Serendipity - when unconnected things occur at the same time so that they work together in a beneficial way.
A couple weeks ago, my husband brought up banana pudding - an old fashioned dessert from our childhood made up from Instant Vanilla Pudding, Cool Whip and Nilla Wafer cookies - it was an advertiser's dream recipe and used to be on the back of the box for each of those products.
I was in no mood to make that - but figured a banana cream pie might fill the craving, so I tucked it onto my meal plan list until I could get to the store for the necessary ingredients.
Then came the serendipitous part - a few days later, I came across the Improv Cooking Challenge hosted by Cookaholic Wife. On the 3rd Thursday of each month, bloggers get together to share recipes that include a preselected pair of ingredients. This month, the two ingredients are bananas and coconut.
And that's how this Coconut Lover's Banana Cream Pie was born.
It's a basic made-from-scratch vanilla pudding, poured over a layer of sliced ripe bananas that have been laid into the bottom of a toasted coconut crust (hey! This is gluten-free!), and topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of more toasted coconut.
Mind you - this pie is sweet and very rich, and the flavors all come through very well. I think next time I'd use a blend of sweetened and unsweetened coconut to cut back on the sweetness - but there is sugar in the pudding and the whipped cream, so this is definitely in the category of very-occasional indulgence.
But very indulgent it is and I'd feel quite satisfied if I ordered this from a good dessert menu.
(makes 1 9" pie)
2 1/2 cups sweetened coconut
1/2 cup butter
2-3 ripe bananas, sliced thin into rounds
3 Tblsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup milk
4 egg yolks (can freeze egg whites for later use)
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tblsp confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup toasted coconut
Melt butter in a pan over medium heat and add coconut. Stir constantly until coconut is browned but not burned. Turn buttered coconut into a pie shell, and pat evenly over the bottom, making sure it isn't too thick in the corners.
Set crust in refrigerator to chill for at least a half hour. This can be done up to 24 hours ahead.
Wipe pan clean, and toast an additional 1/4 cup coconut without butter for 2-3 minutes while stirring constantly. Set aside to top the pie.
Make the filling:
Remove pie shell from refrigerator. Slice bananas and fill the bottom of the pie shell - it's fine if they overlap. Set aside.
Separate the four eggs. The whites can be frozen in a small container for later use (they won't whip into meringue, but are fine for omelets or macaroons). Whisk the egg yolks.
In a small dish, place cornstarch.
Slowly whisk in the 1/2 cup of milk, so that cornstarch is completely blended, then whisk in the egg yolks.
Set yolk mixture aside.
In a large saucepan, combine coconut milk, sugar and 1/4 cup milk. Whisk smooth and bring to boil, stirring constantly.
As soon as this boils, reduce heat to simmer, and slowly stream in yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Don't stop stirring or let it boil, or the eggs will curdle.
Stir and cook about five more minutes, until thickened and an instant thermometer reads 180F. Remove from heat, and add vanilla extract, stirring to blend.
Pour pudding into prepared pie shell.
Let pie sit on counter to cool for at least 1/2 hour.
Put filled pie in refrigerator until ready to serve - should chill for at least an hour, and can wait for up to a day.
In stand mixer, combine whipping cream and confectioner's sugar, and whip until soft peaks form.
Top pie with whipped cream, and sprinkle reserved toasted coconut over the top as desired.