In many ways, this recipe faithfully follows the form of a classic coconut cream pie. But there’s one key ingredient that sets it apart and makes it an innovative new thing: creamy, delicious peanut butter.
As it turns out, peanut butter and coconut both have quite a bit in common. For one thing, both peanuts and coconuts are commonly referred to as “nuts”, but neither of them are actually nuts. Peanuts are legumes, and coconuts are classified as “drupes”–a type of fruit.
In cooking and baking, peanut butter and coconut can both be assertive flavors; perhaps for that reason, they’re not frequently seen together in recipes. But as this pie proves, they really belong together.
The assertiveness of both peanut butter and coconut mean that both of the flavors can stand up to one another as equals. Both flavors are prominent in this pie, and both taste great together. The rich flavor of toasty peanut butter gets a creamy lift from the coconut, giving the pie a depth of flavor not often seen in a typical coconut cream pie.
Peanut butter and coconut: this is definitely the flavor combination that has been missing from your life (and dessert). But don’t take my word for it: proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the pie!
Note: you can use either thread (the little string-like shreds) style coconut or flakes. If you do use flakes, lightly crush or chop them; if you don’t, individual flakes can make it hard to slice the pie cleanly.
If you are unable to find unsweetened coconut or prefer to use the more readily available sweetened kind, reduce the brown sugar to 1/2 cup in the filling.
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 20 minutes (for the pie filling)
Total time: 1 hour and 20 minutes, plus 3-4 hours chilling time
Yield: 8 servings
For the Peanut Butter Chips
1/3 cup Smooth Operator peanut butter
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1-2 tablespoons milk
For the Pie Toppings
1/2 cup toasted coconut flakes
1/3 cup peanut butter chips
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Crust
1 1/2 cups crumbled peanut butter cookies
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon cornstarch
For the Filling
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut (thread or flakes)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup coconut cream
1/2 cup Smooth Operator peanut butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup homemade peanut butter chips (preparation described in step 1 of the recipe)
1. Make the peanut butter chips first thing. Cream together the Smooth Operator peanut butter, sugar, and butter until nice and smooth. Add in the milk, a little at a time, until it has a thick consistency that can still be piped. Pipe drops of the mixture on to parchment paper. Freeze until firm, and then store in the freezer until you need to use them. This will yield quite a few peanut butter chips.
2. Before proceeding with the pie, toast the coconut flakes which you’ll later use to top the pie. Spread the coconut flakes on a baking sheet and bake in a 300°F oven until just lightly toasted. Let cool completely and set to the side.
3. Prepare the crust. Combine the cookie crumbles, melted butter, and salt in a large bowl, and stir until totally combined. Press into a greased 9-inch pie plate, firmly and evenly pressing the mixture into the bottom and sides of the plate.
4. Make the filling. In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut flakes, milk, coconut cream, peanut butter, brown sugar, flour, and salt, mixing well. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.
5. Remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the eggs, vigorously stirring all the while so they don’t become scrambled eggs. Return to heat until the mixture begins to thicken, 2 to 4 minutes. This extra cooking will also ensure that the eggs cook and reach a safe temperature for consumption. Stir in the vanilla.
6. Remove from heat again, and pour the thick mixture into the pie shell.
7. Sprinkle about 1/3 cup of your peanut butter chips on top. Press a few under the surface of the filling, and keep a few lingering at the top.
8. Chill the pie for 3-4 hours, or until firm and set.
9. Top the pie with the whipped cream (as you can see I got a little fancy and piped some of it in little puffs around the edges), and sprinkle with ⅓ cup peanut butter chips and the toasted coconut mixture.
Serve slightly chilled; store leftovers in the refrigerator.