Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut Cream Pie is one of my husband's favorite desserts, and it is one of the first pies he wanted me to learn to bake for him after we were married.

We lived several hundred miles away from our families then, and there was no internet to search or YouTube to watch, so I relied on the one cookbook that I had received as a wedding gift. I studied that cookbook, and I still refer back to it today. My recipe for today's Coconut Cream Pie comes from that reliable old cookbook, my Better Homes Cookbook. The copyright date in my cookbook is 1965.

Coconut Cream Pie
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups coconut, divided
1 (9-inch) baked pastry shell

In a double boiler, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt; gradually stir in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens. Cook 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.
Stir a small amount of hot mixture into egg yolks; return to hot mixture; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla; mix well. Stir in 1 cup coconut; cool to room temperature. (To prevent a crust from forming, put clear plastic wrap directly on top, touching surface of the hot pudding across to the sides of pan. When cooled pour into baked pastry shell.

3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
Beat egg whites with cream of tartar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form and sugar is dissolved. Spread atop pie sealing to pastry. Sprinkle top of meringue with 1/3 cup coconut. Bake in preheated 350 degree F oven for 12 - 15 minutes or until meringue is golden.

In my opinion, a double boiler is an important tool for making a cream pie. It's just too easy to stick and scorch the cream filling in a regular saucepan.

Slightly beat the egg yolks, but don't add them to the mixture until you have mixed some of the hot mixture in with them.

Stir some of the hot mixture in with the egg yolks before mixing the egg yolks into the whole batch. Cook for 2 minutes longer after adding the egg yolks.

Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla; . . .

. . . then stir in coconut. Let cool to room temperature.

Pour filling into prepared pastry shell.

Top with meringue.

Spread meringue to edges to seal and sprinkle with 1/3 cup coconut.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 - 15 minutes; set your timer so you don't over brown.

Coconut Cream is my husband's favorite pie so I should give the first slice to him.


Sourdough Bread

The Sourdough Bread experiment has been completed. Six days ago I mixed up a Sourdough Starter and I have been patiently watching and waiting to see the results. Finally today, I baked the bread.

This has been a long wait. Each day I checked on the starter, and stirred it as directed, but not much happened. On the morning of the 5th day, I fed the starter and it bubbled and grew, but the directions said to wait until later in the day to take out any of the starter to use in a recipe. So, last night I had my Sourdough Bread recipe ready. The bread recipe I used belongs to my friend Beth, who has baked Sourdough Bread for many years. I've had her recipe tucked away for a long time.

Sourdough Bread
1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 package (or 2 1/4 teaspoons) dry yeast
1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon salt
5 - 6 cups flour

In a large bowl, mix together starter, sugar, water, yeast, and oil. Add salt, then flour 1 cup at a time. Place dough in a large glass bowl that has been greased, and slightly grease top of bread dough. Let rise overnight at room temperature, then shape into loaves. Let rise again, then bake at 325 degrees F for about 35 minutes, or until browned. Makes two 9 x 5-inch loaves.

My starter looked about the same on days 2, 3, and 4.

Each morning a layer of clear liquid had settled out on top before the starter was stirred.

On the 5th day the starter was fed and it really came alive! That evening I used the starter to prepare the bread dough and  let it rise overnight, as per directions.

Fortunately, I'm an early riser. The bread dough was just about to outgrow the bowl by morning.

The next step was to divide the dough into two loaf pans and let it rise again.

Then bake in a preheated oven for about 35 minutes, or until browned.

Let the bread cool before slicing, if you can.

My husband and I sliced into a loaf while it was still warm.

Today for lunch I had ham and cheddar on sourdough bread, yum.

If you haven't made your Sourdough Starter yet, it is definitely worth a try. The bread is delicious.


My Mother's Pie Crust

Today I got to thinking about my mother and her pie crust. Probably there is no one who has made more pies than my mother. She whips them up 3 or 4 at a time and does her best to have one of everyone's favorite. It's apple for Philip, chocolate for Julie, and so on down the line until she's made the whole family happy. If you tried to find a number for how many pies Mother has baked in her lifetime, it would have to be one of those incomprehensible mathematical terms like infinity.

I have posted about pie crust previously. The last pie crust recipe I used was made with a higher ratio of shortening to flour plus an egg, and it is very tasty, but it is a delicate crust and must be chilled before rolling out. It is also easy to tear and can be frustrating unless you have a good deal of experience in putting together pies. But mother's crust is made with less shortening, is sturdier, easier to handle, and doesn't have to be chilled before rolling. I think this is the perfect recipe for anyone to practice their pie crust skills.

My Mother's Pie Crust
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco)
5 or 6 tablespoons very cold water
1 tablespoon vinegar

In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Add shortening and use a pastry cutter to combine with the flour. Stir in water and vinegar. Divide dough into two equal parts. Dough can be used to make 2 single crusts or 1 double crust. Roll out on a floured surface to desired size. Place in pie plate. For a single crust, bake in a preheated 450 degree F oven for 10 - 12 minutes or until browned.

Roll the dough out slightly larger than the pie plate.

Fold dough in half.

Place folded dough in pie plate.

Unfold the pie crust and roll the excess dough under around the edge.
Finish edge as desired.

And this is my Mother, Virginia. I know she'd love to bake a pie for you. She just needs to know your favorite kind.


Spice Cupcakes With Penuche Frosting

Today I baked some Spice Cupcakes that I adapted from a Taste of Home recipe, then I topped them with an easy Penuche Frosting. My mother-in-law gave me the recipe for the frosting a number of years ago. She was a restaurant owner for many years and always a wonderful cook.

Spice Cupcakes
1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a cupcake pan by spraying with nonstick cooking spray or use paper liners.
In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with applesauce. Stir in walnuts.
Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack. Frost cooled cupcakes. Makes one dozen.

Penuche Frosting 
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 3/4 to 2 cups sifted powdered sugar

Melt butter in a medium saucepan, add brown sugar and bring to a boil. Over low heat, boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in milk, bring mixture back to a boil, stirring constantly. Cool to lukewarm, then gradually stir in powdered sugar. Beat until thick enough to spread. If frosting is too stiff it can be thinned with a little hot water.

 Cool the butter, brown sugar, and milk mixture to lukewarm before adding the powdered sugar.

 Gradually stir in the powdered sugar, beating until thick enough to spread.

This Penuche Frosting is a good companion for the Spice Cupcakes.


Mexican Chicken

Our dinner tonight is an update of an old favorite, Mexican Chicken. My family has enjoyed Mexican Chicken for years, but the recipe has evolved over time. The original recipe that I used came from my Aunt Lillian, and it called for a bag of taco flavored Dorito chips. I use a different kind of chips now in my Mexican Chicken, and I have also added some other ingredients to the original recipe.

Mexican Chicken
2 pounds boneless chicken, cooked
Ground red cayenne pepper
Garlic salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 (10 ounce) can Rotel tomatoes
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of chicken soup
1 (4.5 ounce) can chopped green chiles
1 (2 1/4 ounce) can sliced ripe olives, drained
1 pound Velveeta cheese, cubed
1 (13 ounce) bag tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 13-inch baking dish by spraying with nonstick cooking spray. Chop or shred cooked chicken and place in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with red pepper and garlic salt.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the onion until tender. Add the Rotel, mushroom soup, chicken soup, chiles, olives, and Velveeta cheese. Stir together over low heat until cheese is melted.
Place a layer of tortilla chips over the chicken in the baking dish, then pour the cheese mixture over the chips; mix slightly. Top with another layer of tortilla chips (you will not need the whole bag of chips). Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Sprinkle chicken with red pepper and garlic salt.

Add a layer of tortilla chips.

Pour the cheese mixture over the chips and mix slightly.

Add another layer of tortilla chips, cover with foil and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 minutes longer.

Serve it up - hot, cheesy, and delicious.


Sourdough Starter

When you were in school didn't you just love the science experiments? Today I'm doing my own little experiment at home. I decided to try making Sourdough Starter from scratch. I read about sourdough starters in The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum and looked at different recipes online. The one I decided to try is from All Recipes by Becky Richardson. I decided on this one because it uses potato flakes, and I remember a wonderful sourdough bread that a teacher friend always made when I worked with her many years ago, and that bread was made from a potato flake starter. Of course, once the starter is made, the experiment won't be complete until the bread is baked and tested.

Sourdough Starter
3 tablespoons instant mashed potato flakes
3 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (nonchlorinated)
Combine the instant potatoes, sugar, yeast, and warm water in a covered container. Let the starter sit on the counter for 5 days, stirring daily with a wooden spoon.

On the morning of the 5th day, feed the starter with 3 tablespoons instant potatoes, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1 cup warm water. In the evening, take out 1 cup of the starter to use in a sourdough recipe. Refrigerate the remaining starter.

Every 5 days, feed the starter 3 tablespoons instant potatoes, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1 cup warm water. If starter is to be used in a recipe, let the fed starter rest at room temperature 6 hours before use. If starter is not being used in a recipe, keep refrigerated and discard 1 cup of starter after each feeding.

The ingredients for the starter are potato flakes, sugar, yeast, and water.

Stir these ingredients together in a container that can be covered.

Leave the starter out on the counter for the next 5 days.

Day 1 - an unappealing beige liquid. I'll stir it each day as directed, and check on its progress. I'll report back with the experiment results.

I would love it if someone would try this experiment along with me, it would be lots more fun than experimenting alone. Mix up your own batch of Sourdough Starter and in 5 days we'll both be baking Sourdough Bread.


Monkey Bread

I baked Monkey Bread to go with our dinner tonight. It was so good, I don't know why I bothered to cook anything else. This recipe is a buttery version without the sugar and sweetness added to many monkey bread recipes, and it is adapted from the North Little Rock Junior League cookbook called Rave Reviews. Also, both my daughter Angela and my sister Helen have used this recipe many times with much success. It has especially become a family favorite at Helen's house at holiday time.

Monkey Bread
1 package yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar

1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the 1/4 cup water and add the teaspoon sugar. Let rise while preparing the remaining ingredients.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg with paddle attachment, then add sugar, vegetable oil, and salt. Add yeast mixture and 1 cup water. Change to dough hook, add flour, knead until dough forms. Or, you can mix all ingredients by hand if you prefer.

Grease a large bowl with vegetable oil, turn the dough over to grease top, cover and let rise until doubled in size. When dough has doubled in size, punch down and let rest a few minutes. Roll dough out and cut into strips. Dip each strip in the melted butter and place the strips in a Bundt pan, pour the remaining butter on top. Let rise until dough reaches top of pan, about 1 hour. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 20 -25 minutes or until brown on top.

This bread dough mixes up very quickly in an electric mixer.

After dough is formed, place in a greased bowl and let rise.

After the dough is double in size punch it down and let it rest a few minutes.

Then roll out the dough . . .

. . . and cut into strips. Dip the strips in the melted butter and place in a Bundt pan.

Let rise until bread is about as high as the pan, usually about an hour, but it depends on the temperature of the surroundings. Today with the air conditioning on and the house really cool, it took mine closer to two hours.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until brown on top.

This Monkey Bread is easy to make and is soft, golden, and buttery.