young coconut cheesecake


Young Coconut Cheesecake (adapted from Emeril Legasse)

When I was a child in Jamaica, my mother made her own coconut milk. When she was ready to make rice and peas, my mother grated thick slabs of coconut meat from “old” coconuts that barely had any water left and the jelly inside had thickened and dried. First, she steeped the grated coconut in hot water. When it cooled, she would put the coconut in a muslin cloth, twist the top, and squeeze out the milk. Today, coconut milk is sold in cans or in UHT packages–a real time-saver! I like slow food but that’s too slow for me.

For this recipe, two young coconuts will yield about 2 cups coconut jelly. Before scooping out the tender jelly inside, first drain the water from the nut. Save the water for a refreshing drink on ice –with a little gin is also nice!

Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 60-70 minutes (30-40 for 7-inch springform)
Resting time: at least 8 hours or overnight

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter plus 2 tablespoons for prepping the pan

Coconut Cheesecake Filling
3 x 8oz. packages Philadelphia cream cheese, softened 30 minutes at room temperature
1 cup superfine sugar
6 large eggs
8 oz coconut milk or coconut cream
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon zest of one small lime
1 1/2 cup shredded fresh young coconut scooped out of the nut and sprinkled with 1 tablespoon flour

Coconut Whipped Cream
1 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
2 tablespoons coconut milk
1/2 cup shredded fresh young coconut scooped out of the nut and patted dry with paper towels

Special equipment: 10 inch springform pan, large roasting pan not higher than the springform pan

Prepare the coconut. When the water is drained, use a kitchen zester to scoop the jelly out in strips. A zester has four or five little metal circles on the head and a handle for grasping. Use only the most tender jelly, discarding any that are tough and thickened. Divide; sprinkle flour on 1 1/2 cups coconut and gently toss. Set aside.

Make the crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Brush melted butter on the sides and bottom of the pan. Combine crumbs, sugar, and butter. Press crumbs onto the bottom of the pan. Use a measuring cup to smooth the crumbs into the edges of the pan. Bake 6 minutes or until golden. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Cover the bottom and sides of the pan with heavy duty aluminum foil. Set aside. Don’t turn off the oven.

Make the filling. Cut the cream cheese blocks into 1 inch cubes. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend the cream cheese together on medium speed until smooth. Add sugar and combine. Add eggs one at a time. Then add the coconut milk. Add the flour, salt,vanilla, and zest blending until smooth. Add the 1 1/2 cups shredded young coconut and fold until just incorporated. Scrape mixture into the cooled crust.

Bake in a bain marie or water bath. Place the pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water to come up to 1 inch of the side of the pan. Bake 60-70 minutes or until set. The center should jiggle slightly when the pan is shook. Remove from the water bath. With a thin blade, loosen the sides of the cheesecake from the pan. This prevents pulling and cracking of the cheesecake top as it cools. If it cracks anyway, no matter because you’ll cover the top with coconut whipped cream! Cool the cake completely on a wire cooling rack, about 2 1/2 -3 hours. Don’t remove the sides of the pan. Chill in the pan, preferably overnight or at least 6 hours before finishing with the whipped cream topping.

Cake Baker’s Note: If dividing the batter between two 7-inch springform pans, bake 30 minutes then test. If the jiggle in the center is too much, bake an additional 5-10 minutes.

Make the coconut whipped cream. Combine the whipping cream and sugar in another large mixing bowl. Whisk until soft peaks form. Add coconut milk and whip until stiff peaks form. Fold in the 1/2 cup shredded young coconut. Spread on top of the chilled cheesecake. Refrigerate in the pan. Remove the sides just before slicing and serving.

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