Genius happens everyday and it’s there, always. It hides behind bookcases, follows you down sidewalks, hangs out in trees. Specifically, genius in food is everywhere. It’s in the perfectly crafted cortado, nestled amongst dim sum plates on that little cart. Genius is the perfectly dipped hard chocolate shell on a soft serve cone. It’s the brilliant balance of caramelized onions, gooey cheese, and butter-grilled rye bread on a patty melt. Sometimes however genius surprises, even when you should be expecting it. Enter the Coconut Cream Pie at Tartine in San Francisco. Beautiful and petite, it looks as delicious as a pie has the right to be. And yet, there is a bit of hidden genius beneath that cool custard and peaked cream.
It’s there, in the perfectly thin chocolate and salted caramel layers underneath the whipped cream and coconut custard. Those two layers keep the crust dry and flaky, and add that necessary, surprising, and absolutely fantastic hint of salty sweetness. Those two hidden layers are pure genius, the kind of addition that makes any other coconut cream pie seem incomplete. From that first bite forward, it’s clear that no other coconut cream pie should ever be sans those two perfect layers. After all, nobody likes soggy crust, and everybody likes salted caramel and bittersweet chocolate.
The chocolate is painted onto the crust in a layer so thin so as not to be obtrusive yet still be effective as a moisture barrier. And while the caramel is just a frivolous flavor addition, it’s genius to be sure. A show-off kind of genius.
Which as it turns out is great, when it comes in pies. All pies should contain a bit of genius. One could argue, in fact, that most delicious pies already do.
Recipe on the following page.