We have heard of coconut water as a healthy drink, and coconut milk as an ingredient in curries, but have you ever cooked with coconut cream? It is thick and creamy and can be used as a sweet thickening agent for smoothies and soups, or can be whipped up to create a coconut whipped cream. It is available in cans in the supermarket (in the international foods aisle), but it is actually easy to make your own coconut cream at home.
Although they can be used together in some recipes, do not confuse coconut milk or coconut water fresh from the coconut with coconut cream. Coconut cream is made from the coconut flesh--when it is squeezed in hot water and then cooled, you are left with both the coconut milk and the coconut cream. The thick, white coconut cream rises to the top, separating from the coconut milk, which is clear and watery.
If you can't find or don't want to use a fresh coconut, you can also make coconut cream from canned or packaged flaked coconut.
- 1 coconut, shell removed and flesh grated (or 2.5 ounces fresh grated coconut), coconut water reserved
- Enough cream or milk so when added to reserved coconut water it measures 1 quart
- In a heavy saucepan, cover the grated coconut with the coconut water and milk or cream mixture. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring often. Turn off heat, cover with a lid and let cool to room temperature.
- Place a sieve or strainer over a large bowl. Line it with a double layer of cheesecloth. Pour the soaked coconut with its liquid into the lined strainer. Lift the cheesecloth, pull the edges together, and squeeze out the coconut cream into the bowl.
- The remaining coconut flesh may be air-dried and/or toasted for other uses.
- Refrigerate the coconut cream and use within 5 days. Use coconut cream in savory dishes, desserts and drinks.