Creamy Coconut Pudding with a Crunchy Candy-like Topping
When I was testing the Watermelon “Cake” a mistake in the kitchen led to two open cans of coconut milk that we had no immediate use for. Being mid-summer I wanted to make something without turning on the oven so I turned to one of my favorite books of 2013, Bakeless Sweets. Author Faith Durand is brilliant and there are enough puddings, mousses, gelatins and panna cottas and other smooth, creamy, slippery treats in this book to keep me happy for years to come. She saved the day with her Double Coconut Pudding with Coconut Brittle. It is rich, cool and creamy and the crunch topping adds a textural contrast that is most welcomed. I didn’t agree with her Butterfinger analogy (see below) but the topping was delicious nevertheless; yes we kept snacking on it! I like to keep the brittle a little coarser than she suggests as you can see in the image.
Excerpted and adapted from Bakeless Sweets by Faith Durand. Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang 2013.
This pudding is milky and fresh, tasting of real coconut, and topped with a fabulous crisp coconut brittle that tastes like the inside of a Butterfinger candy bar. For this pudding, look for coconut milk that has not been blended or homogenized with added stabilizers. I prefer the Thai brand Chaokoh, which can be found in almost any Asian supermarket.
(The brittle) tastes far better than it has a right to – after all, it’s little more than cooked sugar mixed with toasted unsweetened coconut. I increase the ratio of coconut to sugar, so it tastes more of coconut than brittle, and then chop it into fine crumbles.
- Toasted Coconut Brittle:
- ½ tablespoon (7 g) unsalted butter, plus more for the bowl and spoon
- 2 cups (160 g) shredded unsweetened coconut
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
- ½ cup (100 g) sugar
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- Coconut Pudding:
- 2 cups (180 g) shredded sweetened coconut
- ¾ cup (180 ml) heavy cream
- 1 ½ cups (360 ml) whole milk
- 6 tablespoons (75 g) sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 (13.5-ounce/400 ml) can coconut milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon dark rum (optional)
- For the Brittle: Lightly butter a large metal mixing bowl and silicone or rubber mixing spoon.
- Melt the butter in a 3-quart (2.8 L) saucepan over medium-high heat until it foams up. Add the coconut and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes, or until it is evenly toasted to a golden brown color. Turn off the heat and toss the coconut with the salt and ginger. Pour the coconut into the buttered bowl. Rinse out the pan and wipe it completely clean and dry.
- Add the sugar to the saucepan and stir in the warm water and the corn syrup. Turn the heat back on to medium-high and whisk the mixture to dissolve the sugar. When it comes to a rolling boil, stop stirring. Boil for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the sugar begins to turn light brown. Keep a close eye on it; it will go from light brown to burnt very quickly. Gently swirl the pan as the sugar changes color. It will turn very dark amber and begin to smoke. As soon as you see that first wisp of smoke, turn off the heat and carefully pour the syrup in a slow stream into the bowl with the coconut.
- Stir to completely mix the syrup with the coconut. Let cool for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the big clumps as the sugar hardens. When the mixture has mostly cooled, use a big metal spoon, bench scraper, or sturdy pastry blender to chop the brittle into fine crumbs.
- Store these fine crumbs of coconut brittle in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
- For the Pudding: Have ready 8 glasses or goblets, at least 6-ounce size; set aside. Put the coconut in a 3-quart (2.8 L) saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring very frequently, for about 3 minutes, or until the coconut has turned light tan. It will give off a lot of steam and dry out slightly. Watch carefully, as it will quickly turn from toasted to burnt.
- Add the cream and milk to the pan, and whisk in the sugar. Bring to a simmer and turn off the heat. Steep for 15 minutes, then strain out and discard the coconut and return the liquid to the pan.
- Put the cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl and whisk out any lumps. Slowly whisk in the coconut milk, making sure there are no lumps. Whisk in the egg and egg yolk. It is important that this mixture be as smooth as you can make it.
- Return the strained cream mixture to low heat. Warm it just until the surface quivers. Turn off the heat.
- Pour 1 cup (240 ml) of the cream mixture into the cornstarch slurry and whisk vigorously to combine. The mixture should come together smoothly, with no lumps. Very slowly pour the tempered slurry back into the pan, whisking constantly and vigorously.
- Turn the heat back on to medium. Work all the angles of the pot, and scrape the bottom as you whisk. It will take 2 to 5 minutes to bring the custard to a boil, with large bubbles that slowly pop to the surface. Boil, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes.
- Turn off the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract and rum, if using.
- Immediately pour pudding into goblets and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours or overnight. Top with coconut brittle right before serving.
Image: Dédé Wilson