While I may take it back in November, Easter is my favorite eating holiday. With no menu set in stone, the variety of colors and texture from the markets jump on the plate and like landing in Oz, someone, somewhere turns on the technicolor. While spring officially started weeks ago, the end of lent and celebration of Easter marks the time we’re officially allowed to enjoy it – unless that’s just my guilt talking.This year I had my own change of scenery, spending the holiday in San Juan, Puerto Rico for a favorite cousin’s wedding. A few months ago, her sister Patri (also a favorite) had sent me a recipe for tembleque that I’d been dying to try. In anticipation of my trip and looking for a dessert that would work both for Easter and possibly Passover, I made it just before leaving.
Normally, I’m drearily practical about buying flowers. Even in spring, I opt for fresh herbs I can eat instead of pretty flowers I can’t. After an awful winter, I just can’t make myself care about being practical, bringing home spray roses, tulips, and daffodils at every opportunity. Of course, I don’t really need to choose, so it was only a matter of time before I was adding dried lavender and fresh edible flowers to a recipe for torrejas with lavender honey syrup I posted on Devour the Blog. I had a few to spare and decided to add them to this dessert as well. A blank slate of trembling coconut custard, I loved the color they added. Now that I’d ditched the sensible snow boots and heatech layers, I couldn’t have enough flowers.
Adapted from Carmen Aboy Valldejuli’s Puerto Rican Cookery. Full disclosure, I actually have a box of instant tembleque somewhere in the pantry. I can’t imagine why I would need to use it because it’s possibly the simplest dessert I’ve ever made. It sets up so quickly and with no eggs to worry about, you don’t need to panic about cooking it too fast or scrambling the pudding. I used individual custard molds but decided to pour the last cup into my flower mold baking pan from Williams-Sonoma, an impulse buy from a previous Easter that’s always given me trouble. The custard flowers unmolded beautifully with a few taps. I briefly considered taking video instead of pictures to capture the gentle shake when you spoon into it but you’ll have to see it for yourself.
4 cups fresh or canned coconut milk
½ cup cornstarch
2/3 cups of sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon dried lavender, well wrapped and tied in a square of cheese cloth (optional)
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
Ground cinnamon or nutmeg to sprinkle (optional)
Rinse 8” mold or individual custard cups with cold water and set aside.
In a large heavy saucepan, combine cornstarch with one cup of coconut milk until well blended. Add remaining coconut milk, sugar, salt, and lavender sachet (if using) and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil. Immediately lower heat and whisk vigorously until thick. Remove lavender sachet if using and stir in orange blossom water. Immediately pour into prepared molds. Allow to cool slightly then refrigerate until set.
When ready to serve, unmold by carefully sliding the knife along the edges to loosen and inverting over a serving plate. It can be coaxed out but you get a cleaner line if you let it drop. Sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg or both to serve.