Oct 22, 2013

COCONUT PUMPKIN PIE for Halloween

Trick or Treat?
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Hawaii celebrates Halloween just like the rest of the country. This is the time of year when people are thinking about buying a pumpkin to carve for Halloween. When I was a boy Halloween meant costumes, trick or treating, candied apples, and pumpkin pie. Now that I am old and gray, it's still a magical time of year for me. Just yesterday I stopped off at a church pumpkin patch in Kualapu'u, a small plantation town here on the island of Moloka'i. For the past 3 years I have been buying pumpkins from them.

My wife loves to collect the seeds from inside the pumpkin, then she roasts them in the oven. It has become a tradition this time of year in our house. We usually sit and eat them while they are still warm from the oven, and then watch football on television (see recipe below).

Pumpkin puree is actually very easy to make. I know that most people don't want to take the time to do it, but to me it just tastes better when I know what's in it. For homemade puree, buy a couple of small pumpkins. Cut them in half, remove the seeds and pulp, and lightly coat the outside with olive oil or vegetable spray. Place the pumpkin halves, skin side up, on a foil lined cookie sheet, and roast them in a 350˚F oven for about an hour, or until you can easily pierce the outside skin with a fork and the pumpkin meat is soft. Cool the pumpkins until you can handle them. Spoon or cut out the pulp into a food processor, discarding the skin. Puree the pumpkin pulp until smooth, about 10 minutes. Line a colander with cheese cloth and put the puree on top of the cloth. Place a larger bowl under the colander to collect water from the puree. I usually cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put the whole thing in the refrigerator overnight to drain. Discard the pumpkin water, and the puree is ready to use in your recipes.

Coconut Pumpkin Pie
This is a delicious tropical coconut pumpkin pie recipe, almost like a creamy pumpkin cheesecake with coconut. Oh my!

Ingredients for the graham cracker crust:
1 1/3 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sweetened coconut flakes
5 tablespoons light brown sugar
6 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil, or melted butter

Ingredients for the filling:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (2 cups)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg plus 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1/2 cup coconut cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
whipped cream
1/2 cup toasted, sweetened coconut flakes for garnish

Procedure:
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. 

To prepare the graham cracker crust, lightly grease a 9" pie plate and set aside. In a small mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, coconut flakes, and sugar until well mixed. Add in the coconut oil, or butter, and rub in until the mixture begins to clump together. (It will be pretty crumbly at this point.) Press into the prepared pie plate and place in the oven for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool while preparing the filling.

For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer. Add the pumpkin and beat until combined. Add the sugar and salt, and beat until combined. Add the eggs mixed with the yolks, coconut cream, and melted butter, and beat until combined. Finally, add the vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, and beat until incorporated.

Pour the filling into the warm prepared pie crust and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the center is set (about halfway through cooking, you will need to loosely tent the crust with a ring of foil to prevent the crust from burning.) Place the pie on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Cut into slices and top each piece with a generous amount of whipped cream. Garnish the whipped cream and pie slices with toasted coconut flakes. Makes 6-8 servings.

Note: If you can't find coconut oil, you can use butter. If you are able to find coconut oil, however, I urge you to do so; it really adds a wonderful flavor and melt-in-your mouth quality to the crust! I was able to find it at Friendly Market, but they don't always have it in stock.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Ingredients:
1 medium pumpkin
4 cups water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
salt to taste

Procedure:
Preheat oven to 250˚F. Cut off top 3 to 4 inches of pumpkin then scoop out seeds onto a clean work surface. Discard stringy fiber from seeds along with any seeds that are split or cracked then transfer to a strainer and rinse well. (You should have about 2 cups of seeds.)

In a medium pot, bring water to a boil. Add seeds, reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes. Drain well then transfer to a paper towel-lined sheet tray and pat dry.

Transfer seeds to a medium bowl, toss with oil and spread out in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast seeds, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until just crisp and golden brown, about 1 hour total. (They will become crispier as they cool.) Sprinkle with a little salt, then set them aside to let cool completely then shell or eat whole. Makes about 2 cups of seeds.
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