Like most people this week, I was shocked and saddened to hear about the suicide of Robin Williams. As horrible as it feels to lose such a creative genius, I do hope that it creates greater awareness about the dark hole of depression. It affects so many people and yet there is still a huge lack of understanding about this disease. I recently heard someone say, “The next time someone tells you to shake off your depression by going outside and getting some fresh air, you should respond by saying, ‘Oh right, like how cancer patients can shake off their cancer.” I think depression (and addiction) is hard for many Americans to accept as a disease. It flies in the face of our cultural norms. We are supposed to be a self-sufficient group, able to overcome anything. But severe depression can level you. And no one is exempt from developing depression at some point in his or her life. Others will battle it their entire lives. So let’s talk about it. Let’s not pretend that it doesn’t exist or that it’s not that big of a deal. It matters.
It feels like there has been an onslaught of bad news this summer. I’m not sure if media companies are just becoming more and more desperate to report anything that will get us to click on their story links, or if the world really is becoming a horrific place. I used to think that it was my responsibility to read/listen to the news everyday so as to stay informed. And I’m not too proud to admit that I think I became a bit righteous about it. I would judge other people who weren’t as informed as myself. But I’ve since come to realize that it bears no fruit if I’m not trying to create a change in the world with the information that I consume. All it really does is depress the hell out of me. I’m starting to scale back on my news consumption. I think it has helped my outlook. Instead, I’m spending more time learning about things I’m curious about. I read my first Paul Theroux book, I listened to a podcast about the Space Race, and I watched a YouTube video on how to freehand embroider.
I love Bobby Flay’s recipes, even if they always involve 5 or 6 steps and require a decent amount of time. I’ve heard he has a bit of a reputation of being an asshole, but that doesn’t stop me from continuing to make his recipes and buy his cookbooks. When I had my chocolate company, he actually purchased several gift boxes from me one holiday season to give to business associates. I was over the moon. Like his other recipes, this one does not disappoint, but it does involve several steps. I have been eating blackberries like water this summer, so this was a fun way to do something different with them other than to eat them with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.
Coconut-Buttermilk Pie with Blackberry Caramel
Adapted from Food & Wine
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. buttermilk
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. pure coconut extract
1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Pinch of salt
2 cups blackberries (8 oz.), halved
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, warmed
2 tsp. blackberry liqueur
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Toasted sweetened shredded coconut, for garnish
1. In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt, Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some pea-size pieces remaining. Drizzle the buttermilk on top and pulse until the dough just comes together. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather up any crumbs and pat the dough into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour.
2. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 12-inch round, a scant 1/4 inch thick. Ease the dough into a 9-inch glass pie plate. Trim the overhanging dough to 1 inch, fold it under itself and crimp the dough decoratively. Refrigerate the crust until firm, about 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust in the lower third of the oven for about 20 minutes, until barely set. Remove the parchment paper and pie weights. Cover the edge of the crust with strips of foil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer, until the crust is lightly browned. Let cool on a rack. Leave the foil strips on the crust rim. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale. Add the buttermilk, butter, coconut milk, flour, vanilla seeds and both extracts and whisk until smooth, then stir in the shredded coconut.
5. Set the pie plate on a baking sheet. Pour in the custard and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until set around the edge but slightly jiggly in the center. Transfer to a rack and let the pie cool completely.
6. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of blackberries with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of water. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the berries start to burst. Transfer the berries and any juices to a blender and puree until nearly smooth. Transfer the puree to the saucepan and let cool slightly, then whisk in the cream, blackberry liqueur, vanilla and salt.
7. In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar with 1/4 cup of water. Cook over moderate heat, swirling the pan and brushing down the side with a wet pastry brush, until the sugar dissolves. Cook undisturbed until an amber caramel forms, about 7 minutes. Add the blackberry cream and simmer, whisking, until the caramel is smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Let cool slightly, then stir in the remaining 1 cup of blackberries; let cool to room temperature. Garnish the pie with toasted coconut, cut into wedges and serve with the blackberry caramel.