Recipes for Coconut Cream Pie, Banana Cream Pie, Strawberry Shortcake and No-Churn Honeycomb Ice Cream

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A Minnesota researcher says that eating comfort food doesn’t really improve our mood, that we bounce back sooner or later no matter what we eat.

Then let’s call dessert celebratory food — treats that we make because we’re already feeling good. As spring turns to summer, who isn’t in the mood for sharing some joy?

Banana-cream pie and coconut-cream pie are two of those bang-for-the-buck desserts, looking more elaborate than the actual effort required. Basic custard also lends itself to variations.

The arrival of local strawberries is a sure sign that warm weather — and strawberry shortcake — is on its way.

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And there is always room for ice cream, especially when it is chock full of homemade honeycomb candy.

COCONUT CREAM PIE

Makes 8 servings

1 Prepared 9-inch pie shell

For the filling:

2 cups milk

3 egg yolks

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2½ tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon butter, melted

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut

For the meringue:

½ cup unsweetened coconut

3 egg whites

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

6 tablespoons sugar

1. Partially blind bake the pie shell: Heat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out chilled pie dough and place in a 9-inch pie pan. (Glass is best.) Trim and flute or crimp the edges, pierce the bottom crust with a fork six or eight times, then cover with a large square of parchment or foil. It should hang over the edges. Carefully pour 2 or 3 cups of dried beans or pie weights onto the foil or parchment and spread evenly so they reach up the sides of the pie. Bake 12 to 16 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. If crust edges are browning too quickly, make a little collar from foil and cover for remaining baking time.

2. Make the filling: Scald milk by placing it in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently until it just begins to foam and bubble around the edges. Set aside to let cool slightly. In the top of a double boiler, or in another saucepan that will fit over a pot of boiling water, beat together egg yolks, sugar, salt and cornstarch. Stir in melted butter, then add the milk.

3. Place the saucepan over the boiling water and whisk until the mixture thickens. This will take two to five minutes. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and sweetened coconut until well distributed. Pour into the pie shell.

4. Make the meringue: Toast the unsweetened coconut lightly in a small saute pan on the stove over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Set aside. In a stand mixer or with a bowl and whisk, mix egg whites and cream of tartar until the mixture is foamy. If using a stand mixer, keep speed on medium. Then, turn mixer to high and gradually pour in sugar, a tablespoon at a time. If whisking, make sure sugar is dissolved before each new addition of sugar. Keep beating until the meringue is glossy and forms soft peaks. Be careful not to whip into stiff peaks.

5. Pour the meringue over the pie filling. Using a spatula (an offset version works well), scoot the meringue to the edge of the crust so it forms a seal. Swirl the spatula through the rest of the meringue, distributing it evenly and dipping the edge of the spatula across the top of the meringue to make little peaks. Sprinkle evenly with the unsweetened coconut.

6. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate for at least three hours before serving.

— The New York Times

BANANA CREAM PIE

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie (6 to 8 servings).

Graham cracker crust:

1 sleeve (9 whole crackers) graham crackers

¼ cup light brown sugar

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, optional

Pinch salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

2 cups (1 pint) half-and-half

½ cup milk (1 or 2 percent is fine)

¼ cup light brown sugar

¼ cup sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch

3 egg yolks, beaten

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 to 3 ripe bananas

1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped with 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Place graham crackers in a large plastic bag, then crush the crackers with a rolling pin or bottle until there are no large pieces, but still some texture. (You also can pulse them in a food processor.)

3. In a medium bowl, combine crumbs, ¼ cup brown sugar, nutmeg, salt and melted butter. Mix thoroughly until everything is uniformly moistened. Pour mixture into 9-inch pie plate. Using your fingers or the bottom of a juice glass, press the crumbs against the bottom and up the sides of the pan, making the crust as even as possible. Bake for 10 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.

4. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the half-and-half, milk, ¼ cup brown sugar, sugar, cornstarch and egg yolks. Over medium heat and using a whisk or wooden (or heatproof) spatula, cook the mixture, stirring constantly and taking care to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan until the mixture starts to thicken and bubble. This will take three to four minutes.

5. Stir in butter and vanilla, and set aside to cool slightly.

6. Peel and slice two bananas into even slices about ¼-inch thick. Cover the crust with a layer of bananas, then half the filling, spreading to the edges. Add a second layer of the banana slices, using the third banana if necessary, and cover with remaining filling.

7. Cover pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate for six hours or overnight. Before serving, top with dollops of whipped cream and additional bananas for garnish.

Chocolate cream-pie variation: Prepare the banana-cream filling as directed. When adding butter and vanilla, also stir in 8 ounces of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine, stirring until melted and no streaks remain. Pour into pie shell and chill. Garnish with whipped cream and shaved chocolate before serving.

— Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (TNS)

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKES

Makes 6 servings

For the biscuits:

2 cups (8½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon table salt

1 to 1½ cups heavy cream, plus extra to brush the tops of the biscuits

2 teaspoons sugar

For the filing:

2½ pounds strawberries, hulled and quartered if the strawberries are small, cut into sixths if they are large

¼ to ½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

Lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, to serve

1. To make the biscuits, heat the oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Pour in enough of the cream to just form a dough. The dough should be shaggy and clumpy, but moistened.

3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough two or three times, or just until it comes together. Use your hands to form the dough into a square. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 6-inch square about ¾-inch thick. Cut the dough into six equal rectangles, transferring them to the prepared baking sheet. Leave about 2 inches between them.

4. Brush each square lightly with cream, then sprinkle each with the sugar. Bake on the oven’s middle shelf until pale golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

5. Meanwhile, make the filling. In a medium bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar and zest. Add more or less sugar to taste. Use a fork or potato masher to lightly press on the strawberries. Set aside for one hour.

6. To serve, cut the biscuits in half horizontally using a serrated knife. Arrange the flat bottoms on six serving plates. Spoon a sixth of the strawberry mixture (including any juices in the bowl) over the biscuit bottom. Top with other half of the biscuit, then spoon whipped cream or ice cream onto the top and serve immediately.

— The Associated Press

RUSTIC CANYON’S NO-CHURN HONEYCOMB ICE CREAM

Serves 8 to 16

Honeycomb candy

5 tablespoons sugar, preferably organic evaporated cane sugar

2 tablespoons wildflower honey, preferably organic

1 teaspoon baking soda

In a small to medium pan, combine the sugar and honey, and cook until the sugar is melted and the mixture has turned a caramel color. Remove from heat and add the baking soda all at once, quickly stirring to evenly distribute the soda. Be careful, as the soda will cause the sugar mixture to bubble rapidly. Pour the honeycomb into a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment and set aside until cooled and hardened, about 30 minutes. Break the honeycomb into big and small pieces, and store in an airtight container until needed.

Honeycomb ice cream

3 cups heavy whipping cream, preferably organic

1 (14-ounce) can condensed milk, preferably organic

1 tablespoon vodka

Pinch of salt

Prepared honeycomb

In a large bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks. Stir in the condensed milk and whip again to soft peaks, then whisk in the vodka and salt. Gently fold in the honeycomb, careful not to overmix; you want a swirl look to the ice cream. Transfer to a smaller container and put in the freezer until firmed, one to three hours.

— Adapted by the Los Angeles Times from Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen in Santa Monica, Calif.