Recently, my friend Jim High wrote a post on Facebook about eating a slice of coconut cream pie at the lunch counter at the old T.K.E. Drugs in downtown Tupelo. Jim said all the delicious pies at T.K.E. were homemade by a little old lady in Tupelo.
That little old lady was Clara McKnight Polk, and she had Polk’s Pastry Shop. She and her family made pies, cakes and other desserts for businesses in town and anybody who cared to stop by the house and pick something up.
Twenty years ago, I helped Mrs. Polk’s daughter, Ruth Duvall, find some recipes she was looking for and, as a thank you, Ruth gave me some of her mama’s recipes.
Here’s the one for that Coconut Cream Pie.
MRS. POLK’S COCONUT CREAM PIE
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cold water
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup coconut
1 (9-inch) baked pastry crust
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup sugar
■ Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt. Make a well. Beat egg yolks with cold water and add to well. Beat together and set aside.
■ Pour milk into a double boiler and heat until very hot, but before skin forms on milk. Pour a little hot milk into the egg mixture and mix well. Pour back into boiler and cook until thick. Remove from heat and add butter, vanilla and coconut. Beat until smooth (add a little milk if needed to thin). Pour into baked pastry shell.
■ For the meringue, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff, but not dry. Add sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Put on pie, making sure edges are sealed to crust. Brown in a 350-degree oven.