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Spring is almost here! Freshen up your home with springtime decorations. Each spring festival has its own set of symbols we can use to decorate our homes, but in general I decorate my home with green boughs, branches, potted spring flowers, and all the symbols of rebirth: bunnies, eggs, chicks, and ducks.
In your garden, find a nicely shaped barren branch or a spring branch with budding flowers. To preserve freshness, smash the bottom of the branch with a hammer so it will better absorb water. Place the branches in a tall vase of water. Decorate the branch with tiny symbols of the season: blow out eggshells and tie them with a ribbon, tie skinny pastel ribbons in bows with long tails, and set tiny figurines of bunnies, chicks, or ducks amid the twigs. Display in a hallway or on a mantle for a striking spring statement.
Find a hand-hewn willow basket about five and a half inches (14 centimeters) high. Line it with plastic and set small, colorful spring plants still in their containers inside the basket. Between the containers, put moss from a floral-supply store or home-decor store. This makes a charming centerpiece on a dining room table or as a beautiful explosion of color anywhere in the home. Be sure to water it regularly, misting the moss occasionally to revive its bright green color.
Find unusual vessels like 1960's Danish modern coffee pots or tall heavy cut crystal vases and fill them with branches or pussy willows.
Fill old silver-plate trays that are about ten inches (25 centimeters) long and about three inch (7.5 centimeters) deep with faux moss or grass. Nestle some pale-colored faux eggs in the moss and place the trays around the house.
Find some fun, vintage-looking bunnies, eggs, or birds and create a small tableau on an old silver tray. Pair with votives or a dramatic par of candlesticks to center the scene. Place in a prominent spot such as on a sideboard, the center of the dining table, or on a kitchen island.
Coconut Cream Pie
This delectable cream pie is a wonderful mixture of lightly toasted coconut and dense homemade cream base with hints of velvety vanilla. I love the combination of the slightly salty crust, the creamy filling, and the crunch of the toasted coconut. This pie makes a lovely spring dessert and a culinary treat.
MAKES 1 (9-INCH) (23 CM) PIE; SERVES 6 TO 8
1/2 recipe (1 ball) My Mom's Extra-Flaky Pie Crust Dough (see below)
1 1/2 cups (114 g) shredded sweetened coconut
5 large eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups (592 ml) whole milk
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1/4 cup (32 g) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon (1.5 g) fine sea salt
3 to 5 tablespoons (52 to 70 g) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 1/2 tablespoons (22 ml) vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 F (177 C) (Gas mark 4). Roll the dough out to a circle 1/8-inch (3 mm) thick and fit it into a 9-inch (23 cm) pie pan. Trim and flute the edge. Line with parchment paper and fill with dried beans, rice, or metal pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes, until browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Lower the oven temperature to 300 F (149 C) (Gas mark 2).
Spread the coconut on a baking sheet. Toast until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Let cool at room temperature.
In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs until light yellow. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, bring the milk to the scalding point; you'll know the milk has reached the right temperature when a "skin" forms on top of the liquid.
In the top of a double boiler off the heat, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt, then whisk in the heated milk until thoroughly combined. Put the pan over simmering water in the bottom part of the double boiler, then gradually add the beaten eggs, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and blend in the butter with an electric mixer. Stir in the vanilla.
Stir in 1 1/4 cups (127 g) of the toasted coconut, then spoon the mixture into the cooled pie shell and top with the remaining coconut. Cover with wax paper and refrigerate until cold. Serve.
My Mom's Extra-Flaky Pie Crust Dough
Make sure that you don't work the dough too much or the crust will be tough and not flaky.
MAKES ENOUGH FOR 1 (9-INCH) (23 CM) DOUBLE-CRUST PIE, OR 2 (9-INCH) (23 CM) SINGLE-CRUST PIES.
4 cups (512 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (6 g) finely ground sea salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) (340 g) cold organic unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/8 cup (28 g) cold organic vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (125 ml) ice water
Put the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter in small pieces and shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles fine cornmeal.
While pulsing the motor, slowly add the 1/2 cup (125 ml) ice water through the feed tube. If the dough has not formed a ball, add a little more water, pulsing until the dough forms a firm ball. Do not overprocess or the dough will be tough. Divide the dough ball in half and wrap each ball in plastic wrap. Set aside in the refrigerator for 1 hour before processing with the pie recipe.