Coconut cream is a very thick, rich creamy food product made from coconut. It should not be confused with coconut milk, a closely related food, or cream of coconut, a product which is made in a very different way. Many Asian markets carry this product, and it can also be made at home, assuming that one has access to whole coconuts or raw shredded coconut which has not been treated. For cooks who have trouble obtaining coconut products, several Internet retailers specialize in Asian ingredients like coconut milk, along with unique spices.
The process for making coconut milk and coconut cream is very similar. In both cases, the food is made by shredding coconut, adding enough water or cream to cover, and then simmering it until the mixture begins to bubble. After the mixture is cool enough to handle, it is poured through a cheesecloth-lined strainer, and the cheesecloth is tightly compressed to squeeze out as much water as possible. Typically, coconut can be run through several heating and pressing cycles, producing a progressively diluted end product. The shredded coconut left behind can be toasted and used in other recipes, while the liquid is coconut milk.
To produce coconut cream, the coconut milk is allowed to stand for at least 24 hours in a chilled environment. The solid section which rises to the top is the cream, and it can be skimmed off and placed in a new container, leaving light coconut milk behind. Coconut cream is essentially a highly concentrated form of coconut milk with very little water.
This food is extremely rich, thanks to the concentration. It can be used on its own, or it may be blended with water, coconut milk, or regular milk to make coconut milk. The advantage of using coconut cream to make coconut milk is that coconut cream takes up less space in the kitchen while it is being stored, which can be useful when cooks have a limited amount of space to work with.
Cream of coconut is made by pureeing coconut flesh to make a highly concentrated product with almost no water. It is extremely rich, very dense, and often hard because it is solid at room temperature, and it hardens up in cool weather or in dry conditions. Blocks of cream of coconut can be found for sale at some Asian grocers, and people with very powerful blenders can also make this coconut product at home.