These are really just lovely coconut pots de crème: delicate individual custards baked slowly in a water bath until they almost shimmer. Here, milk infused with unsweetened coconut gives them their unique flavor. After flavoring the milk, the soaked coconut is squeezed dry, dusted with confectioners’ sugar, and toasted in the oven. It makes a wonderful topping for the custards and it’s a great technique for making delicious, not-too-sweet toasted coconut for an old-fashioned coconut custard pie. Unsweetened coconut is available at health food stores and in specialty food shops.
- 1 cup milk
- 1¾ to 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (preferably unsulphured)
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1-inch piece of vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 3 large egg yolks (60 grams or ¼ cup)
- Reserved coconut
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 8 Coconut Custards
- 1 cup Coconut Cream
- ½ cup reserved toasted coconut
- Fresh pineapple slices (optional)
- Eight 4-ounce ramekins or soufflée dishes
For the Preparation: Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter eight 4-ounce ramekins or soufflé dishes.
To Make the Custard: Heat the milk with ½ cup of the cream in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until a skin forms, about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the coconut. Let stand at room temperature until cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.
Pour the coconut-infused mixture through a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, pressing on the solids with the back of a spoon to remove all the liquid. (Or place the coconut in a piece of cheesecloth and wring it out to remove all the liquid.) There should be about ¾ cup coconut milk. Reserve the coconut. Add enough of the remaining cream to the liquid to equal 2 cups, then transfer to a clean medium saucepan. Add the brown sugar and vanilla bean and heat the mixture over medium heat until a skin forms. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Remove from the heat and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream mixture. Cool for 5 minutes.
Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until combined. Add the hot cream mixture to the egg yolks in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh strainer or China cap into a 4-cup measuring cup.
Pour the custard evenly into the prepared ramekins and place in a baking pan. Place the pan in the oven and add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil. Bake for 35 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake for 20 more minutes or until the centers are just set (a knife inserted in the center will come out clean). Remove the custards from the baking pan and place on a cooling rack until room temperature. Chill the custards, uncovered, in the refrigerator, for 2 hours. When cold, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. The custards may be made up to 2 days ahead.
To Make the Coconut Cream: Meanwhile, increase the oven temperature to 350°F. Toss ½ cup of the reserved coconut with 1 tablespoon of the confectioners' sugar on a cookie sheet and spread out in one layer. Toast on the middle rack of the oven, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until golden. Watch this carefully, since the coconut can burn quickly. Set aside.
Finely chop the remaining reserved coconut in a mini food processor; set aside. Beat the cream, 1 teaspoon of the confectioners” sugar, and the vanilla extract in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Fold in the chopped coconut.
To Assemble the Dessert: Top the chilled custards with a dollop of coconut cream, then sprinkle each with a teaspoon of toasted coconut. Serve with pineapple slices, if you like.