Filipino Buko Pie (Young Coconut Pie)

Buko Pie | Pinky's PantryMy 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.
Buko Pie | Pinky's Pantry

FILIPINO BUKO PIE

Crust:

  • 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
  1. Combine flour, sugar and salt in a bowl.
  2. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. 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.
  4. Divide dough into 2 balls, one slightly bigger than the other, and flatten each ball into a disk.
  5. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 2 days.

Filling:

  • 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
  1. In a small saucepan, stir cornstarch into buko juice until completely dissolved.
  2. Stir in evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla and buko.
  3. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened.
  4. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

To Assemble Pie:

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  2. 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.
  3. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate, pressing into the bottom and up the sides.
  4. Trim off any excess dough.
  5. Place bottom crust in refrigerator while you work on second disk of dough.
  6. Roll out second disk on lightly floured work surface, spinning occasionally to get an even circle large enough to cover the pie.
  7. Take bottom crust from the refrigerator and pour filling into it spreading evenly.
  8. Place top crust over pie.
  9. Roll the edge of the top crust just underneath the edge of the bottom crust and flute the edges together all around the pie.
  10. Make an egg wash by beating 1 egg and 1 tablespoon cold water together.
  11. Brush egg wash all over top crust.
  12. 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.
  13. Bake pie in oven for 35-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
  14. 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:
Buko Pie | Pinky's Pantry

Prajitura Desteapta (Romanian “Smart Cake”)

Prajitura Desteapta | Pinky's Pantry
Prajitura Desteapta. Nope, it’s not a disease or some Amazonian jungle plant. It’s actually a Romanian custard cake. I had to bring dessert to my sister Helen’s house for dinner last night so I went searching through my recipe box for something to make. I wanted to bring something different. Maybe make something I hadn’t made in a long time. Lo and behold, I came across this recipe that was given to me years ago by my friend, Lyudmila.

According to Lyudmila, “Prajitura Desteapta” means “Smart Cake.” I guess they call it that because it’s super easy to make which is pretty smart in my book. The ingredients are all things you usually have in your fridge and pantry. While it’s baking, the cake separates into three layers – a dense, fudge-like layer on the bottom, a softer custardy layer in the middle, and a thin spongy layer on top. Lyudmila’s original recipe gave the ingredients in metric measurements. I’ve noted the American equivalents for those who want them. By the way, in America, this cake is called “Magic Cake” and it’s easy to understand why.

PRAJITURA DESTEAPTA (SMART CAKE)

  • 250 gm butter or margarine (1 cup)
  • 8 eggs, separated
  • 300 gm sugar (1½ cups)
  • 2 packets vanilla sugar (2 tsp. vanilla extract)
  • 225 gm flour (2 cups)
  • 1 liter warm milk (4 cups)
  • powdered sugar, for dusting on top
  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Grease a 9×13-inch rectangular baking dish.
  2. Melt butter in microwave and set aside to cool.
  3. In an extra large bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar together on high speed until very light and fluffy. Don’t undermix! This step takes about 5 minutes. You want the egg yolks to be a very pale, almost whitish-yellow color.
  4. Drizzle in the melted butter and vanilla, continuing to beat until well incorporated.
  5. Reduce speed to low and sprinkle in the sifted flour, beating until flour is well combined. Don’t worry if the batter seems lumpy.
  6. Raise speed to medium and slowly add the milk, beating until well blended. Batter will be very thin and watery.
  7. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  8. Gently stir the beaten egg whites into the batter with a wooden spoon. Don’t overmix! You don’t want the egg whites to disappear completely into the batter. You want to stir them just a few times leaving lots of clumps and bits of egg white unincorporated and floating on top.
  9. Pour into prepared baking dish and bake 50-70 minutes. Oven temps vary so check the cake at 50 minutes by shaking the pan gently. You want the center to have a little jiggle when shaken, but if it’s too jiggly, bake the cake some more, checking every 5 minutes or so, until done. If the top seems to be browning too much, tent a piece of foil over your cake pan.
  10. Cool to room temperature, then place in refrigerator to chill.
  11. Once cake is chilled, sprinkle top with powdered sugar, cut into squares and serve.

NOTES:

  • You can easily cut this recipe in half to make a smaller cake. Use an 8x8x2-inch square pan. You’ll also have to adjust the baking time and start checking your cake after 40 minutes.
  • It’s best if your eggs are at room temperature. Put them out on your counter at least half an hour before you begin baking.
  • The butter should be melted but not hot. Make sure to cool it to room
    temperature before using.
  • Vanilla sugar is a very popular baking ingredient in Europe. Dr. Oetker is a very
    well-known brand, but unfortunately, it’s not easy to find in the U.S. However, you
    can easily substitute vanilla extract for the vanilla sugar in this recipe.