I originally wanted to make Pina Colada Panna Cotta, only because it’s fun to say. I thought I was the first to come up with the combination, until I did a search and discovered I was oh-so-late to the party. (womp, womp.)
As I sat pondering my panned panna cotta idea, I watched the cherry halves doing somersaults in my fizzy drink. That’s when George Washington popped into my head. (Probably because of that story about chopping down his father’s cherry tree.) So I took the hint, and went with the early American dessert, custard! It may sound similar to panna cotta, but this tropical melting pot is far, far from Italy.
Pina Colada Custard
1 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs + 1 yolk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
2 tablespoons coconut (shredded)
You can buy a whole coconut and have fun with a hammer and chisel, or just buy some coconut pieces and milk ready to use from the store.
I’ve always wondered how much coconut water is inside a single coconut, so I opted for the whole thing!
Now I understand why it’s rather expensive at the store. It’s not exactly easy getting into a coconut, and once you succeed, there is only about 1/2 cup of coconut water inside. I took a hammer in one hand, and the coconut in the other, and began strategically smacking it all the way around the circumference until it fissured and cracked. The water instantly leaked out into the bowl. Then I had to strain out the grubby bits of the outer shell using a cheese cloth. Later, Austin had the brilliant idea of using a drill, which would save the trouble of straining the water. I say go with your mood. If you’re having a rough day, the hammer is more therapeutic.
Prying out the coconut from the shell was my least favorite part. I made sure to use a dull knife for my own safety. After a while I kinda got the hang of it. Wedge knife between white coconut and outer shell, wiggle it around and pop out the coconut piece by piece. Blah.
To make coconut milk, I tossed the pieces into the cuisinart and added about 2 cups of water. (not coconut water, just plain water)
Pulse until about the coarseness of shredded coconut, and then strain through a cheese cloth.
I wouldn’t say the total process is the easiest thing in the world to do, but what you end up with tastes light years better than anything you can buy at the store!
The last step in the coconut saga is to dry out the shreds. I put them in my food dehydrator on low for 4 hours and they came out perfect. You can also use an oven on its lowest temperature and spread it out on a baking sheet for a few hours.
Now on to the custard….
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a pan, add the cream and coconut milk and heat over medium until almost simmering. Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar until it dissolves. Lightly beat eggs and egg yolks in large bowl. Stir in the pineapple and then slowly stir in the milk. Be sure the milk isn’t too hot or the eggs may cook.
That’s all there is to it! Pour the custard into the molds, and place them into a large pan.
Pour hot water into baking pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the molds. Bake 30 minutes or until centers are only a little wiggly.
(Thank you to Helen for these cute little copper caneles!)
Remove from oven and set them on a wire rack . Sprinkle with coconut, and let sit for 30 minutes, or until cool enough to refrigerate. Refrigerate uncovered for 2 hours before serving.
Who says desserts can’t be appetizers?
P.S. Pineapple garnish inspired by stonehenge.