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Friday, April 4, 2014

The Pie Who Loved Me

By Kathleen Rice Adams

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.

Fortunately, I have a second weapon in my brain-jumpstarting arsenal: baking. Bread, cakes, pies, cookies… There’s something immensely gratifying about creating a work of art from ingredients that don’t fight you every step of the way. I’ll admit flour sometimes can be a challenge, prone to flying all over the place as it is, but as a general rule, sugar, butter, eggs, milk, and other components behave and keep the backtalk to a minimum.

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 recipe


Chocolate Coconut Pecan Custard Pie

9-inch unbaked pie shell
3 eggs
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.


  1. You had a sweet tooth craving. This sounds wonderful. I love the dark chocolate chips and the coconut in it. I will have to try this. Great on the spot recipe!

    1. Shirl, give it a try! The dark chocolate, coconut, and pecans are good for you. Everything else...not so much. (Eat a sliver standing up. Then all the calories will fall to your toes. ;-) )

  2. Make it crustless or with a gluten free crust...I can live with that.

    Showers work well for me also, but when I'm working on scripts or poetry a walk does it every time. I think it's the cadence of the steps and fresh air.

    Thanks for the recipe. Happy cooking and writing. *Prunes not withstanding* Doris

    1. Doris, I'm ecstatic that nice weather is kinda-sorta back. How 'bout you? Now that it's now bitterly cold and drizzly all the time, I'm looking forward to getting out in the garden and going for walks again.

      Keep at that writing, sweetheart! :-)

    2. Me too, and when it snows here, it's gone even quicker than in winter. (that is another story). I love spring rains and walk in them whenever I can...natures shower don't you know.

      Enjoy the garden and those walks, and yes I'm still writing. Dividing my time between fiction and non-fiction.

  3. Kathleen, I admire you for being able to come up with a wonderful recipe like that on your own. I CAN cook, but I have never LIKED to cook...oh, wait...I did like to cook when I was first learning to bake, back in grade school. LOL OK, imagine how daunting that was for me in house of two older sisters and a mom who all loved to cook and were all fantastic at it, and made up their own recipes, etc. Luckily, I was so much younger I would just go outside and play until it was all ready, and then I would help eat it. (Kind of like the Little Red Hen story...) LOL Anyhow, you were very inventive and looks like it turned out great.

    When I get stuck on something, I work on something else and then come back to it. It works for me every time. I usually have at least a couple of projects going at one time, maybe more. But the shower does help me think, too. I also have a lot of great ideas at night just as I'm about to go to sleep...sigh.

    Great post! AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I hope you have a good day today!

    1. I often work on something else, too, Okie, and like you, I always seem to have fifteen or twenty projects going at once. I can't tell you how often I'll be almost asleep when an idea that seems great at the moment lands on me, so I get up and scribble it on a pad real quick, then go back to bed. In the morning, I need a CIA code descrambler to help me figure out what I scribbled the night before. :-D (We really are twins, huh? :-D )

      Thanks for the birthday wishes!

  4. Fab post, Tex...and I'm nodding 'cause I've known you at your worst, 'specially when Mason & Jess don't WANT to play nice. However, in regards to pies...well, Cap'n Scruffy still counts your Key Lime among one o' his most favorite treats of all. Now get back to writing, you've got characters to contain. HUGS...♥

    1. HA! You want those ruffians contained? YOU come contain 'em. They just laugh at me and go on about whatever misbehavior they were into. Darn hooligans. :-|

      HUGS back! ♥

  5. Replies
    1. Yum? I sure hope that means the same thing up there in the Great White North as it means down here. ;-)

      Give this one a try, Ali -- in between rasslin' characters, kids, and eleventy-somethin' jobs. Come to think of it...maybe the characters and kids would settle down a mite if'n you promised 'em a slice. ;-)

  6. Yum! I am a horrible cook, baker and candlestick maker. If a recipe has more than five or six ingredients (including rpices) I can't even brave it. But anything with both coconut and chocolate screams my name so I might just gather up the courage for this one, Kathleen. Thanks for sharing it.

    1. Tanya, this one is SO EASY! Really, it's basically dump the ingredients in a bowl, stir them all together, and then pour the whole thing in a pie shell. Use one of those pre-made deep-dish pie shells in the frozen food section. They're already in a pie plate and ready to go -- and if you don't tell anyone the crust isn't homemade, I'll bet no one will know. :-)

  7. I get that same brain clearing from the back of the tractor, or with a hammer in my hand. Baking has become part of work, (how many tablespoons did I put in that?) so that no longer works for achieving zen state. Now eating this pie might just get me there, with Jacquie's gluten free crust. There's only so many times you can move the same pile of dirt with the front end loader.

    1. LOL, Livia! I'll make you a deal: I'll bake for you if you'll come wield that hammer and front end loader for me!

      I never thought about it, but I'll bet baking would become a bit of a chore if I had to do it for my stories the way you do. Your FRESH-BAKED MYSTERY series is so much fun for us readers, though. If you ever throw in the dishtowel on that, you may find a mob on your front lawn. ;-)

      As much baking as you do, I'll bet you've got a wonderful gluten-free pie crust recipe. If you use Jacquie's nut crust, you might want to leave the nuts out of the filling.

      Now get back to work! :-D

  8. That pie looks delicious! I'm going to have to check out the pantry & frig and do some brain clearing of my own.

    I usually use music - either recorded or self-made. If I have to concentrate on something else, the characters often get up and make a move for me.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Kathleen!

    1. LOL! I hear you, Tracy. I can't afford to turn my back on my characters, either. Sounds like both of us are afraid we'll find knives between our shoulder blades if we take our eyes off those dang owlhoots for long. :-D

      Do you listen to music while you write? I love to immerse myself in old western or folk ballads when I'm trying to work up a mood, untangle a plot, or define a character, but I can't listen to music while I write. Even instrumentals distract me -- and heaven help me if the song has words (even if I'm only listening to an instrumental version)!