Quick, easy coconut pudding perfect for Easter

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a Hispanic bakery that changed my understanding of what a delicious pudding could be.
When I think pudding, I think mostly of rice- or egg-based recipes made with milk. Rich and sweet, creamy and smooth, these puddings ooze comfort. But this bakery offered something entirely different.
Stacked in one of the shop’s refrigerated cases were small, plastic deli containers of something that resembled white butter sprinkled with cinnamon. It looked solid, far more dense than the puddings I grew up with.
When I asked, the baker explained that they were tembleque and she had made them just that morning.
I was clueless at the time, but it turns out tembleque is a Puerto Rican pudding made from coconut milk and cornstarch. And when I got my container to the car and dug in, I realized I had been missing something incredible. The pudding was sweet without being cloying, and thick without being chewy.
I also realized that the clean, yet rich flavors of this simple pudding made it a perfect finish to an Easter dinner. So of course I had to learn how to make it myself. I in no way pretend that this is a traditional recipe. But it is inspired by what I tasted that day. And it is delicious.
ORANGE-CINNAMON
COCONUT PUDDING (TEMBLEQUE)
Start to finish: 2 hours
20 minutes (20 minutes active)
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar, divided
½ cup cornstarch
Two 13½-ounce cans coconut milk
Zest of 1 medium orange
Pinch salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
In a medium saucepan, whisk together a half cup of sugar and cornstarch. Whisk in the coconut milk, orange zest and salt, then set over medium-high heat. Whisk until simmering and thickened.
Pour pudding into a 9-by-9-inch baking dish or individual ramekins.
In a small bowl or cup, mix together the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon.
Sprinkle the mixture over the pudding, then cover and refrigerate until set and completely chilled, about 2 hours.
Servings: 6
Nutrition information per serving: 340 calories; 250 calories from fat (74 percent of total calories); 27 g fat (24 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 29 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 15 g sugar; 3 g protein; 40 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch blogs at www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/ JM_Hirsch. Email him at jhirsch@ap.org.

By J.M. HIRSCH AP Food Editor

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