for those who burn to learn


Feb 2020

Coconut Cream Caramel Tart

Posted by / in Into the Fire Blog, Recipes /

I never realized how much I loved the flavor of coconut and caramel until I was served a slice of both coconut cake and caramel cake at a birthday party this past October at the James Beard House. The honoree was my gracious, vivacious, and much loved 80-year-old friend, Nathalie Dupree, “the Queen of Southern Cuisine.” The cakes were light and moist and the icings were delightfully sweet and complementary. I assumed the recipes for the classic southern cakes came directly from the James Beard Award winning cookbook Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking, written by Nathalie and Cynthia Graubart.  Nathalie signed my copy of that fat, fascinating book and when I got home, I immediately looked up those dessert recipes for inspiration. Since I prefer to bake pies rather than cakes, I decided to create a coconut cream caramel tart.  I wanted the pie crust to be crisp in spite of its custardy filling and although I love the flavors of caramel and coconut, I wanted to be sure the topping for the pie was not too sweet. In addition to Nathalie’s cookbook, I relied on tips from several other sources including Fine Cooking and Cook’s Illustrated.  My friend, Katie, who came over to taste the finished pie, says it tastes like a dream. It is fluffy and crispy and decadent and it will make you smile. Great for any happy occasion, but an especially perfect pie to serve for Easter. If you are nervous about homemade pie crusts and haven’t signed up for a pie class with me, you can always substitute a graham cracker crust for this recipe, This pie is especially spectacular, though, when made with a homemade all butter crust. Just make sure that you completely bake and cool the crust before you fill it.

Coconut Cream Caramel Tart
Serves 8
A decadent coconut cream pie, enhanced by a layer of caramel
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  1. *One fully baked and cooled all butter pie crust (I make mine in a 9 inch tart tin with a removable bottom, but this crust can also be made in a 9 inch glass pie plate)
  2. Condensed Coconut Milk
  3. 2 cans (13 1/3 oz. each) coconut milk
  4. 1 cup whole milk
  5. Caramel
  6. 1/2 cup heavy cream
  7. 5 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into 10 small pieces at room temperature
  8. 11/2 cups granulated sugar
  9. 1/2 cup water
  10. 1/4 fine sea salt
  11. Filling
  12. 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  13. 1/4 cup cornstarch, sifted
  14. 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
  15. 3 cups condensed coconut milk (see above)
  16. 4 large egg yolks
  17. 3 Tbs unsalted butter cut into 8 small pieces at room temperature
  18. 1 tsp coconut extract
  19. 1/4 cup large grated unsweetened coconut, toasted
  20. Topping
  21. 2 cups heavy cream
  22. scant 1/2 tsp unflavored powdered gelatin
  23. 1 1/2Tbs water
  24. 2-3 Tbs confectioners sugar
  25. 1 tsp coconut extract
  26. 1/3 cup large grated unsweetened coconut, toasted
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Spread 2/3 cup of large grated unsweetened coconut flakes on a medium sheet pan, lined with parchment paper. Place baking sheet in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 3 or 4 minutes. Gently stir the flakes and bake another 3 or 4 minutes, until coconut flakes are golden brown. Allow flakes to cool and set aside (1/4 cup of the flakes will go into the filling, 2/3 cup of the flakes will garnish the top of the finished tart).
  3. Shake the coconut cans before opening, then carefully empty the coconut milk into a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil, stirring the pan frequently until the contents are reduced to 2 cups. (It's a good idea to measure the coconut milk at this point to make sure it has reduced enough.This should take about 15 minutes.) Stir in the whole milk to bring the mixture up to 3 cups. Set aside until warm or cool completely, cover and refrigerate (up to 2 days before continuing with the recipe).
  4. Put the heavy cream in a small saucepan and heat until very warm. Keep the warm cream nearby along with the butter.
  5. Put the sugar and water in a large, heavy saucepan. Cook, stirring gently, over low heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stop stirring! Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until the sugar begins to color around the edges of the pan, about 7 minutes. Swirl the pan over the heat until the caramel is an even amber color, another 3 minutes. If the caramel is not copper colored, keep swirling until it is. If the caramel is light brown, it will be too sweet. If it burns, throw it out and start again! Slide the pan off the heat and slowly add the warm heavy cream, butter, and salt. Whisk until the caramel is smooth. Set aside until slightly cooled, 15-20 minutes. Measure out 3/4 cup of the caramel and carefully pour caramel into the bottom of the completely baked and cooled crust. Immediately use a small offset spatula to evenly distribute and smooth the caramel around the bottom of the prebaked crust. Freeze the caramel filled tart while making the filling.
  6. Put the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan and whisk until well blended. Add 2/3 cup of the condensed coconut milk and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the egg yolks and then the remaining 1/3 cup of condensed coconut milk. Set the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring with a whisk, until the mixture comes to a full boil. Reduce the the heat to medium and, whisking constantly, boil for one minute. Custard should be thick. Just after it has boiled, slide the pan off the heat. Add the butter and coconut extract and, with a wooden spoon, stir vigorously until the butter is melted and the pudding is smooth. Stir in 1/4 cup of toasted coconut. Pour the custard into a 4 cup measure and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool down for 10 minutes and then refrigerate for 20 minutes (The pudding should be room temperature, NOT HOT).
  7. Remove the caramel lined tart from the freezer and pour the cooled custard over the cold caramel. Spread the custard evenly over the caramel and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate the pie until chilled and firm, at least 5 hours.
  8. To make whipped cream topping, sprinkle scant 1/2 teaspoon of unflavored powdered gelatin over 1 1/2 tablespoons of water in a microwave-safe bowl and let it stand for 3 minutes. Microwave the mixture in 5-second increments until the gelatin is dissolved and liquefied.
  9. Whip 3 cups of chilled heavy cream along with 2 Tablespoons of confectioners sugar and 1 teaspoon of coconut extract in a stand mixer, staying on low speed until small bubbles form, then increase the speed to medium. When the beaters begin to leave a trail in the cream, slowly pour in the gelatin mixture and then increase the speed to high and continue to beat until soft peaks form. If well covered, the whipped cream will retain its moisture and airiness for up to 24 hours. Best to top the pie with whipped cream a few hours before serving. Garnish the pie with reserved toasted coconut shavings.
  1. This luscious custard pie is a project, but if you spread the work over two days, the crust will stay crisp and the topping will not weep. You can completely bake the pie crust, toast the coconut and make the caramel the day before you make the pie. You can make the pie (sans whipped cream topping) the night before you serve the pie. The topping should be made the same day that the pie is to be served. It is stabilized with gelatin, which imparts no flavor and keeps the cream from getting soupy.
  2. The pie crust should be completely baked and cooled before adding the fillings.
  3. Large grated unsweetened coconut shavings can be found at most health food stores. The large shavings are delicious when toasted and add a dramatic touch to the pie.
  4. Make sure you use a large heavy saucepan when making the caramel as the hot sugar will sputter when you add the dairy. You will have more caramel than you need for this tart. You can save the extra in a jar and refrigerate. The caramel will keep for two weeks and can be used as a topping for ice cream sundaes.
  5. Pay special attention to the custard as it must thicken and come to a full boil for one minute. Once it boils for one minute, it is important to immediately take the custard off the heat while you stir in the other ingredients. Stir vigorously to make sure the custard is smooth and has fully incorporated all ingredients.
Adapted from Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking, Fine Cooking, Cook's Illustrated
Adapted from Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking, Fine Cooking, Cook's Illustrated
Jillyanna's Cooking School

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Aug 2017

Glazed Maine Blueberry Pie

Posted by / in Into the Fire Blog, Recipes, WCSH6 /

One of my students recently told me he never eats cooked fruit and therefore has no interest in fruit pies. I tried to persuade him that my blueberry pie did not really include cooked berries. The buttery crust is cooked separately and then filled with fresh low bush and high bush blueberries that are covered in a warm purple glaze. Other people in my cooking class devoured the pie, and raved about the concentrated blueberry flavor. Still, I could not convince my funny phobic friend to take even one bite.

Making an all butter crust, particularly in the summer can be challenging. If you are doing this in air conditioning and you work quickly with cool hands, and very cold ingredients, you should be successful. Blueberries go best with an all butter crust. The flavor is also heightened by lemon, which is why there’s some lemon juice in the glaze and lemon rind in the crust.

When you can find them and they are really ripe and fresh, wild  blueberries are intense and sweet and  preferable to big, blander cultivated  berries. I once went blueberry picking in the hot sun and I can testify that bending down and raking wild blueberries is backbreaking work. No wonder people prefer to stand straight up and pluck high bush berries. I recently found both at the farmer’s market and the wild ones had been in the refrigerator truck for quite a while and were starting to wrinkle up. So I say, get the best berries available.

Do plan to blind bake the crust and let it cool. Then pour the glazed blueberries into the golden buttery piecrust and refrigerate the pie overnight so that the berries have time to set up. Take the pie out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you plan to serve it.

If you want to learn how to make a delicious pie crust, join us for our upcoming Thanksgiving Sweet & Savory pies class.


Glazed Maine Blueberry Pie
Serves 6
This buttery pie is bursting with fresh Maine high bush and low bush blueberries.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
  1. 1 pint Maine freshly washed high bush blueberries
  2. 1 1/2 pints freshly washed Maine low bush blueberries
  3. 3/4 cup water
  4. 3/4 cup sugar
  5. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  6. 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  7. 1 tablespoon butter
  8. 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  9. 2 tablespoons of water
  10. 1 9-inch prebaked all butter crust (preferably in a glass pie plate or pie tin)
  1. Bring sugar, salt, one cup low bush blueberries and 3/4 cup water to boil, then let simmer for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Make a slurry with cornstarch and water and pour slurry into simmering berry mixture. Stir constantly till mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.
  3. Remove glaze from heat and add lemon juice and butter. Continue stirring until butter is completely incorporated. Set aside.
  4. Fill one bowl with high bush blueberries and another bowl with low bush blueberries. Put a strainer over both bowls.
  5. Pour half of hot glaze over strainer in bowl of high bush blueberries.
  6. Pour the other half of hot glaze over strainer in bowl of low bush blueberries.
  7. Gently mix the blueberries in both bowls so that all berries are glazed.
  8. Fill crust first with glazed high bush berries and then top with glazed low bush berries.
  9. Allow to set in refrigerator, preferably overnight. Serve with whipped cream.
  1. I like a combination of high bush and low bush blueberries for this pie since both berries offer different flavor profiles. I do like to place them in a particular order: big high bush blueberries go into the pie first. Then I top that layer with the wild low bush berries since they are so pretty and fill up all the crevices. Make sure you allow the pie to sit in the refrigerator. Ideally, this pie should be made the night before you plan to eat it.
Jillyanna's Cooking School

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    Nov 2015

    Bittersweet Chocolate Chocolate Tart

    Posted by / in Holidays, Into the Fire Blog, Recipes, WCSH6 /

    In 1968 I flew all alone to Paris. To this day, I don’t know how my favorite Aunt who had recently married a French man named Alain Darmon, convinced my overprotective parents to allow me, an eleven-year-old with extremely limited life experience, to board a jet, let alone travel overseas, but miraculously, my Aunt prevailed. I had sundaes before, but never accented with crisp meringues. I knew what French fries were, but had no idea that they tasted even better when you dipped them into a sauce made of mussel juice, garlic and butter. And who, I wanted to know, was the genius who decided to marry buttery crisp bread with chocolate logs? I confess, that although I now spend much of my time cooking delicious rustic Italian food, my palate was first awakened by French chefs and Paris holds a special place in my heart. I stole the filling for this bittersweet chocolate tart recipe from the famed French chef Joel Robuchon and the crust from acclaimed French born chef Alain Ducasse. The technique of rolling out the chocolate crust before it is cold is not difficult to do if you sandwich the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap and then freeze the dough for ten minutes before trying to release it into your tart pan with the removable bottom. Since you must blind bake this pie, I like to do this the day before Thanksgiving. The filling is a cinch to make and since the pie should be eaten warm or at room temperature, you can make the filling quickly and then bake it off just before your guests arrive. You should use a chocolate that is between 65-70% cocoa and my favorite chocolate to use for this recipe is Valrhona. I also use a serrated bread knife to shave the chocolate before I toss it in the warm milk/cream mixture. What an amazing, decadent little tart this is. After your guests bite into it, they will probably murmur: “Vive la France!” which is an especially moving sentence to say out loud this Thanksgiving.

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