For Pi Day, Cooking Channel’s Aida Mollenkamp Makes a Pie!
It’s March 14 and over at Abe’s proper, we’re hosting a Pi Day (3.14) sale, where if you spend at least $20 today, we’ll take off $3.14 from your order. But over here on the blog we’re adding a letter and having a different kind of Pi Day. Think of this as a sort of Sesame Street-like spelling lesson where we combine letters and words (OK, just a letter to a word). So yeah, it’s Pi Day, but we just found an extra E lying around and, well, guess what? It’s now Pie Day. And what better way to enjoy Pie Day than talking about pies. Well, sure, we would love to share some pie with you, but since we’re virtual, cutting you a slice is a little tough. So how about a pie recipe?
We reached out to an old friend, Food Network and Cooking Channel chef Aida Mollenkamp who, when she’s not on the road promoting her fantastic and informative new cookbook, Keys to the Kitchen, travels around to meet, uncover and promote independent artisan food entrepreneurs on her show FoodCrafters. Aida is a busy lady these days, but she did take the time to chat with us and also send us over one of her fave recipes for chocolate-coconut cream pie.
Aida Chats With Abe’s
Abe’s Market: What do you love most about cooking?
Aida Mollenkamp: I love that cooking is a win-win-win situation in that’s part escapism, part adventure and part catharsis. I cook because it’s my job, but every time I enter the kitchen there’s a self-serving aspect to it because I get creatively fed by cooking.
Abe’s: Why did you want to get into the business of sharing food with people?
Aida: It really comes down to the hospitality and the very idea of sharing — sharing food, sharing experiences and what have you. We have to eat daily so I figure we might as well make the most out of it.
Abe’s: What do you enjoy more — cooking on TV or writing cookbooks and doing book tours?
Aida: I’m not really one to pick favorites because each of those aspects of my job has made me grow and challenged me and continues to do so. However, if you strong-armed me, I’d say any aspect of the job where I get to interact with people and share my love for food with them is likely my absolute favorite.
Abe’s: What’s your favorite type of cuisine to cook?
Aida: That changes frequently based on the weather and the season. I turn to more complexly spiced cuisines like Persian, Indian and North African when it’s cold out, and I turn to simple, more northern Mediterranean-inspired stuff come the warmer months.
Abe’s: If you could dine at any restaurant anywhere in the world, where would you choose — and who would you want to dine with?
Aida: It’d likely be a tie between a handful of restaurants, but one that’s been on my short list for far too long is Arzak. I adore [Spain's] Basque country and love the creativity and avant garde perspective of the Arzaks. As for who, it’d likely be a handful of my few closest friends because they’re always good people and are into food just enough that they’d enjoy the experience without being too precious or pretentious about it.
Aida Mollenkamp’s Chocolate-Coconut Cream Pie
A few years ago while vacationing in Hawaii, Aida fell in love with a pie at Ted’s Bakery on Oahu’s North Shore. It inspired her to make the following recipe, which has a no-bake crust made from chocolate wafers, an easy-prep custard, some coconut milk and toasted unsweetened coconut. Now that we’re writing about it, we really wish we weren’t so virtual and had actually made this pie before we starting this post. Ugh … the torture!
Well, just because we’re suffering doesn’t mean you have to. So if you’re hankering for a delicious pie and have a little time on your hands, get ready to bake. Because this one is a good’n.
Makes 1 (9 inch) pie (about 8 to 12 servings)
Total Time: 30 minutes, plus cooling time
Hands On Time: 30 minutes
For the crust:
- 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter
- 2 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (from an 8 oz box)*
For the filling:
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 (14 ounces) cans coconut milk (about 3 cups)
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (we suggest Frontier or Simply Organic)
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 1/3 cup water
- For the topping:
- 1 cup chilled heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon rum (optional)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut, toasted
For the crust: Melt the butter and mix with cookie crumbs until thoroughly moistened. Transfer to an 9 1/2-inch pie plate and, using the back of a cup or measuring cup, press mixture into the pan, evenly covering the bottom and sides of the pan. Set in freezer until set, at least 10 minutes. (Can be made through this step up to 2 days ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the freezer.)
For the filling: Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a small pan over very low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. (Alternatively, place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave at 15 second intervals, stirring between each interval, until melted.)
Pour chocolate into the crust and, using the back of a spoon, quickly spread the chocolate over the crust in a thin layer. Return crust to the freezer to set up, at least 10 minutes. (Can be made through this step up to 2 days ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the freezer.)
Make the coconut custard: Combine coconut milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, place cornstarch in a small bowl then gradually whisk in the water until smooth. Reduce heat to low, stir the cornstarch mixture into the coconut milk mixture, and cook until it has thickened enough that it looks like yogurt, about 1 more minute. Pour hot coconut custard into the pie crust and refrigerate until set and cooled, at least 4 hours. (Can be made through this step up to 2 days ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator.)
For the topping:
When the pie is thoroughly chilled, prepare the topping. Place cream in a large, clean bowl and whip with a clean whisk until it becomes fluffy and light, with soft peaks, about 3 minutes. Whisk in sugar, rum, and vanilla until cream is just thick enough to hold onto the whisk.
Spread whipped cream evenly over the top of the cooled pie then sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes and serve. (Can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and stored, covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator. Top with toasted coconut just before serving.)
*Note: To make cookie crumbs, place cookies in a food processor and process until broken up into crumbs. (Alternatively, place cookies in a resealable plastic bag and hit with a meat mallet or rolling pin until you have small crumbs.) You want 2 cups of cookie crumbs for this recipe.