Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Goin' Coconuts

Although Cousin Jane now lives in Key West, she still remains a wonderfully staunch New Englander, as a woman of a certain age with a stylish sense that evokes more retiring movie queens of another era. What a comforting joy it was to see her after so many years and to stay at her cozy bungalow (with a pool off of the lanai!) when Baby and I went to visit. If you read my previous post, you know that we were hanging with some other dames, other golden girls such as my dear mother, and two cousins that I hadn't seen for some time. Baby and I decided to take them to Pepe's for brunch one morning as it seemed to be one of Jane's favorite places to visit and no wonder--they treat her like the Queen of England and the rest of us as her ample court! What looks like a modest shack on the outside is actually teeming with guests inside who fill the wooden booths and spill past the sturdy bar onto the sun-dappled, charmingly ragtag garden patio that feels nautical in tone, almost like a galley kitchen but with lattice-work, curious chirping blackbirds, and bursting deep pink bougainvillea. With a whiff of scandal, a Bloody Mary or two and perhaps a Mimosa, we sat enjoying each others company as much as traditional Eggs Benedict, a ham, cheese and onion stuffed omelet and waffles topped with fruit.

Jane introduced us to Charlie who has long made all the desserts at Pepe's. She sat down with us and told us all about the pies that she makes at home a few miles away and delivers back to the restaurant. Here she is about to make the brief trek and fill that pie pan (one of many for the day)!

We had to try the Coconut Cream Pie that everyone clamors for, and with good reason. Charlie shared the recipe below and I've also included the recipe for Pepe's Coconut Bread that was featured in Gourmet magazine so you can really go coconuts.

Thank you, dear Jane for sharing Pepe's with us!

Coconut Cream Pie

6 egg yolks
2 tsp. coconut extract
1 cup sugar
6 heaping tbs. cornstarch
6 cups half & half
2 cups flaked and sweetened coconut

Two prepared graham cracker crusts

Mix together the eggs and the coconut extract and set aside. In heavy saucepan combine sugar, cornstarch and Half & Half. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When mixture is bubbling, add one cup of the milk to the eggs to warm the egg mixture. Return all the egg mixture into the milk and continue cooking. Stir with a whisk constantly until well combined and mixture is bubbling again. Remove from heat and stir in coconut. Cool to room temperature and turn into 2 graham cracker pie crusts. Chill. Serve topped with whipped cream.

Makes 2 pies, 12 servings, 6 per pie.

And while we're at it, why not try...

Pepe's Coconut Bread
Featured in Gourmet magazine
Makes: 1 loaf Serve toasted or warm, freezes well
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. coconut extract
1 cup fancy shred coconut
1 cup sour cream
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and extract, then the sour cream. Add the coconut. Fold in the flour, baking powder and soda. Turn into lightly greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until done. Makes 1 loaf-10 slices

Suggested Substitutions: omit coconut extract and coconut. Use maple extract and walnuts for Maple Walnut bread. Use lemon extract and 1 tbsp. poppy seeds for Lemon Poppy Seed bread. Use vanilla extract and any fruit such as peaches, pears, cranberries, etc for other changes.

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