What’s Cookin’ at Callie’s Cabin: Tropical Coconut Egg Custard
Through autumn and the winter days I’ve enjoyed a few different recipes for baked egg custard. They all warmed me up, but I craved the perfect homemade custard, an ultimate comfort food. At last, this past week during our snowstorm(s), I created a tropical to-die-for custard. During colder months at Tahoe (thanks to my San Francisco Bay Area roots), I fantasize about vacationing in a warmer climate like at the Big Island or Baja, Mexico. But then, reality sets in and I bundle up and cook up a batch of sweet foods in the Sierra like Tropical Coconut Egg Custard – so I get the best of both worlds.
My mother’s custard dishes were a hit in our home in San Jose when I was a kid. She made custard from scratch for a Boston cream pie, chocolate eclairs, and a coconut custard pie. She was a great “bakeress” (it was like watching the Food Network chefs) and I often was her little worker while she worked her magic in the 60s-style kitchen. It was an art. It was a gift. It was her delicious desserts that warmed our family’s hearts and stomachs during our rainy winter season, and each sweet dish was heavenly like fresh snow falling – like today. I always had a fondness for her simple-but-elegant creamy custard sprinkled with nutmeg, and it was the friendly dessert in the little scalloped custard dishes that wowed me each time it was served to us in the kitchen, dining room or family room.
Keep in mind, egg custard – a concoction of cooked milk and egg spawned from English cuisine since the Middle Ages – boasts both pros and cons if you’re looking for healthful treat. On the upside, custard is calcium-rich, contains protein, vitamin A and other essential nutrients. The downside: Egg custard is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and it does contain sugar. Still, the Mediterranean heart-healthy diet does include eggs in moderation. This, in turn, means that yes, you can enjoy a small portion of egg custard.
I chose to use fresh 2 percent lowfat milk, not condensed milk. I prefer brown eggs, not white eggs, and premium maple syrup (yes, the extra price is worth the effort and taste). More coconut than less is a great addition and the flaked coconut reminds me of snowflakes. Coconut has zero trans fats and zero cholesterol. It’s low in sodium and boasts two grams of fiber per serving size (2 tablespoons). And last, but not least, topping custard with chocolate shavings with a 60 to 70 percent cacao content is a healthy way to add feel-good compounds such as serotonin and phenylethylamine (the love drug). Here is a new, improved 21st-century version of mom’s custard.
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 cup organic milk, 2% low-fat
3 large brown eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup premium maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2-1/4 cup sweetened flake coconut
nutmeg to taste
dark chocolate with 60% cacao, shavings or curls
Combine milk in a saucepan and heat until scalded, but do not boil. Mix eggs, sugar, syrup, vanilla, coconut and put in hot milk. Pour into small round custard cups. Sprinkle nutmeg on top. Place dishes in a pan of water and bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes until firm (In higher altitude it may take a few minutes longer to bake). Cool for about 15 minutes. Top with grated dark chocolate shavings. Serves five to six.
Tropical Coconut Egg Custard tastes best when it’s fresh out of the oven. I served up a small dish of warm custard topped with a small dollop of whipped cream, sprinkled with dark chocolate shavings and fresh sliced strawberries on the side. The oh-so-creamy texture of the custard teamed with chewy, white, sweet coconut and the tropical extras made this easy-to-bake dish a keeper wherever you live.
Custard teamed with seasonal fresh fruit is healthier and tastier, too. Some exotic fruits currently available at your favorite grocery store on the South Shore are budget-friendly bananas, clementines, mangoes and strawberries. Mix and match Tropical Coconut Egg Custard with these naturally sweet fruits rich in vitamin C and low in calories.
Cal Orey is an accomplished author and journalist. Her books include The Healing Powers series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate) published by Kensington. Her Web site is http://www.calorey.com.