Recipe: Vegan Banana & Chocolate Coconut Pie
From the filling to the whipped topping to the pie crust, coconut in its various forms makes an incredibly decadent vegan pie a reality. Neither the layer of banana slices hidden underneath a silky chocolate filling nor the fluffy whipped coconut cream topping need much of an introduction. If you love coconut and are looking for a vegan treat that delivers on flavor, this is it. But to be clear, the real star of this recipe is the incredibly flaky vegan pie crust.
This pie crust requires some planning. A few steps call for longer chill times, and you will need to factor in an overnight stint in the fridge, so don’t try to tackle this recipe on the day you want to eat it.
A Flaky Coconut Crust
This recipe makes a pâte sucrée-style pie crust. It’s sweetened with sugar, and ready to be blind-baked and filled with whatever you desire — vegan or otherwise.
The texture in this dough and the resulting flakiness is achieved with the help of non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening. This product, made from palm oil, produces a texture similar to that of lard, but doesn’t add flavor the way butter does — that’s where coconut butter comes in. Not to be confused with coconut oil, coconut butter is made with the fibrous strands of coconut meat. Aside from the pronounced coconut flavor of coconut butter, it maintains a fairly sturdy form in comparison to coconut oil, which might look pretty darn solid at room temperature, but the moment you touch it, you can feel that it behaves differently. It melts all but immediately at our body temperature, and boy oh boy, it melts incredibly quickly in a hot oven.
Even when using coconut oil for a plain (unsweetened) pie crust, the dough tends to suffer because it melts too quickly, which creates some serious issues — you can’t get a good crimp, the sides may sink, it may get oily, or it may cook like a cookie dough. That is not to say it’s impossible; after all, there are recipes for oil-based pie crusts, and some folks like them very much, but they do have a different texture.
One caution: Read labels carefully. Some non-hydrogenated shortenings have a large proportion of coconut oil, and will therefore behave like oil in the dough. I’ve used either Earth Balance or Spectrum for the flakiest results.
Keys for a Successful Crust
- This crust needs to be baked cold (directly from the refrigerator). If you have trouble rolling the dough, it can be patted directly into the pie plate after the first chilling, and will remain tender as long as it is not over-handled. Be careful not to make the bottom too thick and be sure to cut off any excess that hangs over side of the pie pan.
- This dough does not hold a crimp well; just shape it gently so it is level with the top of the pan. Use kitchen shears to trim away any excess.
- Don’t hesitate to pop the crust back into the fridge to chill if it begins to soften. This pie need to go from refrigerator to oven to create a flaky crust, so keeping it chilled is a priority.
Vegan Banana & Chocolate Coconut Pie
Makes 1 pie
1/3 cup (75 grams) coconut butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
2 teaspoons (10 grams) vanilla bean paste, chilled (see Recipe Notes)
2 to 3 fluid ounces icy-cold vodka, plain or vanilla-flavored
2 teaspoons (2.6 grams) cornstarch 4 teaspoons water 1 1/2 teaspoons (3 grams) agar-agar powder (see Recipe Notes) 8 ounces dark or semi-sweet, dairy-free chocolate (between 53% and 70% cacao)
4 large ripe, but not mushy, bananas
For the whipped coconut cream:
1 cup (240 grams) canned unsweetened coconut cream, chilled overnight
1/2 cup (62 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon (4 grams) coconut butter, room temperature
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean pod (see Recipe Notes)
For the garnish:
3/4 cup (56 grams) toasted coconut chips
Make the crust: Chill your food processor’s metal blade in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Fit the chilled blade into the food processor bowl and add the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and vanilla seeds. Pulse for 10 to 15 seconds, until fully combined.
Add the shortening and process in 6 (1-second) pulses. Add the coconut butter and process in 3 (1-second) pulses. The mixture should look like sand with clumps of butter. It will not look particularly wet. While pulsing about 6 to 8 times, drizzle in the vodka just until the dough has large clumps; do not overmix or over-pulse. The dough will not form a ball. Scoop the mixture out of the processor and pat into a flat round shape and wrap well with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until completely chilled, about 3 hours or overnight.
When the dough is chilled, place it on a nonstick or a lightly floured work surface. Let stand for 1 to 2 minutes until softened, but still chilled. Then, with a nonstick or very lightly floured rolling pin, roll gently, starting from the center and working outward 11 to 12 inches, rolling back and forth as little as possible, until you have a circle that is about 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick. Make sure that the crust will not stick by gently sliding it around as you roll.
Fold the dough in half and place on one half of a 9-, 9 1/2- or 10-inch pie plate, making sure to leave about 1 inch of overhang over the edge. Unfold to open and gently tuck the crust into the pie plate, making sure to get into the edges and bends. Pinch together any cracks that form while fitting it into the pan. Trim any excess dough hanging off the edges. Prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork to prevent bubbling. This dough does not hold a crimp well; just shape it gently so it is level with the top of the pan. Refrigerate uncovered, overnight, or up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 385°F. Cut enough 3- by 4-inch pieces of aluminum foil to cover the edges of the crust (to prevent burning). Line the crust with a 14- by 16-inch sheet of parchment paper. Add enough pie weights, dry rice, or dried beans to fill the pan 3/4 full, making sure that the weights press against the edges and sides. Bake for 24 to 28 minutes, or until the center no longer looks wet or moist. Remove from the oven and lift out the paper and weights. Return the crust to the oven and bake for an additional 14 to 18 minutes, until the crust is golden all over. Allow to cool completely.
Make the filling: In a medium saucepan set over high heat, combine the coconut milk, coconut cream, sugar, and vanilla bean paste, and cook, stirring gently with a whisk, about 4 minutes, until it comes to a boil.
In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water and whisk gently to combine fully. While vigorously whisking the coconut milk mixture, slowly drizzle in the cornstarch mixture and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the agar-agar and cook for 4 to 6 minutes longer, stirring vigorously until the mixture reaches a boil. It will thicken considerably.
Remove from heat and let stand for 3 to 4 minutes to cool a bit. When the mixture reaches about 160°F to 165°F, add the chocolate and whisk well as it melts.
Cut the bananas into 1/8-inch rounds and arrange in the crust, placing them so they overlap one another about halfway. Pour the chocolate mixture over the bananas and let cool. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with nonstick vegetable oil spray and cover the cooled pie with it. Refrigerate for about 1 hour or until fully chilled.
Make the whipped cream: In a large mixing bowl, whip the chilled coconut cream with a handheld mixer at medium speed for 4 to 6 minutes, until light and frothy. Add the sugar, coconut butter, and vanilla bean seeds. Increase the speed to high and mix until sturdy peaks form and hold well.
Top the chilled pie decoratively with the whipped cream. You can pipe it on with a pastry bag, or spoon it on in dollops, curling them into decorative swirls with the back of a soft silicone or rubber spatula dipped in water. Refrigerate until chilled and ready for serving. Just before you serve, decorate the pie with the toasted coconut.
- I’ve used Spectrum and Earth Balance shortening, both to good results; Nutiva is made with too much coconut oil and does not produce desirable results.
- To remove the seeds from a whole vanilla bean, slit it lengthwise with a sharp knife, and with the knife, scrape out the tiny seeds. The “empty” pod can be added to a container of granulated sugar to make vanilla-scented sugar (aka vanilla sugar) or added to liquid infusions.
- Agar-agar is an animal-free alternative to gelatin. It is usually made from an array of sea vegetables and is used as a thickening agent.
- Pie dish conversions: If your pie plate is 10 inches in diameter, roll dough to 1/8-inch thick; if it’s 9 inches, roll to 1/4-inch thickness.