Writers play all sorts of funny games with ourselves when a story isn’t moving along as smoothly as we’d like. Some swear taking a walk energizes the body and mind. Some swear a household cleaning binge sweeps the cobwebs from dusty creativity. (My other half will testify I am not one of those crazy people.) Some swear music is a foolproof cure.
Some just swear.
Me? I usually rely on a long shower to get my sluggish brain back on track. Standing under a stream of water never fails to jar things loose in my head. As often as the gears grind to a halt in there, I may be the cleanest person I know.
One can only take so many showers, though, before she begins to resemble a prune. At my age, I don’t need any help with that.
Compared to writing, baking is a cinch. If nothing else, it bolsters my confidence in my ability to outmaneuver inanimate objects. Mostly.
I’m an adventurous baker — a trait I’m certain I inherited from my late grandmother. Granny was justifiably famous for her ability to whip up a mess of mouthwatering goodness from whatever she had in the pantry. The tomato cake episode continues to live in infamy, but for the most part, whatever Granny baked was a monument to innovation and deliciousness.
I felt Granny peeking over my shoulder a few weeks ago when I was overcome by a desperate urge to exert some small measure of control over my environment. A quick glance in the pantry nearly destroyed my ambition. No flour. No sugar. None of the usual baking suspects. My worst nightmare stared me in the face: I was on the verge of outdoing the tomato cake, possibly with green beans.
Fortunately, whatever horde of locusts had invaded my house overlooked a single can of condensed milk. With that and a few items prescient enough to hide out in the back of the fridge, I whipped up a pie that — if I do say so myself — turned out downright scrumptious.
It was so good, as a matter of fact, that I made it again this past weekend … only this time I had the presence of mind to write down the ingredients and measurements.
The recipe is below — and not a green bean in sight, thank goodness.
I hope you enjoy it as much as my hips did.
Chocolate Coconut Pecan Custard Pie
9-inch unbaked pie shell
1 egg, white separated from yolk
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1¼ cups hot water (not boiling—from the tap works fine)
2 T. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. salt
⅛ tsp. nutmeg
2 cups shredded coconut
¼ cup pecan pieces
½ cup chocolate chips (dark or semisweet)
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Prepare your favorite pie crust. Whisk egg white with 1 tsp. water; brush over entire pie crust surface. (Coating pie crust with egg white prevents sogginess.)
3. In large bowl, beat 3 eggs plus additional yolk with a wire whisk or fork until well combined. Add sweetened condensed milk, hot water, melted butter, vanilla, salt, and nutmeg. Mix well.
4. Stir in coconut, pecan pieces, and chocolate chips. Pour filling into prepared pie shell.
5. Bake 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce heat to 350 and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes.
6. Cool at least 1 hour before serving. Refrigerate leftovers.
Note: For a gluten-free version, try Jacquie Rogers’s nut-based crust. You’ll find that recipe — and seven others, including my grandmother’s recipe for peach pie — in the Prairie Rose Publications anthology Wishing for a Cowboy.