Coconut Madness Debrief

Well it seems there won’t be any end to the photography problem anytime soon (what they heck did I do to my software?). But that’s not to say I can’t still run my fingers about what went right and wrong with this weekend’s dessert adventure. As you may recall, I was planning a (fairly) standard crème brûlée (i.e. made in a ramekin) infused with coconut and laced with rum, and on the side, an old-school coconut macaroon. At the last minute, however, I got more ambitious and decided to try a tart-bottomed crème brûlée made in a ring. How did that go?

Well let’s just say I’m glad I attempted 8 when I only needed 4, because I only got 3. The main problem was that the tart dough shrank up quite a bit during the par-baking, so much so that the edge of the dough circle receded under the edge of the ring (creating an incomplete bottom), or the dough inside the ring receded inward, creating tears. The reason for this is fairly straightforward: I was using scrap dough instead of fresh made.

What does that have to do with it? Simply that any dough that’s been worked even a little (poked, pinched, folded, balled up, rolled, what-have-you) will have at least a little (and probably a lot of) activated gluten in it. That gluten will cause the dough to shrink to at least some extent as it’s baking. I allowed for this by giving it lots of relaxation time, but I still lost three out of eight dough circles in the par baking stage. The other two simply leaked, since all that shrinking caused quite a bit of dough cracking. Still, it was a worthy effort, and the ones that worked were spectacular.

The macaroons looked great. As I mentioned last week, I love that fluffy dust mop presentation of a coconut macaroon. Especially when it’s the large-flake coconut, and more so if the coconut has been toasted, they’re fantastic looking things. And the texture contrast was spot-on. I will say that I put a bit too much rum in the custard, which make it a tad soft (and rather strong to boot), but that’s not a big deal. Next time though, I’ll cut back the rum to 1 1/2 teaspoons per cup of half n’ half.

2 thoughts on “Coconut Madness Debrief”

  1. I know that this is a very old post, but I came over today to read your Crème Brulee wisdom to see if I find an answer to something I’ve been wondering about *, and thought I’d give post a note anyway. One way to minimize that shrinkage in the crust during blind baking is by introducing particles in the form of, say, ground nuts, or in this case coconut would have been a perfect solution. They greatly minimize the shrinkage by preventing the gluten from exercising its rights. I think it would have worked to a noticeable effect even with the scrap dough, if you broke it into small pieces and mixed the coconut in prior to rolling and lining the pans. ( Dad studied architecture and the detailed lecture on reinforced concrete (among others) proved useful in my baking :))
    * Just so I don’t leave a shady comment, I was wondering whether when baking custardsin the oven that are composed of dairy and an uneven proportion of yolks and whites, any of the components (namely the whites) have a tendency to float to the top during the early time of waterbath baking, before any tensile strength is created?

    1. Fantastic advice, Dani! Amazing how many fundamentals from architecture and contracting apply to pastry, isn’t it? Thanks for the terrific comment.

      Regarding your question, that can indeed happen…egg and milk/cream separating a bit. The trick there is to whip, whip the two together with a fork so the mixture is as homogenous as possible. Try to whip under the surface of the liquid so as not to incorporate too much air. You can create a temporary emulsion that way (leveraging the egg yolk lecithin) that will hold long enough for the custard to set up.

      Hope that helps!

      – Joe

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