This rich dessert uses only the solid coconut cream found at the top of canned unsweetened coconut milk. Do not shake the can before opening; simply scoop out the white cream with a spoon, and place it in a measuring cup. Reserve coconut milk for another use.
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut cream (from one 13-ounce can coconut milk)
- 2 1/4 cups whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 5 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons coconut flakes, toasted (optional)
Preheat oven to 325. Set out eight 6-ounce ramekins, and prepare an ice-water bath. Bring 1 cup sugar and the water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Continue to cook, without stirring, brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming, until syrup is medium amber, about 8 minutes. Immediately submerge bottom of pan in ice-water bath to stop cooking. Working quickly, pour a thin layer into each ramekin, swirling to coat bottom. (You won't use all the caramel; discard the remaining.) Place ramekins in a roasting pan.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Remove from heat, and cover. Bring coconut cream and milk to a boil in a saucepan, whisking to combine; remove from heat. Whisk together remaining cup sugar, the salt, and eggs in a bowl. Whisking, gradually add coconut mixture. Whisk in vanilla. Pour through a fine sieve into a large liquid measuring cup, and divide among prepared ramekins.
Add enough reserved hot water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins. Carefully transfer to oven, and bake until just set, 55 to 60 minutes. Transfer ramekins to a wire rack to cool. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 6 hours (or overnight). Let stand at room temperature about 10 minutes before unmolding. Run a thin knife around edge of each flan, and invert onto a plate. Garnish with coconut flakes if desired.