Engaged in some après-winter preemptive weeding and pruning of the strawberry plants, raspberry canes, currant and blackberry bushes, so I'm already anticipating the summer harvests. With a little help, I candied the violets gathered from the now vividly green meadow, so I'm anticipating the cake or two that'll be decorated with these sparkly little flowers.I've an ear infection, I'm sore and I absolutely have to see my doctor tomorrow, but none of that matters, because I'm off to Barcelona, and I'm gleefully anticipating all that means. You know, evening promenades, citrus sangria made with cava, tapas galore--god forbid before ten p.m.; gothic little streets in Gaudí's city, with buildings emerging whole from some wild utopian dream of what a structure might be; and the catalan language, so full of x's that flummox those of us silly enough to imagine it remotely resembles Spanish. Yes, that Barcelona. As I'll have no internet access, let me leave you something that will serve very well one of these cool-ish spring evenings.
(While I may well return bearing advice for crema catalana,) I offer you today a crème caramel. The workhorse of the French bistro, the ubiquitous dessert (actually usually called a crème renversée au caramel in France) gets a Vietnamese lift in this deeply rich, oh-so-smooth version made with coconut milk. I found this easy little gem in Corinne Trang's delightfully comprehensive, pan-Asian Essentials of Asian Cuisine. My only modification was to reduce maple syrup rather than making a caramel sauce. It's a snap to make and so rewarding, please do try it, and let me know what you think.
I'll be back in a week, at which point I'll also post a photo. It's just the kind of dessert that is always set upon and devoured before it occurs to me that I should perhaps track down my camera.
Crème caramel au noix de coco (Coconut Crème Caramel)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup milk
Reduce the maple syrup by about half in a saucepan over medium heat. The syrup should actively bubble and the reduction take 5-8 minutes, with no stirring necessary. Remove from the heat and divide the thickened syrup among four custard dishes or other oven-proof 1/2 cup recipients. Tilt the dishes to evenly coat the bottom and partly up the sides.
Preheat oven to 140C/275F. Meanwhile, whisk 1/4 cup sugar and the eggs until well-combined. Add the coconut milk and cow's milk, and continue to whisk until smooth and the sugar is completely dissolved. Divide the mixture among the custard dishes. Make a bain-marie (water bath) by filling a larger baking dish halfway with water. Place the four dishes in it and bake until the custards have set, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to come to room temperature still in the water-filled baking dish.
Once cooled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 12 hours, preferably 24 or more, as it sets less firmly than a standard custard. To serve, loosen the edges gently with a knife and turn out onto plates, so that the maple caramel is on top. Serve well-chilled.