This weekend, the MoFo Iron Chef Challenge was to create a dish using coconut in any of its various forms - shredded, fresh, milk, extracts, etc. Since all kinds of dishes can be made with coconut, from savory curries and chutneys to sweet cakes and treats, I had a difficult time narrowing it down. So many choices!
Then it occurred to me: Why not attempt to make something that I really, really want to eat? I mean, go figure, right?
As it turned out, when I followed the trail of my cravings it led me to a beverage, not a food. It's all well and good though, because this warm and cozy vegan white hot chocolate was the perfect afternoon snack, and I can easily imagine myself sipping it during the cold months while enjoying my cats, a pile of blankets and a good book.
What I love about this white hot chocolate is that you don't actually need vegan white chocolate, which is very elusive, especially when you live in the boonies like I do. To impart that creamy, chocolate-y taste, though, you do need a very important, key ingredient - cacao butter. There simply is no substitution for it if you're looking for a white chocolate experience. Happily, cacao butter is much easier to find than vegan white chocolate chips, and it's great as a moisturizer too (I make a body cream with coconut oil, cacao butter and olive oil).
I made my own homemade coconut milk for this recipe which I'll share below, but a coconut milk carton (or a can diluted with some water) would work just dandy, too. In this recipe, I used half coconut milk and half almond milk, because I find the taste of fresh coconut milk by itself to be quite overwhelming. The addition of almond milk rounds out the flavor of this drink very nicely, balancing the coconut and adding depth.
If you are using store-bought coconut milk, it might be nice to add a drop or two of coconut extract, as I find that the store-bought stuff doesn't really have a pronounced coconut flavor. But no matter how coconutty you make this drink, it'll be freakin' awesome. I promise.
Vegan White Hot Chocolate with Coconut Milk
Makes 2 12-oz servings
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (homemade recipe below)
1 1/2 cups almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
24 grams cacao butter, shaved (roughly 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons light agave
2 teaspoons vanilla
Cinnamon, for serving
1. In a small pot over medium heat, combine the coconut milk, almond milk and cacao butter. Stir frequently until the cacao butter has melted, which will only take a few minutes. As soon as it melts, remove it from the heat and add the agave and vanilla.
(At this stage, the cacao butter will not be emulsified in the liquid, since the fat will float on top of the liquid. It's all good though, since the second step takes care of this.)
2. Pour the contents of the pot into a blender and blend until the mixture becomes completely smooth and frothy, somewhere in the ballpark of 30 seconds. Pour it into two mugs, sprinkle the top of the drink with cinnamon, and serve immediately.
Blending the mixture might seem like an annoying second step since it dirties another dish, but it's really worth it here, not only for emulsifying the fat, but also for whipping those nice frothy air bubbles into the drink.
Homemade Coconut Milk
Makes 1 1/2 cups
Combine 3/4 cup dried and unsweetened shredded coconut in a blender with 3/4 cup hot water, and blend for about a minute. Be sure to let some of the steam escape from the lid so you don't have pressure building up inside the blender! Strain the mixture into a medium bowl with a nut milk bag, cheesecloth, or a fine mesh sieve. Return the coconut pulp to the blender, add another 3/4 cup hot water, and blend again. Strain the liquid into the bowl once more and discard the pulp. Now you have coconut milk!
A note: Coconut milk separates in the fridge, so if you have some leftover, you might find that your milk develops a solid top layer, with translucent liquid below it. This is a normal separation of fat from water, and I just give it another blend to re-emulsify it.
Well I hope you're all having a fancy and relaxing weekend filled with oodles of yummy food! See you on the flip side, which happens to be tomorrow. :)