Ever since my trip to Key West last January, I’ve been dreaming about the Amaretto Coconut Cream Pie at Antonia’s. I know Key West is all about the Key Lime Pie, and I did try some from a couple of different places and they were good. But, my vote for the best dessert in Key West goes to the Semifreddo Di Amaretto E Coco at Antonia’s.
Antonia’s chef and owner, Christopher Rounds, indulged me with tastes of his homemade Italian sauces, fresh Italian flatbread and pasta and luscious desserts as we visited at the bar in the Italian restaurant that was opened 31 years ago by Antonia. With his little boy grin and a mischievous sparkle in his eyes, Chef Rounds told me his customers love to be spoiled. It’s what makes him successful and keeps his guests coming back.
It was delightful spending time with Rounds. Of German descent, he told me you don’t have to be Italian to run an Italian restaurant. He is an expert at preparing delicious Italian food with fresh ingredients. Lots of Italian food. Rounds has watched grown men cry with happiness as they hug him and tell him his food tastes just like the Italian dishes they remember enjoying in their Italian grandmother’s kitchen, proof of the authenticity of his Italian cooking.
Rounds does not share recipes. I tried as hard as I could to get some kind of directions on how to make his coconut cream amaretto pie. The only information I could eek out of him was that the dessert is made with whipping cream, coconut, egg white, mascarpone and gelatin sheets. It is the creamiest, coconutiest most delicious heavenly coconut cream I’ve ever tasted.
Rounds pulled a whole dessert from the freezer. I noticed it had been created in a springform pan. He cut a slice for me to eat — a giant piece. I let every bite melt on my tongue and glide down my throat as I watched with dismay as my fork got closer and closer to the final morsel on my plate. I oohed and aah-ed and sighed, and I think my breathing may have gotten a bit rapid. “Just look at this,” said Rounds as he pulled the pant leg of his shorts up a bit higher on his leg. “I get goose-bumps when people get so much enjoyment from my food. This is my life. It’s what I love.”
It’s easy to love Christopher Rounds. It’s easy to lust over that coconut dessert he serves. If you get to Key West, have a meal at Antonia’s and Chris Rounds will spoil you to death. And, don’t leave Antonia’s without having a piece of that Amaretto Coconut Cream Pie.
Coconut Cream in Coconut Shortbread Cups is quite divine. It’s not Antonia’s, though. No mascarpone, no egg whites and no gelatin. It does have lots of whipped cream, coconut and just enough amaretto.
If you’d like to fill little shortbread cups with the fluffy coconut cream filling that starts with a can of coconut milk, use the recipe I posted earlier for Coconut Shortbread Tartlets. This recipe for Coconut Cream is a custard, lightened with whipped cream, that generously fills a baked 9-inch pastry shell.
I’ll continue to work to recreate the divine Amaretto Coconut Cream Pie I swooned over at Antonia’s in Key West. In the meantime, I’ll eat Coconut Cream Shortbread Cups and plan my next trip to Key West.
Oh, and don’t be surprised if you get a goose-bump or two as your guests get excited with each bite of a coconut shortbread cup filled with a puffy cloud of coconut cream.
Coconut Cream Shortbread Cups
- 1 (13.5- to 14-ounce) can coconut milk, divided
- 3 egg yolks from large eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon, divided
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 cup flaked coconut
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 teaspoons amaretto, divided
- 1 baked 9-inch pastry shell, graham cracker crust or Coconut Shortbread Cups
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup coconut, toasted, for garnish
- Fresh raspberries, for garnish
Pour 1 cup coconut milk into a heavy saucepan. Place over medium heat. Remove from heat just before the coconut milk begins to boil. Set aside.
Beat 3 egg yolks until thick and light colored. Add 1/2 cup sugar, flour, salt and 1 lightly beaten egg. Beat well.
In a 1-cup glass measure, whisk together 1/4 cup coconut milk and cornstarch until smooth. Stir in remainder of coconut milk from can. Pour cornstarch mixture into egg yolk mixture and blend well.
Gradually whisk hot coconut milk into egg mixture. Pour pour back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until mixture thickens and just comes to a boil. Continue to whisk until mixture is smooth. Custard will be very thick. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup coconut, vanilla and 1 1/2 teaspoons amaretto. Cover with plastic wrap, gently pressing directly onto the custard. Chill 2 hours.
Beat whipping cream with 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon amaretto until thick. Gently stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the chilled custard. Continue adding the whipped cream, 1/4 at a time, gently folding it into the coconut custard mixture.
Spoon mixture into pastry shell, graham cracker crust or shortbread cups. Cover and chill until serving time. Top pie with toasted coconut, if desired. A fresh raspberry is a nice garnish to the tiny shortbread cups. Makes enough filling for 1 (9-inch) pie or several mini-shortbread cups.