Saturday, March 24, 2012

Coconut Creme Caramel

I am getting my recipes together to teach a Thai cooking class and have been thinking a lot about what to make for dessert. For most Asians, dessert is not something that is featured and in fact, something sweet is often eaten in the afternoon instead. I don't have a very big sweet tooth except for an occasional craving, but my students specifically asked for a Thai style dessert. Now I thought about making Thai Black Sticky Rice with Coconut Milk, which is wonderful or Thai White Sticky Rice with Mangoes, but decided that it was better to go with something a little more sophisticated and so I decided on creating a Coconut Creme Caramel. Now, I am a big fan of flan or it's fancier name - Creme Caramel - and it is really easy to make. It's a basic ratio (as in most puddings) of one egg to one cup of milk - in this case Coconut Milk. And, of course I had to add more than a pinch of salt because I love that savory note in dessert. 

This dessert is both Lactose Free and Gluten Free for anyone out there who is sensitive to those things too. And, if you like caramel, the hardest thing about this dessert is waiting for the sugar to caramelize and not stirring! The other thing is that you have to cook the custards in a water bath and when you take it out of the oven, it is hard not to splash the water into the dishes! Otherwise, it is an incredibly easy desert that looks like it was hard to make. It is great for a party as it can be made ahead and the recipe doubles very easily. If you love creamy desserts, love coconut and love caramel, you will love this dessert!

Coconut Caramel
Lightly grease 6 ramekins (I used Pyrex custard cups) with butter.
For Caramel Sauce:
1 cup sugar
Put sugar in a pan with a heavy bottom. Stir to mix and then melt over medium-high heat without stirring – swirling often. Cook until it turns caramel brown – about 10 minutes. Pour caramel sauce equally into the bottom of the ramekins.
For Creme Caramel:
1 14 oz can coconut milk
4 eggs
3 Tbsps Sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp sea salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a pot of water to boil. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and then add in salt, sugar, vanilla and coconut milk.

Pour coconut mixture into the ramekins over the hardened caramel. Place the ramekins in a large baking dish and pour hot water to ½ way up the sides of the ramekins. Put in the oven carefully and bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until set. Remove carefully so that you don't splash water into the ramekins. Cool then refrigerate until cold. To serve, dip bottom of the ramekin in hot water. Put plate on top and invert to pop out the flan and spoon out any remaining caramel sauce (or in some cases, popping out the hard caramel disk and place on top). Garnish with shaved fresh or toasted flaked coconut if desired and serve with fresh fruit like mangoes, raspberries or strawberries.

Five Element Analysis

Desserts are sweet food, so they are always part of the Earth Element and Coconut Milk is also Earthy and so is sugar so the Earth Element dominates. The eggs and salt add some Water Element and the vanilla extract contributes just a tiny bit of the Metal Element. Serving it with fruit like strawberries or raspberries will add the Fire Element, but Mango and Pineapple will increase the Earth Element. So serve this dessert at the end of a meal that has the other elements in it to create balance.

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