (not skim or 1%!)
½ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
½ cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
¼ teaspoon (heaping) salt
5 egg yolks
¼ cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or extract)
Zest from 1 large lime
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the coconut milk, milk, coconut, ½ cup sugar, and salt. Heat to simmering (not boiling), stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the cornstarch and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar until smooth. Ladle 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture and whisk immediately and thoroughly (you’re tempering the mixture so the eggs don’t cook). Gradually add the remaining milk in 3 or 4 ladlefuls, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan, whisk constantly, and bring to a boil. Mixture will thicken. (Make sure the mixture boils or else it won’t fully thicken.) Remove from heat, stir in butter, vanilla, and lime zest until butter is thoroughly melted and distributed.
Pour into the cooled pie shell and smooth the surface; press plastic wrap over the pie and refrigerate for 3 to 12 hours.
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or extract)
2 tablespoons unsweetened finely shredded coconut, toasted in a dry skillet
In a large bowl, combine the whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla. Using an electric mixer, beat on high speed until soft peaks form, about 3 to 5 minutes. Spread the whipped cream over the pie and top with the toasted coconut. Serve immediately.
Note: If you’re not a fan of lime, you could easily substitute lemon zest for an equally delightful pie.