What is Coconut Cream?
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.
I have a wonderful recipe for a coconut cake which calls for coconut milk. The cake is wonderful the day it's baked but tends to harden each day thereafter. Keeping it in the fridge keeps it fresh but I can't seem to figure out why it's firming up like it does. It's not drying out; the cake layers are hardening. I can only assume that it has to do with the coconut milk. Any suggestions?
Apparently you can't freeze coconut cream or milk because it will give food a curdled appearance upon defrosting and cooking with it.
I use any unused coconut cream with rices the next day or with desserts.
@ SHakama- What do you use your coconut cream for? I love the flavor it adds to foods and I am trying to find more recipes that use it. I have had it in ice cream and curry, and I use it in a delicious cake recipe that I found a couple years back.
The coconut cream cake recipe is great. It is actually called a pandon chiffon cake because it uses a special paste called pandon (you can find it in Asian foods markets). The recipe is very similar to a white chiffon cake recipe (cake batter folded into egg whites), but it uses coconut cream and pandon. The cake is a spongy, lime green cake that has a distinct tropical taste. I think the dish is from Southeast Asia, but I first had the cake at a little bakery in Hawaii.
@ Shakama- Coconut cream holds very well in the freezer. When refrigerated, fresh coconut cream has the best flavor if you use it within the first week, but it can hold for at least two if you have it sealed tight and your refrigerator is cold. Another alternative is to buy coconut milk with the cream included, although the amount of cream per can is only a few tablespoons. The cans have at least an 18-month shelf life though, and the cream is usually sweet and rich tasting. Just stick the can in the refrigerator for 24 hours before opening and the cream will float to the top.
what is the best way to store unused portions of coconut cream? Can it be frozen? How long does it stay fresh in the fridge?
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