Southeast Asian inspired vegan Apple Blackberry Pie with coconut crumb and coconut scented crust

by Irvin on November 5, 2010 · 22 comments

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Peter and Grant are the fanciest friends that I know. They are the only people I know that actually own not one but multiple tuxedos (one can only assume because one is never sure when one will have to go to back to back black tie events). They were the people I went to French Laundry the second time I went (remind me to tell you how I went the first time, it’s relatively amusing). And they are the only people I know who actually shop at Brooks Brothers, without any sense of irony whatsoever. And, of course, they are the ones that inspired me to take a simple basic all American dessert like an apple pie and make it all fancy. I present to you, the vegan Southeast Asian Inspired Apple Blackberry Pie with coconut crumb topping and coconut scented crust.

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile (all three four of you), you might recognize the name Peter and Grant from the cabin they own up in Sonoma that AJ and I borrowed to host our friends and their babies. I’ve known Peter since freshman year of college, where we lived on the second floor of Koenig Hall (a dorm that no longer exists). His roommate was a wonderfully sweet man from upstate New York (and I’m not talking Syracuse upstate, I’m talking Potsdam upstate – practically Canada) named Steven Sukanek. He’s probably the nicest guy I’ve ever met, utterly immune to the cold (he perpetually wore threadworn tshirts that I’m sure he had since 7th grade and shorts year round) and also, frankly, one of the messiest guys that I’ve ever met (which is saying something as I’m not very tidy myself). True, Steve wasn’t as messy as our sophomore roommate Hank, who would leave half eaten cans of creamed corn around the apartment complete with a crusty spoon in it and once brought home live chickens for a fraternity prank, but that’s a pretty low bar if you ask me.

This is Peter from college. I don't remember why he's holding up Twinkies, but I'm sure at the time we thought it was hilarious.

Steve and Peter made quite the odd couple in college, but their room became the centerpiece social room where our group of friends would all congregated that year. This was always something Peter struggled with as he was not only impeccably tidy, but utterly unabashedly particular about the way he decorates a room – a small dorm room that seemed always occupied with slovenly dressed freshmen kids who basically wanted to hang out and play cards. Fast forward 15 plus years later and Peter’s currently an immigration lawyer, though he’s studying to be an interior designer, a vocation that he is perfect for. Ever since I’ve known him, he’s just wanted to surround himself with gorgeous things.

Peter and his partner Grant invited AJ and I over for a dinner party a few months ago to their ultramodern high-rise condo. Peter believes that it’s easier to organize his dinner parties around themes. It’s not that he’s kitchy or queeny (though on occasion he can be both of those things, but who, in my circle of friends, isn’t?) nor does he call us up and tell us that we must come dressed for his “Oscar Wilde-n-Crazy Brunch” ala Modern Family but he prefers to have the food be specific to a genre. Classic American comfort food (chicken pot pie, deviled eggs, iceberg wedge lettuce salad) or Vietnamese (pho, fresh spring rolls, beef salad) are examples of the sort of themes that he puts together when hosting a party.

He's like an Asian, Halloween themed drag queen Vanna White holding up that platter of pasta.

Case in point, a few nights ago, we were invited over Halloween night to watch Game Four of the World Series of the SF Giants vs The Texas Rangers. It being both Halloween AND an opportunity to cheer on the SF Giants, the theme of the night was orange and black. Peter, of course, was completely decked out in 80’s punk glam drag – an orange wig that he bought at the ghetto wig shop at fifth and market (while trying to decided between two safety orange wigs, the old Chinese woman who ran the shop told him the shorter bob would be more flattering, so he went with that one) as well as the oversized vintage 80’s BOY LONDON shirt that my friend Stephanie and I had found for him fifteen years ago at a thrift store (Peter never throws away any of the thrift store finds that we got him, no matter how useless or inappropriate to him – a quirk of his that I love) and vintage black go-go boots. The main course itself, was squid ink pasta (the black) with a Frutti di Mare sauce (the orange). Black and Orange all the way.

On a side note, you haven’t truly watched baseball until you’ve watched it with a dozen homosexuals, some of whom were in drag, most of whom were drunk or at least a little tipsy, all cheering on the SF Giants as they won their third game for the World Series. Hilarity inevitably ensued.

But I digress. Also impressive is that Grant is a vegetarian and hence, Peter often makes two version of the dinner, one for Grant (and other vegetarian lovers) and one with meat protein (for the rest of us omnivores). We’d all be just as happy with the vegetarian dishes, but Peter aims to please all of us, so he makes sure that there are dishes with and without meat.

The stunning view from their living room.

So when Peter and Grant invited us over for dinner, we knew it was going to be a wonderful night of fabulous food, great company and (with their floor to ceiling windows) a killer view. I offered to make dessert for the party but I had to make sure to ask Peter what sort of theme the party was. “Oh, we’re doing a Southeast Asian dinner. Larb, springs rolls, pad thai, red and green curries, that sort of thing.” I had to think about that one. I never make Southeast Asian food at home and I definitely have never made a Southeast Asian desert.

Sure I’ve made the occasional stuffed mochi, but that’s more Japanese than Southeast Asian. Red bean is more Chinese and Peter really hates bananas so anything with that flavoring is out. Making sticky rice with mango probably would work, but I just wasn’t feeling like tracking down the glutinous rice. So I wondered, how can I adapt the sort of dessert that I usually make (American comfort food) into something more Southeast Asian inspired.

Oh hello, deep fried goodness.

So I decided to take the all American Apple Pie and give it a Southeast Asian twist. Out goes the cinnamon, in goes some cardamom and five spice. Out goes the plain sweet pastry top crust and in goes a crumb topping with coconut flavoring. And just to mix it up a little, I threw in some blackberries. And as a nod to Grant, I decided to make it vegan – coconut oil all the way.

Side note. Just for the record Grant is NOT a vegan. He ADORES cheese and dairy. But I figured, why not go vegan? It’s been awhile since I’ve actually baked vegan and if I’m doing Southeast Asian, it gives me an excuse to bake with coconut oil, something I love to do, but rarely do.

The dinner party was pretty fab. Peter and Grant had invited over a mutual friend Mark to the dinner and we all had an amazing time taking in the view and having amazing conversation. Dinner was excellent (as was to be expected) and during the conversation, Mark asked about me leaving my job and if I had thought about opening up my own bakery. I told him I had thought about it, but most likely I wouldn’t as the amount of time and energy that goes into a brick and mortar shop is huge, more than I probably would be willing to do. But never say never right?

The Southeast Asian Inspired pie seemed to have worked for the party. It’s funny how just swapping out a few ingredients (using unrefined coconut oil instead of butter, using cardamon and five spice instead of cinnamon) completely shifts the flavor profile of the dessert, from all American, to something slightly foreign and subtly exotic. Playing with spices is a simple and easy way to change the flavoring of a baked good without having to worry about whether the shifts in ingredients would ruin the texture or outcome of the baked good.

Peter ended up eating the pie for breakfast the next day and said it was just as good then as it was the night before. I love the idea that my Southeast Asian Inspired pie served as both a way to end the night and a way to start the day. Of course, sometimes the fanciest people you know are also the most down to earth…eating pie for breakfast.

Whilst baking this pie, I listened to Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, an album that I’ve been rather obsessed with for the past couple of months. Though every time I hear the song We Used To Wait, I feel like I should be running through the streets of the suburb that I grew up in.



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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

The Beautiful Kind November 5, 2010 at 7:13 pm

>You've come a long way, baby!


Swiss Charrd November 5, 2010 at 7:27 pm

>Since I thought maybe bloggers may want to know how someone found them I will tell you. I found you through following Gluten Free Girl and her band of food inspiring holigans- I live on the same Island and am thrilled to have GF and the Chef celebs here. I will continue because you are so FAB! (Me-Older 60's era female)


Justin November 5, 2010 at 8:16 pm

>you're killing me with that pie. i need it in my life.


Tina November 5, 2010 at 9:31 pm

>Brilliant as usual and spot on about Grant and Peter. I wonder if Grant will consider it outting him if I say he used to wear "exclusively" Birkenstocks when we met in college. I believe he made a prognostication that he would always wear them. I don't think you showed his footwear in this piece, but most decidedly it was not Birkenstocks!


John November 6, 2010 at 12:29 am

I love me some apple pie.
Irvin – YOUR new take on apple pie sounds AMAZING.
Like Peter, I'd be tempted to have a slice for breakfast the next morning.
I would also be curious to try a warm slice of this pie with a scoop of macapuno ice cream from Mitchell's. (I'm a coconut freak as well)
Your blog is as addictive as your baked goods. I enjoy it, yet it always leaves me wanting more.


Mr. Jackhonky November 6, 2010 at 7:07 pm

@The Beautiful Kind. Absolutely! I would say you have no idea, but you actually do! 😉

@Swiss Charrd. Awww! I love that Shauna and Danny (and Lu too!). You're so lucky to live on the same island as they do! I hope to visit up there soon, as the island sounds fantastic! Thanks for reading and letting me know where you're comin' from! It IS always so mysterious to me how people find me….

@Justin. Next time you're in my neck of the woods, holla at me. I'll make it for ya!

@Tina. LOL. Birkenstocks eh? I'm both shocked and appalled. Does Peter know? I'm not sure if he would have started dating Grant if he knew ahead of time…. Of course, I shouldn't be surprised. Grant DID go to Berkeley.

@John. Why thank you! I have a total confession, I'm not a huge fan of Mitchell's. *ducking from SF people throwing things at me*. I mean, it's okay, but there's better ice cream in the city. Then again, I've never had their macapuno. Maybe that would change my mind.

Of course, I'm may be biased as BiRite Creamery is a block away from me…


Kristina November 8, 2010 at 3:09 am

Irvin – I love this spin on the traditional apple pie. My husband is totally against anything involving actual strands of coconut but he doesn't mind the taste so this pie would actually get eaten by someone besides me in this house. Which is helpful for the size of my ass.

And I want that wig.


petoke November 8, 2010 at 4:21 am

This post cracks me up. Peter & Grant, you sound awesome. BEAUTIFUL APARTMENT. and great green/yellow shade outfit.

I'm pretty sure the twinkie thing is a reference to being a banana – Asian/yellow outside, white inside . ..

also, I never bake, but the coconut oil thing is something I'm going to remember. I too love coconut flavor but that white flaky junk is kind of annoying.


make my day November 8, 2010 at 7:05 am

I LOOOOVVVVE your pies! and now I'm standing up and cheering 'more….more!! ok…now i'm sitting back down and feeling silly for saying that but i just HAD to. cheers kari


CityMom November 8, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Pie looks fabulous but I'm entirely too lazy to do all that work.
I found you through the Pioneer Woman. You were fixin to watch Steel Magnolias.

I am gut laughing at your comment "…you haven’t truly watched baseball until you’ve watched it with a dozen homosexuals, some of whom were in drag,…"

Brings back my youth…sigh.


Merri November 10, 2010 at 11:32 pm

Lol as soon as you said your friend does themes I immediately thought of the friend on modern family. But then I read the next sentence and you'd already thought of it too. 🙂 what a beautiful house and a beautiful view! One day I want a grown up house like that…


Mr. Jackhonky November 15, 2010 at 6:00 am

@Kristina. Isn't that wig awesome? And yeah, I'm kinda in your husband's camp, as coconut strands tend to be really dry and stringy. But just using the coconut oil is enough of a flavor for the coconut.

@Petoke. They have an AMAZING condo. It's gorgeous. Really. Also, you should try baking. It's fun!

@make my day. Thank you! One of these days perhaps you will actually have a chance to eat my pie in real life!

@CityMom. Awww. Sadly we never did watch Steel Magnolia. But that would have been awesome, watching it was Ree…. thanks for stopping by!

@Merri. I love Modern Family! Cam and Mitchell are my favorite! And yes, that condo is AMAZING. I'll probably never have a house like that when I grow up, but luckily I have friends that do…


Danielle November 23, 2010 at 7:07 pm

As much as your pie caught my attention with its coconut crumb crust, the marble countertops, the Eames, the Ghost chair and that gorgeous view were competing for attention!! I don't bake many pies, but reading your posts and your inspired creations has set me thinking about trying my hand at one of these soon. They'll be perfect fodder to munch to while reading your posts!


Rita December 1, 2010 at 1:43 am

Come over and teach me to make this . . .

Peter and Grant–the more I learn about them, the more awesome they get! I cherish the photo you took of their Sonoma home's freezer forever . . .


Lauren July 25, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Just recently found your blog and am enjoying it. As a vegan, I really appreciate this recipe and all omnivorous folks who are willing to experiment with vegan cooking and baking as well as those who are willing to try eating it. I love working with coconut oil and coconut butter for pastry crust. The coconut taste in the unrefined oil really does give it a little something special. Thanks so much for an amazing pie recipe. 🙂


Irvin July 26, 2011 at 12:58 am

Thanks Lauren! I actually love my vegan friends and love the challenge of baking vegan. I keep on meaning to put more vegan recipes on my blog, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. Hopefully I will soon.

Have you played with coconut flour at all? One of the issues I used to have with coconut was I hated the dry flaky stringy coconut that was always used in baked goods. Once I realized that I loved the coconut flavor but hated that coconut texture of the commercial bagged stuff, I started playing with coconut oil and now coconut flour. It’s expensive, but imparts a wonderful tropical flavor to baked goods…


G December 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm


can i replace coconut oil with something else? Would love the coconut flavor, but coconut oil is hard to get where i live (don’t ask). I’m wondering could i use plain old butter with coconut milk (instead of cold water) ? or maybe coconut shaving in the crust ?


Irvin December 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Absolutely! I think coconut milk instead of cold water would work beautifully. I would probably skip the coconut shavings in the crust, but add it to the top crumb layer – maybe 1/2 cup. Let me know how it turns out!


G December 17, 2011 at 1:48 am

It was … perfect:) I would have liked a bit stronger coconut blend, but maybe it was because i used home made coconut milk. But the cake was superb.

Your recipes never fail, this is the third one i have made, and it rocked, just like the other two (Apple Cranberry && Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake). Keep on writing .


Mo January 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm

In your article How to start a blog, you indicated that you should always spell out tablespoon and teaspoon, so it doesn’t confuse the reader. However, you didn’t do that 🙂


Irvin January 15, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Ahhh. Good Point. You’ll also note in that article, I talk about how I used to make a lot of the mistakes and that I have learned from them since.

Do keep in mind that my blog is a work in progress and I didn’t start writing recipes the proper way until about February of 2011, where I had a wonderful conversation with a professional cookbook editor about how to write a proper recipe. I have since incorporated some of his tips into my recipe writing. That said, I haven’t bothered to go back and change my recipes.

But for you, I have changed this specific recipe. Enjoy!


Bella February 11, 2012 at 10:47 am

The combination of apple, blackberry and coconut sounds incredible!


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