My Dad’s family hails from a place called Bay, Laguna in the Philippines. Bay (pronounced “Bah-eh” by the locals) is one of the oldest towns in the province of Laguna. Legend has it that the Datu or Tribal Chief of the area had three beautiful daughters. When the Spanish came to convert the natives to Catholicism, the Datu’s three daughters were baptized and renamed Maria Basilisa, Maria Angela and Maria Elena. The first letters of Basilisa, Angela and Elena were put together to form the name “Bae” which over time changed to “Bay.” The district of Santo Domingo in Bay was actually named after my great-grandfather, Domingo Ordoveza, who was a wealthy landowner in the area.
I remember going to Bay as a little girl with my grandparents. We went every year during the town fiesta. There would be a huge party on the plantation with lots of people, tons of food, games, prizes, and fun. We stayed at the family homestead which I remember as a big, white house surrounded by lanzones trees. Lanzones is a small, yellow fruit native to the Philippines. I remember watching the boys climb the trees to pick the fruit for us to eat.
One of the things I also remember eating is Buko Pie. The province of Laguna with all its coconut trees is famous for its buko pie. Buko is the Filipino word for “young coconut.” As a coconut matures, the meat becomes thicker, firmer and whiter; but young coconut meat is thin, soft and almost opaque in color. That’s the coconut we use to make buko pie. The coconut shell is cut in half and the buko is scraped out with a shredding tool that produces thin strips or strings of the meat. It’s absolutely delicious. Where I live in North America, I can’t get fresh buko (or fresh coconuts for that matter) so I have to buy frozen buko from the Asian grocery stores. It’s not as good as fresh, of course, but it works fine when you’re craving a slice of nostalgia in pie form.
FILIPINO BUKO PIE
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ cup cold butter, cut into pieces
- ¼ cup cold shortening, cut into pieces
- 5-6 tbsp. cold water
- 1 egg, for egg wash
- Combine flour, sugar and salt in a bowl.
- Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Pinch off a small clump of dough and squeeze it in your hand. If it does not hold together, sprinkle the dough with 1 tablespoon of ice water and blend with a fork. Keep adding ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture just holds together when squeezed in your hand.
- Divide dough into 2 balls, one slightly bigger than the other, and flatten each ball into a disk.
- Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 2 days.
- 3 pkgs. (about 3 cups) frozen shredded buko, thawed and drained
- ⅓ cup cornstarch
- 1 cup buko juice
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ tsp. vanilla
- In a small saucepan, stir cornstarch into buko juice until completely dissolved.
- Stir in evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla and buko.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened.
- Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
To Assemble Pie:
- Preheat oven to 375ºF.
- Sprinkle flour on work surface and roll out the larger of the two disks into a 12-inch circle. When rolling, work from the center to the outer edges, spinning the dough occasionally to get an even round shape.
- Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate, pressing into the bottom and up the sides.
- Trim off any excess dough.
- Place bottom crust in refrigerator while you work on second disk of dough.
- Roll out second disk on lightly floured work surface, spinning occasionally to get an even circle large enough to cover the pie.
- Take bottom crust from the refrigerator and pour filling into it spreading evenly.
- Place top crust over pie.
- Roll the edge of the top crust just underneath the edge of the bottom crust and flute the edges together all around the pie.
- Make an egg wash by beating 1 egg and 1 tablespoon cold water together.
- Brush egg wash all over top crust.
- Prick holes on the top crust with a fork to allow steam to escape the pie while baking. You could also cut 6 or 8 vent holes with a sharp paring knife, or cut out decorative designs with a pie crust cutter.
- Bake pie in oven for 35-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
- Cool on a wire rack before slicing.
NOTE: If you have a food processor, use it to make the pie crust. It makes it so much easier and quicker. Besides, the less you handle the dough, the more tender and flaky your crust will turn out. Just follow the directions as listed, but instead of using a pastry blender or a fork, pulse the ingredients together in the food processor.
Frozen buko comes in plastic bags like this: