Coconut Cream Topping

Pumpkin Pie with Coconut Cream 005If you are not happy with the vegan options for a whipped-type topping (cashew creme, tofu-based items, etc.) because they add a funny taste or texture, then this is the recipe for you!  As long as you like coconut flavor, that is.  🙂  I find it accompanies just about any dessert well, with the mild coconut flavor melding seamlessly.

These days I couldn’t be happier about eating coconut in any way possible with all the health benefits of coconut being touted.  My two favorite coconutty things to consume are coconut milk (from a carton, not a can) and this recipe of coconut cream.  And the recipes you can make with canned coconut milk…magic!

The down side to recipes using canned coconut milk is the sheer variety of consistencies you can find from can to can, even of the same brand purchased on the same day.  If you have followed any recipes that tell you to refrigerate your canned coconut milk and then carefully open it and scoop out the thickened, separated cream, you may know what I’m talking about.  Nothing is more frustrating than to find your can never really completely separated.  You have incredibly thick creamy coconut milk in your can, but if you needed the solids, well, you’re outta luck!  This is why I keep several cans in my fridge at all times.  I can always open another can…unless it, too, is unseparated (it’s happened to me!)

Here’s a secret I’ve found that helps.  Do not come home from the grocery store with your bag filled with coconut milk and toss the cans immediately into the refrigerator.  Nope.  Leave them setting on the countertop (so you don’t forget to refrigerate them later) for at least a day or two.  Then you can chill them.  This gives them time after all the shake up from the grocery cart, to your car, to your home to separate again.  (I’ve even toyed with the idea of laying them on their side so that when you open them up you can pour the liquid out easily.  Some people open the “wrong” side of the can since the liquid is on the bottom, but my hand-held can opener won’t accommodate the slightly different bottom of the cans.)  Leave them chilling for at least 8 hours before you use them.

There are also differences in how much thickened cream rises to the top of the can.  Sometimes it’s just not as much and, therefore, your recipe is lacking some volume.  I have to say that some brands are guiltier of this issue than others.  My favorite kind is listed in the next paragraph.  They have been relatively consistent with their fat content.

There is only one brand of which I’m aware that does not contain BPA in their cans ~ Native Forest.  The bonus is that they are oftentimes a little less expensive, too.  For the best quality, taste, and such, stick with the organic, and do NOT get “lite” for this recipe.
UPDATE 4/25/2019:  Whole Foods’ brand of coconut milk is my new go-to.  They are more consistent in how much thick cream is in each can.  Sometimes it is so hard that I have to use much more of the liquid from the can to make fluffy whipped “cream.”

IF you get a can that is not solid and you don’t have an extra can to open, don’t despair.  You can always either use it as is and treat it like a drizzle topping, or you can add some powdered sugar to help firm things up a bit.  (Don’t add too much, or you’ll have frosting and it will be ever so sicky sweet.)

This recipe is a bit subjective.  You have to dip a spoon tip (or your finger ~ gasp!) into the mixture to taste it.  You want this to be your style to go with your recipe.  Not everyone likes things as sweet as I do.  🙂

I find that one can will top one large pie if you use about the amount in the picture above on each slice.

Coconut Cream Topping

  • 1 or 2 cans of refrigerated (for at least 8 hours) full-fat canned coconut milk, organic Native Forest or Whole Foods’ brands are preferred
  • powdered vanilla (or regular vanilla, but this will thin and darken your topping more), to taste
  • evaporated cane juice crystals or other dry sweetener, to taste *UPDATE: maple syrup or pure stevia powder also work nicely.  It doesn’t have to be much.

Carefully open the coconut milk and scoop out the hardened cream into a small mixing bowl.  If it is super firm, you will also want to add a little bit of the liquid.  Don’t worry if a little of the liquid comes along when you are finding all of the thickened pieces.  (I’ve even found some of the hardened parts in the bottom of the can for some reason!  Dig for them.)  It is better to add a small amount at first, and increase it if you need it.  Typically, if I’m making a triple batch, I’ll end up using the liquid from a whole can.  Reserve the leftover liquid portion to add to smoothies, or other recipes later.

Sprinkle in the powdered vanilla (for each can of milk you use, you’ll probably want the equivalent of 1 tsp. of vanilla) and the sweetener to taste.  Whip with an electric mixer until fluffy and the sugar has dissolved.  Taste and add more vanilla and/or sweetener if you wish.  Keep in mind that whipping the cream warms and softens it.  It will thicken back up upon chilling.  If you need to add a little more of the coconut milk liquid, do so.  Refrigerate to refirm the coconut cream for several hours.  Keep refrigerated when not serving.

If your can of chilled coconut milk was superbly hard and came out in stiff chunks that (almost?) flipped off of your spoon as you dug it out, you will need more of the liquid from the can.  You also may find that it is harder to get a smooth cream to whip up if it is incredibly hard out of the can.  (Notice in the picture above that there are tiny blobs in it ~ those are harder pieces of coconut milk that wouldn’t blend in…because I wasn’t patient enough last night to make it happen.)  Be patient if you can.  It doesn’t matter if it melts down more, because you will be chilling it.  You can always briefly re-whip it before you serve it if necessary.  If absolutely necessary, you can serve it immediately, but it will be softer than if you had chilled it again.

If it seems very stiff when you serve it, please keep in mind that a few minutes at room temperature will begin to soften the edges some on top of your chosen dessert.  You can also stir it heartily to loosen it up some, or add some more of the reserved liquid.  The batch pictured on the pie above was pretty stiff this morning when I scooped it up, but it looks so pretty with the curl on top!

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