Dani Goes South.

vanilla bean

Coconut Creme Brulee

SweetsDani ColombattoComment
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The time has finally come for dresses, warm-night-walks, laying next to lakes and oceans (with copious SPF), and coconut scented EVERYTHING. I can hardly contain my excitement- though, I won't lie to you: my first Texas summer kicked my ass. Within 2 days of moving here my legs were covered, and I mean COVERED in 60+ (I counted) mosquito bites. I remember crying to Ben "THIS IS NOT WHAT I MOVED HERE FOR!!!!" I'm laughing now, but at the time...I was NAT having it., to say the least. Luckily, this summer we are planning ahead with a few getaways on the docket we couldn't be more excited for- one being Maui. YAAAAS. I actually haven't been since my junior year of high school (Wow, that sentence makes me feel old!), and my wheels are already turning with outfit ideas, where to grab the best poke, and thoughts of pina coladas by the pool (again, with copious SPF). 

Since we've got a few months until said Hawaiian getaway, I'm bringing a healthy dose of island flavors home with these coconut creme brulees. You guys, I kid you not, this dessert tastes like a straight-up vacation. Vanilla-flecked coconut custard is our base for a crunchy, caramelized, sugar shell, and charred pineapple and strawberries. I almost named this pina colada creme brulee, but truth be told, it tastes equally like a lava flow so I was torn between the two. Please grab your nearest tropical button-down, and accompany me to coconut creme brulee town.

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Preheat your oven to 325F. Scrape the seeds from 2 vanilla beans, and reserve the pods. To a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, add your coconut milk, cream, vanilla bean seeds and pods, and coconut extract. Choosing the right coconut extract is key here, and this is kind of the one situation I'm going to advise you to go tacky, and stick with that imitation coconut, baby-doll! It truly brings all of those being on a beach, smelling sunscreen vibes, which is exactly what we are trying to achieve here. Don't go with the real stuff. It's too subtle. Again, literally the one time I'll probably ever say that sentence, hah!

Bring to a boil, and remove from the heat immediately once brought to a boil. Whisk together your eggs, along with 5 tbs of your sugar until well combined. Slowly whisk the heated cream mixture into your eggs and sugar, making sure to stir constantly. Try and add a little at a time as your whisking so you temper your eggs, and don't scramble them. Divide your mixture among 4-5 heat-safe ramekins placed in a baking dish. If you want, you could probably divide this mixture into 6-7 smaller vessels. You would just need to adjust your baking times accordingly. Pour enough warm water into the baking dish so that it goes halfway up your ramekins. 

Bake until the center of your creme brulee is just about set. Since the bake time is directly related to the height of your vessel, bake 10 minutes for every half inch of height. Example: For a 2 inch vessel, bake the creme brulees for 40 minutes. 

After baking, remove from the water bath, and allow to completely cool before transferring to the refrigerator. Allow to refrigerate about 30 minutes before serving, although, you can totally leave them in the fridge overnight, and torch them immediately before serving.

Speaking of torching, for that portion of the program, simply sprinkle each ramekin of cooled custard with a heaping tablespoon of granulated sugar, and light it up!  

To serve, I kept with the general vacation vibes of this creme brulee, and torched up some strawberries and pineapple, because, as per previous mention, I wanted this to taste like an island cocktail, sans booze. However, feel free to make some freshly whipped cream, switch up the fruit sitch, add a sprinkle of powdered sugar- something chocolate would even be amazing here. This isn't really a space for rules. 

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The custard is so perfectly cool, light and creamy, it seems like it's been whipped for hours, but in reality, it comes together in a flash, and is such a good compliment to the hot, crunchy, sugar. The light torching of the fruit releases their sugars, and gets them macerating quickly, and almost becomes a super light sauce as you're eating it. Not mad. 

Speaking of vacays, I'm off to a quick little getaway in San Clemente, CA, and couldn't be more excited! I get to hang with most of my fam, and we're even taking a little unprecedented trip to Disneyland with all the cousins and their littles- I'm SO. EXCITED. Especially, because this will be my niece's first Disney trip (!!!)- I can't wait to watch her cute little face on every ride!

Do you guys have any fun warm-weather plans on the docket? I would loooove to hear (not mad at a Maui recommendation, either)! 

Coconut Creme Brulee

Adapted from Damaris Phillips

Serves 4-6

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 cup heavy cream

2 Vanilla beans, seeds scraped, pods reserved

4 large eggs

1 tsp imitation coconut extract

8-9 tbs sugar

Fresh fruit such as pineapple and strawberries, to serve (optional) 

Key Lime Vanilla Bean Pie With the Butteriest Graham Cracker Crust

SweetsDani ColombattoComment
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Not all desserts are created equally, am I right? I've mentioned before that I don't have the hugest sweet tooth, so when it comes to dessert, I'm surprisingly persnickety. First of all, when it comes to me actually making a dessert, I am reeeeeally good at talking myself out of doing it, and maybe making pasta instead. Measuring? Ick. Team eyeball-it like an old world Italian g-ma all. Day. Long. Cake decorating? Do I not have enough anxiety to contend with?! I do not require unicorn horns on my treats, nor do I want a rainbow bagel, and if I ever purchase fondant, well, then we'll know I've really lost myself. All of this said, I have nothing but the utmost respect for those who love sifting and measuring, who perfect their piping to a T. In truth, I envy you!! I want to take quite a few pages out of your book...(and leave the ones regarding cake pops and fondant). 

I digress...

I began this by saying not all desserts are created equal, and I stand by this. However, there are a scant handful of treats that have captured my heart, and you best believe I'll attempt to make them kewt and new just for yew. Under this sweet lil' umbrella resides my longtime bud, key lime pie. Creamy, tart lime custard married to crumbly graham cracker crust- what's not to love? Well, how about juicing one million tiny limes? Yeah. I'm not into it, either. So, with saving you and I from that in mind, I give to you: Key lime pie, hold the keys.  

As though that's not already cutting down on our heavy lifting, aside from the oven, this is a total food processor situation- graham cracker crust, filling, and all! There are benefits to this, beyond cutting down on dishes (which is high up there on the silver linings roster for your girl, and if you don't have a dishwasher, I've been there MULTIPLE times, and I applaud you all day every day).

First off, the aforementioned food processor sitch makes for the crumbliest, most buttery pie crust. Truth be told, when I first made this, I mumbled "shit" repeatedly to myself, while taking it out of the pie plate because I was certain I over-pulsed the crumbs, and made a base of essentially, sand, meaning that the whole thing was sure to crumble. Much to my surprise and delight, it held PERFECTLY, and the butter permeated throughout every crumb. So essentially, my "shit's" took an immediate 180 and made their way to "fuck yes-ville". I really love when that happens in culinary situations. Like, almost more than anything. This is the pie crust to reignite any lost love of graham cracker crust, AKA, the unsung hero of pie-town. So, in addition to the food processor giving our crust the pulverizing strong-arm it needs, it also whips our custard into perfectly fluffy shape, ensuring the smoothest filling ever. The vanilla bean is the sleeper hit of this whole shebang, though. It scents the pie beautifully, and frankly who the hell is mad at a vanilla bean fleck-studded pie?! Guys, I don't say this outright often, but this is JUST. SO. GOOD. I'm clearly chatty; let's make this already!

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Preheat your oven oven to 350F. In a food processor, pulse your graham crackers (about 3 sleeves worth) until they resemble sand. Add your sugar, and stream in your melted, salted butter, and pulse quite a few times to combine. You want it to be the consistency of wet sand. I used a pie plate with a removable bottom, but that isn't a requirement. Just press your crumbs evenly into your chosen pie plate- I love using a wide jar for this. Place in the oven, and bake for about 13 minutes, or until it just starts to get golden-brown.

In your food processor, combine your egg yolks with your condensed milk, and pulse thoroughly to combine. Add your lime zest, lime juice, and paste from your vanilla beans. Puree for about 1 minute. When done, the filling should look slightly aerated, and fully combined.

When your crust is done, allow to cool to slightly warm, and add your filling. Return to oven, and bake for about 15-18 minutes, returning to a rack to cool. Once cool, place in the fridge until fully chilled, or overnight, which is what I opted for. 

Serve with freshly whipped cream- I just whipped 1/2 cup cream with about 4-5 tbs sugar, and extra lime zest.

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Listen, rarely have I met a key lime pie- sans key or otherwise that I have disliked. However, this one, guys...This one stands alone. The filling is so incredibly light and creamy with all the punch of fresh lime tartness you'd expect from key lime pie, but with the unexpected rounded accent of the vanilla bean. It's a subtle change, but in my book, a game changer. I really hope you make this when you're just in the mood for something happy. Hey, maybe throw it in your Easter repertoire! I bet no one will be mad you did. 

Vanilla Bean Key Lime Pie, Sans Key, With the Butteriest Graham Cracker Crust

For the graham cracker crust:

About 1 1/4 cups graham crackers 

4 tbs granulated sugar

5 tbs salted butter, melted

For the filling:

1 can sweetened, condensed milk

5 egg yolks (if they're super large, go for 4, but my organics seemed on the smaller side)

1/2 cup lime juice, from 4-5 limes

Zest of 2 limes

2 vanilla beans, seeds scraped