Monday, September 21, 2009

Birthday buko pie

Happy happy birthday to Michael, my awesome brother who turned vegan the same time I did and has been my animal-rights fighting buddy ever since. I can honestly say that vegan life would've been more difficult if not for him. He was the only vegan I knew for the longest time (until the vegans started coming out of hibernation when they heard about my bakery) and the person I'd rant to when I'd get angry about an AR-related issue. He also convinced me to adopt our cats when I was still hesitant about keeping pets.

Here he is with my mom, my 2 other brothers Gabriel and Antonio, and the birthday pie I made for him: buko pie. Ever since my triumph with my first vegan pie, I've been dying to make buko pie.

Buko pie is one of those Filipino desserts that is usually not vegan and something that I've missed eating. Usually the pie crust is made with butter or dairy margarine, or it's got eggwash brushed on top, or the filling's made with milk. Michael requested buko pie for his birthday instead of traditional cake, and so I went on a mission to make my first buko pie.

Quick lesson: buko is the young version of coconut. While the coconut looks like a hard ball of brown hair, buko is a hard green ball. The coconut's meat is used to make coconut milk while buko meat is softer and is used fresh in fruit salad or other Pinoy icy desserts. Also, it's from the buko that we get one of the best juices in the world: buko juice.

I immediately turned to my mom's favorite cookbook when it comes to all things Filipino: Let's cook with Nora, by Nora V. Daza, the Julia Child of the Philippines. As you can see in the photo it's been well used. A lot of the newsprint pages have been splattered with sauces and the book cover had to be wrapped in plastic because it was in a serious state of disintegration. My mom bought this in 1996 for a whopping P85. For the foreigners out there, according to this site the peso was around P26.25 to the US dollar in September '96, so the cookbook would've costed a whopping US$3.24! I believe this edition was the 1969 edition with retro drawings of the dishes.

The recipe was easily veganizable. Actually I'm surprised that buko pie isn't naturally vegan. The recipe for the pie filling called for buko meat, sugar, coconut water (aka buko juice), cornstarch, and evaporated milk. Why do people insist on using cow's milk when making a coconut dessert? What's wrong with coconut milk?

I made the 10" pie crust from The Joy of Vegan Baking (you can use VeganYumYum's pie crust recipe here). The buko pie filling recipe was for an 8" pie so I just added 1/4 more of the ingredients.

You can buy buko meat and buko juice from your local coconut purveyor, usually found in markets /
palengke. I bought mine from the market in BF, Paranaque, along Palanca St. for P17 per buko. The coconut guys sell both adult coconuts and bukos -- fresh as they hack open the fruits right in front of you. For this recipe, just ask your coconut guy for the juice and meat of 3 bukos. Get the meat as a whole, don't get it slivered up. While waiting for them to prepare your order, enjoy a glass of buko juice.

Buko pie
adapted from Let's Cook with Nora by Nora V. Daza

1 prepared 10" pie crust (top and bottom)

2 1/4 c. buko meat, sliced into chunks
3/4 c. + 3 tbsp. raw sugar
1/2 c. + 2 tbsp. buko juice
1/2 c. + 2 tbsp. coconut milk
1/3 c. + 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. cornstarch

Preheat your oven to 400 deg F.

Place the buko meat and sugar in a medium saucepan. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the cornstarch, buko juice, and coconut milk together. Add the cornstarch mixture to saucepan.

Heat the pan on medium heat and cook, stirring continuously until thick. The consistency of the mixture should be like thick gravy. Add the mixture into the prepared crust and top it with top crust. Crimp the edges with your fingers or with the tines of a fork. Make slits on the top (or use a fondant cutter to make cute holes like I did).

Bake the pie for 30-45 min or until golden brown. Cool the pie in room temperature for several hours, then place in the refrigerator to cool down further. The pie is best served cold.

Notes on making buko pie:
  1. If you want a pie with more "bite", get your buko meat malakanin. This is thicker than the usual mala-uhog type, which is softer and better suited for buko salad.
  2. Keep the buko meat and buko juice in the refrigerator at all times!
  3. I used canned coconut milk -- in fact I think I used light coconut milk. If you want a richer pie, feel free to use regular coconut milk or even coconut cream. If you're feeling domestic, why not make your own coconut milk?
  4. I used raw sugar to keep things white-sugar free, but feel free to use white sugar. This pie isn't super sweet so it's perfect for people who aren't into desserts. If you'd like a sweeter pie, you can increase the sugar to 1 to 1 1/4 c.
  5. The proportions of the ingredients was 1 + 1/4 of the recipe in the cookbook. The pie could actually use more filling, so if you want a meatier pie, try these proportions: 2 1/2 c. buko slivers, 1 c. + 1 tbsp. raw sugar, 3/4 c. buko juice, 3/4 c. coconut milk, and 1/3 c. + 2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. cornstarch.
Happy pie making!

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