Tembleque (means jiggly in Spanish) is a typical holiday puertorrican dessert. Everybody loves Tembleque! Once again, my grandmother Ita makes the best one, but she is getting older and has not made it for a couple of years, so guess who has stepped in to make the holiday Tembleque…?
This dessert is creamy, jiggly and melts in your mouth. Its main ingredient is coconut milk (not to be confused with coconut cream which has sugar) and is readily available canned in the supermarket. However, I recommend that you make your own coconut milk for best results. All Tembleques are not created equal. The ones made with canned coconut milk are more dense and the ones made with fresh coconut milk are lighter and taste better. I can assure you the aroma that fills the air while making the coconut milk is totally worth it, not to mention the delicious flavor. Besides, its not that hard to make. Simply, buy dried coconut, pick one that still has some water inside (just shake it a bit to feel if it has liquid) and follow the instructions I provide in this post or use your own technique, being careful not to cut yourself. However, you can always put it in a plastic bag and hit against the floor if you don’t mind that the coconut is broken in many pieces. Regarding the orange flower water (agua de azahar), I put it as an optional ingredient because sometimes I can’t find it. Check in your nearest supermarket, health food store or pharmacy, I sometimes find it near the hydrogen peroxide. In addition, I like to add about a tablespoon of leftover coconut flakes from the coconut milk making process to my Tembleque, but omit if you don’t like it. It is very important that the mold in which you pour the mixture is wet. I use either an 8×8 inch crystal mold or a jelly ring mold. Save the remaining shredded coconut flakes to make Polvo de Amor (Love dust) or Besitos de Coco (Coconut Kisses).
I dare to say, this recipe makes the best Tembleque in the world!!! Try it and let me know how it goes…. Feliz Navidad!
Homemade coconut milk
First, tap one of the 3 eyes in the end of the coconut with a hammer or screwdriver to open and drain water. Drink the coconut water or save it to make some rice that afternoon, do not discard, it is highly nutritious and good for you. Second, tap with the back of a cleaver along the equator of the dried coconut and turn little by little pounding around the whole coconut until it cracks open. Carefully take meat out with pairing knife by continously separating skin from the coconut shell’s border towards the inside. Peel any brown skin stuck to the white coconut meat. Shred peeled coconut meat with a grater by hand or in food processor with shredding attachment. Place shredded coconut into a large bowl. Meanwhile, heat 4 cups of water in a saucepan and pour over the shredded coconut flakes. Stir with a wooden spoon for about 1 minute until all coconut flakes are soaked in the water. Let rest for about 3 minutes. Drain through a large mesh strainer or a cheesecloth. I press the flakes with my potato masher and then with my bare hands (be careful not to get burned, since the water is hot) to squeeze out the last drops of coconut milk. Add water if you need to complete 4 cups measurement.
3 cups of canned coconut milk
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of cornstarch (Maizena)
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon of fine sea salt
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of orange flower (agua de azahar) optional
1 tbsp coconut flakes (optional), use leftovers form the coconut milk making process
ground cinnamon to sprinkle
Place all ingredients in a saucepan and beat with a whisk until de cornstarch is dissolved. Place in the stovetop and stir continuously over med-hi heat until is thickens and has a creamy consistency. I use a whisk or wooden spoon. It will take about 5-8 minutes. Pour mixture in an 8×8 inch crystal mold or a jelly ring mold. Make sure the mold is wet. Run the mold through water and shake off excess water then proceed to pour mix. Let cool and refrigerate for at least 5 hours or overnight. Flip over to a nice serving plate and sprinkle with ground cinnamon.