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The pie turned out fabulous - creamy and better than any other coconut cream pie I've ever had - with 1/2 the calories and 1/3 of the fat. I made it the night before. Since we couldn't wait to taste it, we had birthday pie for breakfast on the big day. The kids thought that was the coolest thing ever :)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Fit dough into a 9 inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Fold edges under; flute. Line dough with foil; arrange pie weights or dried beans on foil (I found small oven-safe plates are perfect for this and the foil helped make for a very flaky crust.)
Combine milk and half-and-half in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 cups coconut. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; stir seeds and pod into milk mixture. Bring milk mixture to a simmer; immediately remove from heat.
Combine 2/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk (I used my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer).
Place 3 egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form.
Note: You can toast the coconut yourself by spreading on a baking sheet and placing in a 350 degree F oven. Stir every 30 seconds until dry and lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes.
Source: Cooking Light, March 2011
By Stephanie from Hillsboro, OR
I didn't try any substitutions, because between the amount of work involved and the special occasion, I didn't want to risk screwing it up. :) Honestly this did turn out better than any other coconut cream pie I've tried.
Regarding the substitution ideas, the pie had a very custard-like texture. I don't think egg beaters would have held up, but I don't normally use them, so I'm not sure. The lighter half and half might be a good substitution. I'm on maintenance now, so I have the points to use on the "good stuff".
I imagine good real vanilla extract would work - although the flavor wouldn't be quite the same. I was surprised to find vanilla beans at WinCo, so you might be surprised. They definitely weren't cheap, but it was a special occasion.
Reusing the solids is an interesting idea. They were really saturated with the egg mixture, so you'd definitely have to let them dry out first. One thing that got me started on this project was a bag of sweetened flaked coconut we'd had sitting around in the cabinet, so I wasn't too concerned about stretching it this time. :) Next time, I'll get the coconut in bulk and I think I will try reusing it for the top or at least in another baking project.
I'd be interested in hearing what people try and what works.