Coconut Custard Slices
Sometimes the source is just beneath your nose, and the only reason you don't notice is due to your own mental block. Rose Bakery's Breakfast, Lunch, Tea has sat on my shelf for years. It's filled with enticing photos and recipes from the bakery's Paris location, yet for all the time the book has been with me, I've never viewed it as more than coffee table decor. That tells you something about who I used to be--intimidated by the kitchen, ignorant of the physical know-how required to convert a vague idea of food into a tangible, edible dish. I had back then my favorite San Francisco eateries but nary a clue as to how to fry an egg.
The book came to mind last weekend, as I hunted for something to bake that didn't involve chocolate or cookies. My first sense was, again, intimidation. Although I can now make a decent poached egg and actually care about the quality of my pans, I had a hard time believing the book was meant for something more than just looking. Cooking was for other people, but not for me.
That's the power of mental blocks. When I wonder why I began this blog, I think of those years, with a pinch of disbelief. It's encouraging to know you can evolve.
Harkness Tower, by Michael Marsland
This photo fits the mood. My freshman year view. The next year, I lived beneath that tower, which meant I spied on many a tour group from my bedroom window.
These coconut custard slices remind me of a cloudy day in London (Rose Bakery's founder, Rose Carrarini, did in fact co-found a deli in London prior to Rose Bakery). They taste cool like a gray sky, if that's a permissible description. This is not the coconut of the tropics but a restrained coconut, firmly rooted among stone structures. If that doesn't help, then well, they taste like lemon meringue pie, except the bracing shot of lemon is quickly subdued by the subtle yet unmistakable flavor of coconut.
Coconut Custard Slices
Adapted from Breakfast, Lunch, Tea from Rose Bakery
Makes 15-20 squares
For the Crust
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
For the Filling
1 cup white sugar
1 cup dried coconut (plus more for a last minute sprinkle, if desired)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups single (light) cream
2/3 cup coconut milk
Zest and juice of 2 limes
- PREP | Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8x11-inch pan with parchment paper.
- CRUST | Beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla extract, and lemon zest, and thoroughly combine. Then fold in the flour, pinch of salt, and the baking powder. Press this mixture into the bottom of the pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until light golden in color. Remove from the oven and set the pan aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
- FILLING | When the crust is about halfway done baking, you can start making your filling. Whisk together the eggs and sugar, then add the dried coconut, flour, cream, coconut milk, and lime zest and juice. Mix thoroughly. Pour the filling over the crust in the pan, being sure to evenly distribute.
- BAKE | Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until the filling has set. Let everything cool completely before you cut into slices. Sprinkle more dried coconut on top before serving, if desired.
- Rose Bakery calls for greasing the pan prior to lining it with parchment paper, but I didn't find this step necessary.
- I made two ingredient substitutions with no obviously bad result. I used whole milk instead of light cream, regular granulated white sugar instead of superfine sugar, and - The original recipe calls for superfine sugar, but I didn't have any on hand. White granulated sugar still turned out okay.
- Unsweetened dried coconut works fine for this recipe. I'm not sure how using sweetened coconut would alter the flavor. If you don't care for overly sweet desserts, maybe you could adjust the amount of white sugar.
- There was a near disaster when I tried to just use half of a sheet pan, forgetting that the filling is essentially a thick LIQUID. Do find a pan that's about the recommended size, and make sure the sides are high enough to accommodate all the filling.
- I considered adding pureed mango to the custard but worried about the resulting texture. However, you might consider ways to incorporate other flavors yourself!