September 6, 2004
lukewarm but not half-baked
Sunday, September 5
No, I didn't forget about this dessert of my dream for almost 10 years, really... it was just put into, eh, a subconscious state, hidden behind the constant waves of all other newer recipes. It was just a while ago that Santos's post about ginger-infused panna cotta reminded me that I had meant to try this one for so long: coconut spice pudding, whose recipe I first found in a Japanese cookbook by Midori Haruyama published in 1995.
This is another such dessert like baked custard, and this one uses cream infused with a mixture of spices, combined with and coconut milk, and served with a dash of freshly squeezed lime juice. I like spices, I like coconut milk, and I like lime - it had everything I like.
Yesterday was made to be the day to try this one at last. I warmed up half & half and milk (the recipe uses heavy cream and water, but I didn't have cream at hand) with a cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom pods, and fresh ginger slices, and oh well I didn't have vanilla beans either - never mind. I also threw in some black peppercorns, too.
Then I added all other ingredients - coconut milk, brown sugar, and eggs and some extra egg yolks - and baked the custard in the oven. Don't ask me how come it took me nine years to try such a simple recipe.
What seemed to have attracted my attention the most, other than such a tempting idea of mixing spices and coconut milk and lime, was a serving tip the author suggested in the book; to serve the pudding lukewarm.
It is my policy to serve and eat food at its "appropriate temperature" - eat it while it's burning hot if it is supposed to be, or serve it tooth-smarting cold if it should be eaten cold, for example (okay, maybe I had gone a bit too far, but you got my point). In her book Midori Haruyama does clearly mention this as her basic attitude, and still says this particular dessert, although very nice chilled as well, would taste good not so hot or warm. I was really curious about this idea.
So I did try one of the ramekins of custard that way. Having been let cool for a while, the custard still looked very soft and its center hadn't completely been settled. I drizzled it with a pinch of brown sugar and squeezed a wedge of lime over it, had my first spoonful.
Hummmm. Mmmmm. mmmmm. mmmmmmmmmm.
It wasn't bad, but it wasn't excellent, either... the thing was, the custard was still too soft and almost runny, and needed chilling to get firm enough to be served as custard. It also tasted a bit bland - something totally contrary to my expectation, considering all those strong-tasting ingredients used in it. My heart sunk.
And I refrigerated the rest of the custard overnight, and had one again this afternoon. It was still not very firm (it might probably have had something to do with the fact that I used thinner cream), but a lot more custard-like today. This time a little more amount of lime juice, along with the brown sugar, did a great job; The tartness of lime juice gave it snap, even complementing the rather subtle flavors from the spices and coconut milk that had otherwise been too faint. Both of us loved it a lot. (I certainly liked it better chilled, but I tried anyways.)
I had my serving of the custard with a nice cup of Tung Ting Oolong tea from The Republic of Tea; it was distinctly paler in color and milder in taste than any other regular oolong tea I have ever had. Very delicate.
Next time I might try this golden trio of spices/coconut milk/lime in something else, maybe in panna cotta (like Santos did) or mousse or something. Or maybe in baked goods, as well.
posted by chika at: 9/06/2004 10:11:00 AM