Betty Bryan’s Heavenly Coconut Cream Pie

My mother-in-law, Betty Bryan, is a fantastic cook and baker—and like a lot of good cooks, she doesn't really cook or bake by using recipes. So with that introduction, I'd like to tell you about her coconut cream pie and give you her exact recipe, but I can't. Let's just say it's as exact as I can make it for now, after talking with her briefly. But let me just tell you that whatever experimenting you manage with this pie, it will be worth it in the end. It's a much more soothing, less sweet,  and softer-on-the-palate version of coconut than say Mrs. Rowe's Coconut Cream–itself an iconic pie known to travelers across the country. Betty's pie is made with (non-instant) vanilla pudding and coconut flakes, which is a heavenly combination. 

This "recipe" makes 3 pies. (Regular size, not deep dish.)

Preheat oven to 400.

Prebake your pie crust. 

2 big packages of Jello vanilla pudding (follow the instruction, except for the eggs, which you will add)

5-8 Eggs for meringue (use Mrs. Rowe's weepless meringue, click here)

Take your egg yolks and stir them into the pudding as it cooks.

A hand full (seriously) or about a cup of coconut flakes also gets stirred into the pudding as it cooks.

You also want to save some coconut for sprinkling on top of the pie before it goes into the oven.

The pudding needs to cool to room temperature, then pour it into the prebaked pie crusts. Place your meringue on top, sprinkle the coconut. Bake it in the oven for about 15 minutes.

"You really need to watch it because ovens are so different and you don't want it to burn," Betty says. Truer words were never spoken.

Happy National Blueberry Pie Day

Today is National Blueberry Pie Day! In honor of such an "esteemed" day, I'm posting the blueberry pie recipe in my book "Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pie."  The
blueberry pie is the most expensive whole pie at Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant and Bakery, selling
$12.95 each. Most of the whole pies sell for under $10. The cost of
has gotten so high that the restaurant was forced to raise its prices.
You can
still get a slice of the deep-blue pie, though, for the regular price of 
$2.75 per slice.

Mrs. Rowe's Blueberry Pie

one 9-inch pie

Your favorite piecrust

3 pints of blueberries,
cleaned and stems removed (thawed
and drained if frozen)

tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

cup all-purpose flour (for thickening)

cup sugar

teaspoon ground cinnamon

tablespoons butter, unsalted, cut into small pieces

wash ingredients:

1 egg

tablespoon milk

the crust.

you have made the dough, on a lightly floured work surface, roll out
half of
the dough to 1/8-inch-thick circle, about 13 inches in diameter.
the dough over a 9-inch pie pan and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

you have purchased frozen prerolled circles, allow them to defrost and
one of the circles on and in the pie pan.

the egg and milk together to make an egg wash and set aside.

the blueberries, flour, cinnamon, lemon juice, and sugar and place in
chilled bottom crust of the pie pan.
the top with butter pieces.
out the remaining dough to the same size and thickness.
the rim of the crust with the egg wash, place the other piece of dough
on top,
trim to 1/2 inch over the edge of the pan, and crimp the edges with a
fork or
your fingers.

the pie to the refrigerator to chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
oven to 425°F.

the pie from the refrigerator.
the top with egg wash.
the pie on the top with two perpendicular cuts (so steam can escape
cooking). Bake for 20 minutes at 425°F.

the heat to 350°F and bake for 30 to 40 minutes more or until juices are
bubbling. Let cool before serving.

Interested in Writing a Cookbook?

If you have a burning desire to write a cookbook, stop by the Augusta County Library, Fishersville, Va., 3:00 Sat., July 25, and I'll be speaking about writing cookbooks and introducing my new book MRS.ROWE'S LITTLE BOOK OF SOUTHERN PIES. I'll also be selling the books and signing them. In the mean time, here is a great article about writing cookbooks. My agent, Angela Miller, is quoted in it and listed as one of the agents at the end of the article. 

The Zen of Slicing Pie

Cutting pie in the restaurant business involves more than a steady hand and a good eye. At Mrs.Rowe's Restaurant and Bakery, employees need to prove themselves before being trained to cut the pie. Here are some pie slicing tips from owner and general manager, Mike DiGrassie,  that you can use at home:

  • Don’t give in to the temptation to cut into a warm pie. It will taste good, but will be a mess.
  • Use a blunt-tip serrated knife.
  • Keep the knife hot. (The restaurant keeps their knife in a jar of hot water.)
  • Place the knife back in the jar of hot water after each cut.
  • If cutting a meringue pie, slice through the meringue first. Then go back, using your meringue cuts as guides, and slice through the filling and crust.
  • Make sure you slice through the crust, or the pie will tear when you try to scoop it out.
  • Cut the pie in half, turn it, cut it in half again, then cut each quarter once more for eight slices. For six slices, cut the pie in half, turn it; make your next cut at quarter-angle. (If you are looking down on the pie, the cuts now make an X). Then cut through the center of your two largest slices.

Pie Photo Shoot

The pie book is currently with my editor at Ten Speed. I turned it in about a week early. One of the exciting things happening is that TS has already set up a photo shoot and we’ve actually seen the first draft of the cover. Instead of sending a photographer to Virginia, like they did with the last book, they are making the pies and a local nationally-known food photographer is going to take pictures. I can’t help but wonder…what will happen to all the leftovers? Will there be any? I picture a group of editors, artists, and photographers getting together and having a pie feast. I am not worried about the look of the book. TS has a way with design. But, I am kinda worried about that pie….;-)

Visiting Mrs. Rowe’s Country Buffet, Mount Crawford, Va.

My day at Mrs. Rowe’ s Country Buffet was an interesting change of pace. I’ve been writing about the Staunton restaurant for a few years now. This is the first chance I’ve had to visit the kitchen at the Buffet. I spoke with the baker, Angie, and watched her prepare the pies. I took a few shots of her making the morning’s pie. She prepares the cream pies in the morning and fruit in the afternoon. I also took some shots of the sliced pie on the buffet table and counters. Mmmmm. I think I gained five pounds just smelling the egg custard coming out of the oven.

Day in the Kitchen at Mrs. Rowe’s, part 2

Okay. I figured out the vertical picture thing.
The new baker is a happy guy. Patrick Sullivan started out cooking at Mrs. Rowe’s a few years ago,  and is now being trained as a baker. He loves his new gig. Gee, I did not get the potato guys name—but I talked to him about his job. He says he loves it because he gets to work alone, in corner by himself, which suits him fine.  I always wondered what kind of a person thrives simply peeling potatoes. There you have it. I wanted to ask him more—but by then, I knew he wanted to just be LEFT ALONE! Ha.
Oh yeah, I had to get one shot in of those rolls in the cooling racks. They smelled heavenly…Dscf2341



Day in the Kitchen at Mrs. Rowe’s

I spent some time with the new baker at Mrs. Rowe’s. While I was there, I took some pictures of the pie and bread proofing. I’ve also taken pictures of the baker and the potato peeler guy–but they are vertical and I need to figure how how to turn them around!