Coconut Tart

For Easter, my sister asked for a coconut tart. A few years ago, I made one of these and everyone agreed it was gorgeous and delicious. Since then, I have totally improved the recipe.

I melt some unsweetened chocolate onto a freshly baked tart shell, so the filling won’t make the shell soggy. In school, we were told to coat shells with either dark of white chocolate depending on the color of the filling, but guess what? I hate white chocolate. So, I used unsweetened, and I thought it looked really nice when the tart was sliced up.

Inside of the tart is a lovely coconut pastry cream. My day off was Thursday, and that’s when I did most of my holiday baking. A typical pastry cream would have no trouble holding up from Thursday until Sunday, but adding coconut to the mix really dries everything. By the Sunday, when I wanted to assemble the tart, it had molded itself to the bowl it was in. There was no hope of stirring it.

Luckily, there’s an easy fix for this. I threw it into a sauce pan and heated it gently on very low heat for around ten minutes. When it was warm, I added a few tablespoons of milk, a little at a time, and gave it a good stir. The idea of the milk is to bring the cream to a consistency where it will be spreadable, but not runny. This thing is made by spooning everything into place; no need for piping bags, tips, or any special skill sets. It’s easy and awesome.

Some freshly whipped chantilly cream tops the coconut pastry cream. Again, I just spooned it over the top. It’s a big lovely cloud of whipped cream, rather than a neat  design. You could of course pipe delicate rosettes onto the tart, or whatever else you’d like, but spooning on the cream is very forgiving. If you over-whip your heavy cream even slightly, your piped designs could look a bit grainy. Plus, this thing is getting covered in shaved coconut, so relax! You have other things to worry about.

I baked macarons, a carrot cake, and two batches of hot cross buns in addition to this tart. Saving myself the headache of transporting it around town from my apartment, to my job, and finally to my sister’s, I just assembled it at her house. I whipped the cream there, heated the pastry cream, and threw it all together. Et voila. Sometimes, easier really is better. This tart was awesome. It was loved by all.

Make it!

For the crust:

any tart dough will do, but I love this one: Pate Sucree Extra
After blind baking, set some chopped chocolate (your favorite kind) atop the still-hot-freshly-baked tart shell, and when it melts, spread it over the bottom of the shell with a pastry brush. Let cool.

For the filling:

milk-  1 1/2 cups

sugar- 1/2 cup

cornstarch – 1/4 cup

egg yolks – 3

salt – a generous pinch

butter – 4 Tbsp

vanilla – 1 tsp

coconut, toasted* – 1/2 cup

Combine milk and sugar in a medium sauce pan, and bring to a boil. While it’s getting there, combine cornstarch, salt  and egg yolks in a separate bowl. You want the cornstarch to be pretty much dissolved in the yolks before you continue.

When your milk mixture is ready, pour a little into your egg mixture and stir it up very well. The hot milk can shock the eggs and scramble them, so this step, called tempering, should help them get used to the idea of being warm. Add up to a third of the milk, and when your egg mixture is nice and warm, pour everything back into the sauce pan. Over medium heat, stir the mixture constantly until it thickens. Don’t stop or you’ll have lumps of egg in your delicious pastry cream.

When your mixture is thickened, remove it from the heat, transfer to bowl, and stir in your butter and vanilla. Stir until the butter is nicely incorporatd. If you have any concerns about chunky bits in your pastry cream, pass it through a fine mesh strainer or chinois. Fold in your toasted coconut.

You want it to be cool, so plunge the bowl into an ice bath, or just get it into the fridge. Whatever you do, cover it with some plastic wrap. Rather than stretching the wrap over the bowl, set it right into the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. You can use it when it’s cool.

When you’re ready to assemble, just spread the pastry cream into the shell.

For the chantilly topping:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 Tbsp powdered sugar

Using cold equipment ( I put the mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer for a few minutes before starting), mix up your heavy cream in the bowl of  a stand mixer, with the whisk attachment. I like to do this at the highest speed possible that doesn’t involve heavy cream flying out of the bowl; something like “4” on a Kitchenaid. When the mixture appears thickened, add the powdered sugar, and keep mixing until soft peaks have formed. Err on the side of caution. A slightly underwhipped cream is acceptable for our purposes, but overwhipping is noticeable and can lend an unwanted butterness to your chantilly. Plus, there’s no coming back from it unless you add more cream, and maybe you only bought as much as you needed!!

Spoon that whipped cream on top of your coconut cream-topped tart, and sprinkle it with shaved coconut. You can toast the coconut, and it’ll look wonderful, but I didn’t. I think it looks great either way. Make this for dinner parties, Easter gatherings, or Law and Order: SVU marathons.

Note: I was booted from the counter when my brother-in-law had to carve up some sort of meat that I didn’t eat. I assembled the tart from atop the washing machine, which is sort of apparent in the photos. That just goes to show you how easy it was to make this thing. 😀

*To toast coconut, spread it out on a sheet pan and toss it into a warm oven. Keep an eye on it, and when the top layer is nice and browned (but not burnt), and your kitchen smells really, really delicious, you’re all set. I like it when the top is pretty brown, and the stuff on the bottom is still white. I mix everything together and it’s sort of perfect. There’s something to be said for consistency, of course, but when it’s my kitchen, we follow my rules. :] Do it however you like.


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