Sunday, January 23, 2011

Coconut bread

Gourmet magazine folded with the November 2009 issue after 68 years in circulation (I have an extra November 2009 issue that I'll sell you for only one million dollars - à la Dr. Evil). I bought Gourmet now and then, but it was an unstable relationship since it was more about being rich and travelling than it was about cooking, so only a few complete issues remain on my bookshelf -- I did tear out lots of pages though. I think the magazine was probably aimed at people who could flip thorough it, dog-ear a couple of pages, and hand it to the help. This may be why it vanished, but I am still astonished when I pass a magazine rack and see stuff devoted to scrap booking, toy soldiers, and quilting -- how these keep going is beyond me (no offence if you happen to be interested in that stuff). You might wonder why I ever bought it at this point, but I got sucked in by the pictures -- especially the awesome table settings.

Anyway, the good editors of Gourmet would throw a bone to us plebes now and then with features like "cooking with five ingredients," or "gourmet on a shoestring" (a Prada shoestring, mind you, but still a shoestring). This recipe comes from the five ingredients feature in the May 2003 issue (one of my torn-out pages). I've been looking for a nice quick-bread to make on weekends so that I can take slices to work through the week. I've had my eye on this recipe for a while (7 years! holy embarassing getting-around-to-itness). The idea is that those slices will keep me from drifting down to the cafeteria and buying the -- I was going to type crud, but that's unfair, how about -- uninspiring offerings they have down there.

By the way, this is a good time for a beer!

This recipe calls for 4 cups of flaked coconut (10 ounces -- I used 14 by accident), 2 cups of self-rising flour, 1 stick of softened butter, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 2 large eggs. See how they cheated there? Self-rising flour?! Who buys that?! All so they can avoid having two more ingredients (namely baking powder and salt). Thankfully, The Joy of Cooking tells us that 1 cup of self-rising flour has 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in it. (Write this down, or buy the cookbook -- it's useful!) So, 2 cups of flour means you need to add 3 teaspoons of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of salt too. :D Genius!!

This is a Carribean themed recipe, so I figured a couple of other ingredients wouldn't hurt -- namely rum ... and some currents to soak it up. So, I put a hand full of currants is a bowl with a splash or so of rum to help them plump up. Genius again!

The first thing you need to do is toast the coconut. I couldn't find large flaked coconut that wasn't sweetened, so went for the medium version. The recipe calls for you to toast three cups of it and save 1 cup for later. Heat your oven to 350, spread the three cups on a baking sheet, and pop it in the oven for 25 minutes.

I gave the coconut a stir when there were 11 and 5 minutes left on the timer. I just heaped it all up in the middle and then spread it out flat again for the next go-round in the oven.

While that's happening, you might as well get a batch of zuppa di fagioli on the go. Just sayin'.

When the coconut is toasted, let it cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Drop the oven to 325 too.

Spend that time getting the rest of the batter ready. Put the flour (and baking powder and salt) in a bowl.

Then cream the butter with the sugar in your bad-boy mixer (man, I really think this thing looks cool). For the record, the mixer should be on speed 4 for creaming butter and sugar -- resist the urge to crank it up, or you'll just melt the butter and make a greasy goo. After a few minutes (with the occasional stop to scrape the sides and the paddle) start adding the eggs one by one. Let that slosh around (stopping to scrape again) for a few minutes until it looks nicely blended.

Now you have to grind the coconut up in a food processor. You basically make toasted coconut flour, mmmmm.... The recipe says to process for 40 seconds -- I bailed out after 25 because it looked like I was about to make coconut butter. Good luck getting the coconut in the food processor without making a colossal mess. I am not certain this step is absolutely necessary with medium coconut, but I did it anyway.

Next, you need to mix the coconut (toasted and not toasted) with the flour. Then add 1 cup of water (HA!! A sixth ingredient!!). The recipe says to whisk it in, but only a maniac would stick a whisk in something that thick. In fact, I think it was too thick. Part of the problem may have been that I should have measured the coconut meal before putting it in the bowl -- the recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups after the processing, which may be what large flakes will grind down into, but it is definitely less than the medium ones came out with (I did use a whole 400g bag -- which is more like 14oz than 10oz -- but that's just the kind of guy I am). Luckily, I had a bunch of rum in a bowl that I could dump in, and I added an extra 1/2 cup of water too. This may sound pretty airy-fairy in the directions department, but don't worry -- it's a quick bread! (And if you actually follow the instructions, it probably works.)

Once you have something that seems reasonable (good instructions, eh?) add the eggs, butter and sugar to the batter and stir that around (they still say to whisk it -- crazy).

Get a loaf pan ready by buttering and flouring it.

Then pour (dump) the batter in there and smooth it out a little. My pan was too full, so I scooped out two wooden spoons worth of batter to keep it from overflowing too much. I could have made muffins from the extra, but at this point, and with the zuppa di fagioli on the go (just sayin'), I wasn't interested in getting another pan involved in all this mess.

Slide the loaf pan into a 325 oven for about an hour. The recipe calls for an hour to an hour and 10 minutes, but I think my batter was a little drier than it should be so I started checking at around 50 minutes (i.e. once I had all those freaking dishes cleaned up). In the end it was done at the one hour mark -- check with a toothpick (that comes all the way from China, if you have one -- man, I love that joke).

Take your creation out of the oven and let it cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Then get it out of the pan and let it cool for another TWO HOURS (good luck waiting that long -- I didn't). Play Legend while you wait ... and stir your zuppa di fagioli (just sayin').

Then get ready for a happy week at work. (It's REALLY good, by the way.)

Peace, brothers and sisters.

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