When making béchamel, any liquid can be used as a substitute for the milk provided that the mixture is stabilized enough that whatever the liquid is—almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, etc.—it doesn’t curdle or separate.
Unless it has emulsifiers, coconut milk out of the can is going to separate into solid cream and a light liquid (the milk). Unlike classic béchamel made with milk, one made with coconut milk needs emulsifying. Emulsifiers must be added not only to the liquid phase (the milk)—in this case propylene glycol alginate, a very efficient emulsifier—but to the fat phase (the cream), so the two bind up together into an emulsion.
Your approach will depend on the coconut milk. If it comes out of the can with solid lumps of cream clearly visible and separate from the milk, then the cream can be used to absorb the emulsifiers that dissolve in fat (here, liquid lecithin and a combination of mono- and diglycerides sold as Glice). If, however, the coconut fat is dispersed in the milk and difficult to separate, then another source of fat—here, butter—must be used to get the emulsion going.
This “béchamel” starts with a thick emulsified base to which the rest of the coconut milk is then added. If no coconut cream is available, butter can be used to hold the fat-soluble emulsifiers. Once the sauce is soundly emulsified (the butter mixture works up with the liquid phase), it is thickened with Ultra-Tex 3 (2% to 4%), a modified tapioca starch with a natural mouthfeel.
|unsweetened coconut milk, homemade or canned|
|propylene glycol alginate|
|mono- and diglycerides (glice)|
|butter or coconut cream, melted|
|ultra-sperse 3 (for medium viscosity; optional)|
Copyright © 2017 by James Peterson. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.