You can use any pastry crust recipe you like for this pie, though I prefer one made with butter rather than shortening or lard, and store-bought pie shells work well, too—without all the fuss. The meringue topping makes for a lovely presentation, but it is optional.
Pinch of salt
½cup (1stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
¼cupice water, or more as needed
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Pinch of coarse salt
¼teaspoon mixed essence
½cup fresh or frozen grated unsweetened coconut
Pinch of cream of tartar
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter using a fork or pastry cutter or food processor fitted with a plastic blade until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Slowly drizzle the ice water into the mixture, adding just enough to bring the dough together into a loose ball. Divide the dough into 2 balls and wrap each in plastic wrap. Flatten them into disks and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The dough can also be frozen for later use, for up to 2 months (only one disk is used in this recipe).
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Remove one of the dough disks from the refrigerator and roll it out ⅛ inch thick to fit an 8-inch pie plate. Line an 8-inch pie plate with the crust or a packaged pre-made crust (or if using a frozen shell, remove unthawed from its package). Chill the crust in the refrigerator while preparing the filling.
Make the Filling
Lightly beat the egg yolks with the milk, sugar, nutmeg, salt, vanilla, and mixed essence. Stir in the coconut and pour into the pie shell.
Bake the pie for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake another 15 minutes, or until the filling is firm when the pie is gently jiggled.
Make Meringue (Optional)
Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar with a whisk or electric beater until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla and beat until the whites hold firm peaks.
Remove the pie from the oven and mound the meringue over the filling, pulling up soft peaks with the spoon and making sure meringue touches the crust all around. Return the pie to the oven and bake until the edges of the meringue are lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool completely, and serve.