Coconut Cream Squares

Coconut Cream Bars

There are two kinds of pies I have liked since I was a kid: coconut cream and banana cream. I used to look eagerly at restaurant menus to determine if I’d bother trying to convince my parents that we should have dessert or not. This recipe is a very good substitute for coconut cream pie. It is rich, creamy and full of coconut.

As much as I loved the pudding-like pies, the one thing that I wasn’t crazy about was whipped cream. If the slice of pie came with half of its height composed of whipped cream, I would dutifully scrape it off on the side of my plate before eating anything else. It’s taken me quite a while to change my mind about that (I still don’t want too much at one time) but now I appreciate the cool airiness that whipped cream adds.

Coconut Cream Squares

Coconut Cream Squares

This dessert has just the right amount of whipped cream on top (in my opinion). Of course, you can always add more, or less, depending on your preferences. But, if you do add more, just remember that it will start to become higher than the pan sides and spill over the top, so putting foil or parchment paper above the edges will be necessary.

When you are making the whipped cream, here are a few tips:
– It helps the process along if you stick your bowl and beater in the freezer for a few minutes before hand.
– The cooler your whipping cream, the better as well.
– Use a wire whisk attachment with the highest setting on your mixer.
– When soft peaks form, you can add vanilla and icing sugar before beating more until firmer peaks form.
– Don’t beat for so long that it turns into butter – yep, butter. If that happens, you’ll have to start over again.

Toasted Coconut

Toasted Coconut

If you don’t have whipping cream on hand, or you don’t feel like making it, you can usually substitute a “dessert topping” like Cool Whip in place of whipped cream. It may make it a little sweeter, but usually you won’t notice a difference.

Toasting the coconut is another thing that I have struggled with in the past – but mostly because I have attempted the oven-baking method. I have found that toasting it in a non-stick frying pan is much easier and less likely to burn. You can actually see and control the toasting. If you’ve never done it before, just remember that it takes a long time before it starts to brown, but when it finally starts to turn, it does it quickly, so watch out!

You can watch a quick demonstration of how to make this dessert here

 

 

 

Coconut Cream Squares
Serves 15
Creamy coconut dessert with cool whipped cream and toasted coconut on top.
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Crust
  1. 1 cup butter (cold)
  2. 2 cups flour
  3. ¾ cups icing sugar
Filling
  1. 3 cups half & half cream (10%)
  2. 3 cups coconut milk
  3. 4 large eggs
  4. 1 ½ cups white sugar
  5. ⅔ cups corn starch
  6. ½ tsp salt
  7. 1 ½ cups sweetened flaked coconut
  8. ½ tsp coconut extract
  9. ½ tsp vanilla extract
Topping
  1. 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  2. 2 cups whipping cream (35%)
  3. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  4. ¼ cup icing sugar
Instructions
  1. Line 9"x13" pan with parchment paper or foil. Allow the paper/foil to extend above the sides of the pan (you'll need it when the filling goes in).
  2. Preheat oven to 350F.
  3. Chop cold butter into smaller pieces and add to flour and icing sugar in medium bowl.
  4. Use pastry cutter (or two butter knives) to chop up butter into smaller pieces while mixing with flour/sugar mix. It should resemble coarse oatmeal when you are done.
  5. Pour into pan and press firmly and evenly.
  6. Bake for 18-20 minutes - until the edges brown. Allow to cool.
  7. Meanwhile, in a large pot, combine half and half cream, coconut milk, eggs, sugar, cornstarch and salt.
  8. Heat on medium to medium-low heat, stirring constantly until it begins to bubble and gets thick, similar to pudding. Remove from heat.
  9. Stir in coconut extract, vanilla and coconut (1 ½ cups).
  10. Pour over cooked crust. Allow to cool about ½ hour on the counter before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating for approximately 4 hours.
  11. While you wait for the filling to cool, use a non-stick pan to toast the coconut (1 cup). Use medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Remove from heat as soon as it reaches the toasted level that you like.
  12. Finally, using an electric mixer, beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form.
  13. Add vanilla and powdered sugar.
  14. Continue to beat whipped cream until stiff peaks form.
  15. Spread over chilled filling. Top with toasted coconut.
Notes
  1. Using a pre-chilled bowl and whisk will help the whipping cream stay cool while you whip it, allowing it to whip up a bit faster.
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Let me know what your favourite pies are.  Maybe I’ll feature another pie-like dessert recipe in the future.

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