Tuesday, January 19, 2021
My love affair with coconut started innocently enough.
In grade school, my siblings and I would go trick-or-treating with a mess of neighborhood kids, a whole flock of Cinderellas and Spidermen and Harry Potters descending upon the night. Then, when all the wands had been lost and cheap face paint smeared away, we’d dump out our haul from pillowcases, and plastic pumpkins, and the real fun would begin.
Wall Street, step aside: The Candy Trade was open for business.
With the focus and verve of auctioneers at a high-stakes cattle sale, we’d barter for Snickers and KitKats, trading Skittles for M&Ms and covetously guarding our personal favorites, as if at any moment someone would go rogue and come after our sugary hoards. (Side note: someone DID usually break taboo and steal a sacred 3 Musketeers, but it was almost always an adult, so we could do nothing but fume silently about the injustice of it all or risk being reminded of the “importance of sharing.” With candy on the line?! The sheer madness of it all.)
For folks like my brother, who favored the ever-popular Crunch bar, it was sometimes difficult to amass a significant stash. Not so for me.
It took only one tentative bite to lose my heart to Almond Joy, the beloved of grandparents everywhere. (Are you seeing a theme with my food preferences? I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve been drinking Metamucil since before I could legally order a beer. But back to candy.)
See, almonds and chocolate I knew and enjoyed, but that coconut filling was a revelation.
Over the years, I’ve loved coconut muffins, toasted coconut granolas, trail mix with coconut, coconut milk concoctions, triple-layered coconut cakes, coconut-carrot soups, and coconut-cranberry cookies, and — of course — piña coladas, regardless of whether or not I get caught in the rain.
So when I saw that my hero and kitchen divinity Deb Perelman had posted a recipe for coconut bread, I had to try it.
I fiddled a little — subbing coconut milk for the cow’s milk, reducing the sugar a smidge, upping the cinnamon, and of course following the “optional” recommendation to brown the butter — and wound up with a loaf of such golden, tender, coconut goodness that I soon regretted having so many neighbors with whom to share my tropical, mid-winter treat.
I guess I’ll just have to make it again.
A note: The first time I made this bread, I toasted the coconut first because I love toasted coconut; however, I would not recommend this, as it removes moisture essential to keeping the loaf nice and tender all the way through. Don’t get me wrong; we didn’t throw any of that batch out; I just preferred it the second time I made it with untoasted coconut.
Coconut Loaf (adapted, just a smidge, from Smitten Kitchen)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 + 1/4 cups (295 mL) coconut milk (for baking, I prefer the full-fat — i.e., not “light” — a variety that comes in a can and can be found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores)
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
- 2 + 1/2 cups (315 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (or table salt)
- 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- 5 ounces (140 grams) sweetened flaked coconut (about 1 + 1/2 cups)
- 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Prepare a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with butter and flour, or coat with a nonstick spray.
- Melt and brown your butter in a small saucepan, then pour into a heat-proof bowl to cool slightly.
- In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, coconut milk, and vanilla. Canned coconut milk naturally separates into two layers at room temperature: liquid on the bottom and coconut cream on top. If your coconut milk has separated, whisk it until roughly homogenous before measuring out your 1 + 1/4 cups and adding to the eggs and vanilla.
- In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon.
- Add the sugar and coconut, and stir to mix.
- Make a well in the center and pour in the egg mixture, then stir together the wet and dry ingredients until just combined, being careful not to over-mix.
- Add the brown butter and stir until just smooth.
- Spread the batter into your prepared loaf pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, anywhere from 1 to 1 + 1/4 hours (mine took exactly one hour, so if your oven runs hot, maybe take a peek a couple of minutes early).
- Cool in pan for five minutes before gently turning out onto a cooling rack to cool all the way.
- Serve in thick, decadent, gorgeous slices. I like it as is, but Deb suggests serving it toasted with butter and dusted with confectioners’ sugar or with a salted honey brown butter spread, both of which sound fabulous.