I have a spotty relationship with custards. Crème brûlée: love. Rice pudding: hate. Flan: love in any flavor but plain. Panna cotta: I'm a fan but secretly think it's just an Italian knockoff of flan (shh). So, when a search for recipes to use up some leftover coconut milk brought me to Coconut Crème Brûlée I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to re-enter the world of custard (Custard World?) and also put myself in a tropical state of mind, since the 4 inches of ice and snow outside coating the ground and my car are not exactly uplifting at the moment. Unfortunately, I didn't have any toasted coconut or mango to accompany these but those would be great additions if you try out this recipe at home.
I know that crème brûlée might be intimidating because A) it's a French dessert and B) most recipes call for a kitchen torch to "brûlée" the top. But I'm here to tell you that this dessert is SO simple. I mean, really, it's just this side of pudding--don't tell the French--and what culinarily independent 6-year-old can't make pudding? And also, you can crisp the sugary top crust just as easily by using your oven's broiler. On the other hand, a kitchen torch is possibly one of the better Christmas gifts I have ever received even though I'm pretty sure I've only ever used it to make crème brûlée (but I'm starting to think that homemade smores might be a possibility...)
Whenever I lightly crack the top of a crème brulée (a la Amelie) it is always certain to take me back to my time in Paris, but I am specifically reminded of a lunch with friends when one of our group suddenly looked up from his crème brûlée to announce "Crème Brûlée! I get it!" After a full three months of living in France he had never realized that crème brûlée was so named because it is, in fact, crème...brûlée (literally, burned cream). Ah, Marcelo from Florianopolis, wherever you are this one goes out to you...
*One note, I recommend Thai Kitchen brand coconut milk because it has a higher concentration of coconut than other brands. Also be SURE to shake the can before opening or stir thoroughly before using.
Coconut Crème Brûlée
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup milk
4 egg yolks
1 Tbs cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbs brown sugar for crust
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a small pot, gently heat the coconut milk and regular milk.
3. In a medium bowl, mix the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla until it forms a smooth paste. Slowly add about 1 cup of the hot mixture to the bowl and stir well. Return all of this to the pan of remaining hot milk.
4. Cook until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
5. Pour into 4 6-ounce ovenproof ramekins or custard cups and place in a roasting pan filled with 2" of hot water. Bake for 20 minutes then chill for 2-3 hours.
6. When ready to serve, turn on broiler and sprinkle 1 Tbs of brown sugar over the top of each cup. Broil 2-5 minutes until the sugar has caramelized, watch closely as the topping can burn easily.