Dairy-Free Coconut Cream Pie

It’s hard to be allergic to dairy and have your favourite foods be dairy based; cheese, ice cream, cheese cake, banana splits. It’s sad and lonely to stand by on a hot summer day while your husband eats one of those soft-serve cones from the ice cream truck and you can only live vicariously through him. It’s especially hard when your most favourite dessert ever happens to be coconut cream pie.

Thanks to the good folks at Tofutti, however, I can now make a variety of formerly dairy-based desserts with their soy cheese products.

Setting aside the controversy regarding whether soy is as virtuous as it seems (and that really depends on who pays for the study; studies paid for by the soy industry indicate that soy is a complete miracle food, studies paid for by the dairy industry tend to skew in the other direction), there are still some pros and cons, and the idea that soy sour cream is healthier than regular sour cream is not license to eat the whole pie.

While Tofutti’s soy versions of sour cream and cream cheese are cholesterol-free and generally lower in calories and fat than the regular versions of these products (most are on par, calorie-wise, with low-fat versions of the dairy items), many of the products are full of trans-fats. Hydrogenation, unfortunately, is required to create the proper consistency and make the soy versions of these products comparable to the dairy versions. Recently trans-fat-free versions of the plain cream cheese and the sour cream became available in the US, but I haven’t been able to find them here in Canada yet. If you are inclined to make the dairy-free version of this recipe, bug your local health food store to start carrying the trans-fat free products.

I was prepared for disaster the first time I made this pie, I wasn’t sure the soy sour cream would set properly, but it turned out even better than the dairy version. This recipe originated in the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, but I found it in a little collected called Simply Pies, put out by the Warkworth Business Association to celebrate the annual Perfect Pie competition that brings thousands of people from all over Ontario to the town of Warkworth each autumn. My variations are the addition of coconut and replacing the regular sour cream with soy sour cream. If you’re not down with the dairy-free thing, feel free to use low-fat sour cream in your own version. I also prefer this with a graham cracker crust, because if you make your own, it’s easier to reduce some of the fat.

Pineapple Coconut Cream Pie

1 baked pie shell, 9 in.
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2-1/2 cups crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup medium unsweetened coconut
1 cup soy sour cream (or low-fat dairy sour cream)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs, separated
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
4 Tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a saucepan, combine 3/4 cup of sugar, flour and salt. Stir in undrained pineapple, coconut, soy sour cream and lemon juice until well blended.

Cook and stir until mixture thickens and bubbles; cook and stir two minutes longer. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, slightly beat egg yolks. Stir in about 1/4 cup of the pineapple mixture, mixing thoroughly. Return egg yolk mixture to pineapple mixture in saucepan, stirring constantly.

Return saucepan to heat; cook and stir two minute more. Spoon hot mixture into cooled pastry shell.

Meringue: Beat egg whites with vanilla and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add 4 tablespoons of sugar and continue beating until peaks are stiff and glossy.

Spread meringue over hot pineapple mixture in pie shell, sealing edges. If desired, sprinkle coconut on top of meringue before baking.

Bake 12-15 minutes, or until golden on top. Chill.