Childhood memories kick-in every now and then. The other day, my family celebrated my grandmother’s 76th birthday and even though I was not able to attend, I did talk to her over the phone for a very long while. The chief subject: a recount of comical memories since her childhood. One of the things we both agreed on: She got me into loving coconut, in every way. She wasn’t the only one though. My grandfather would climb, don’t ask me how, the palm trees in their backyard to fetch fresh, water-filled coconuts every single time we visited over the summer. He would skillfully chop the top layers and poke a hole in the center, from which deliciously sweet water poured. Inside the green coconut, one could scoop out delicate, yet tasty flesh. Delicious.
Any who, it was my grandmother that got me into coconut sweets. Among them, tembleque de coco, was the easiest to find, as well as to eat. Not surprising, since this coconut pudding of sorts, is embedded to the very culture of Puerto Rico. I don’t think there’s a bakery in the island that does not offer a variant of this dish lightly dusted with ground cinnamon. The variants I refer to mostly differ in the rigidity of the pudding. The word tembleque actually alludes to the jiggling motion (yes, that is an actual word) that the pudding has as you poke or move it along its sides. Some people prefer this rigid version, as opposed to a softer one. The first time I remember trying tembleque de coco, I asked my grandmother if it was coconut Jello®. Indeed, it looked like white gelatin. Not that I did not like it, but a few months later I tried another variant, a more pudding or mousse-like tembleque; and I loved it. Of course, my grandmother enjoyed it too. ;-)
In light of the recent occasion, it seems right to make this mousse(y) tembleque de coco. In fact, I’ll be making some again as a gift for my super grandmother this weekend. Hopefully, we won’t eat all of it before the rest of the family arrives. Then again, it will be her gift. No reason to share, right?
This recipe yields enough pudding for 6 – 8 people. To make the gelatin-like tembleque de coco see the notes at the end of the recipe.
Tools and Equipment
Pot or medium saucepan
Electric mixer (optional)
2 1/2 C Coconut milk, divided (Not coconut cream!)
1/4 C Coconut cream *See notes below.
1/4 C Granulated sugar
1/4 C Cornstarch
1/4 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Vanilla extract
1/4 Tsp Almond extract (optional)
Toasted coconut flakes and/or cinnamon, for garnish.
- Combine half the coconut milk with the cornstarch in a separate bowl and whisk until smooth, though small clumps may set in the bottom. Not to worry.
- In a saucepan, pour the rest of the coconut milk and set to medium heat. When it starts to boil, add the sugar, salt, and coconut cream. Let it reach a boil once more.
- Add in the cornstarch slurry in a slow, steady stream, while vigorously whisking the heated mixture until it starts to thicken. Add the extracts.
- When it starts thickening, lower the heat to medium-low, and let it sit for 20 seconds, without whisking. Then whisk again for 10 seconds. Repeat this two times. It should thicken significantly.
- Transfer to serving recipient and refrigerate for at least three hours.
– OR –
For a more fluffy, delicate coconut pudding, transfer the mixture to a cold metal bowl and chill for at least three hours. Before serving, whip it using an electric mixer and serve.
Notes: * An alternative I prefer to use, instead of coconut cream, is to chill a can of coconut milk over night and remove the cream from its almost-solidified state at the top of the can. I use the rest in making sauces and soups. This makes for not-ridiculously sweet cream.
To make the gelatin-like tembleque, double the amount of corn starch, let it sit on low heat for 2 extra minutes after thickening to your desired consistency and refrigerate in a shallow bowl or serve ware.