the cherry macaroons begat
the fruit jelly marshmallow bejewelled coconut cupcakes which begat
the homemade coco jam (a coconut caramel or dulce de leche made with coconut milk) that in turn begat
the sticky toffee coconut cupcakes filled with coco jam, and topped with a healthy dose of double cream and a coconut toffee ornament, which ultimately begat
the coconut lime macadamia cake made from a recipe by bill granger.
*whew*. all that from one very large bag of dessicated coconut.
'snowball' sounds so sweet in the winter, but now in the beginnings of a long, hot summer, it just sounds sort of dirty and nasty, like something a spoiled young celebutante would do to someone, do with someone, or do to herself. eat it, snort it, or ride it, baby--it's all good.
fortunately, my little snowball has nothing to do with gak nor paris hilton, unless she has ally sheedy circa "the breakfast club"-esque dandruff, which looks too-alarmingly-similar to the teeny flakes of dessicated coconut that settle in a snowy pillow that refuses to diminish, and which is the object of my ingredient mini-obsession. not the sweetened, hairy, moist angel-like coconut flakes mostly found in the baking aisles of most american stupormarkets, but the unsweetened, chippy, dry, crunchy stuff that is usually found at your typical hippy granola store. or asian market. i love the stuff, there's a certain animal? vegetable? mineral? quality about it that makes me think i can use it as packing material, insulation, craft table supply, and yet still create the most delicious snack; versatility is where its at, whether real or really imagined. although i didn't stray from the dessert portion of the nutritional pyramid (where is that you ask? where do all sweeties and fatty desserts end up? on the bottom.), i was rather pleased with the array.
the macaroons were a semi-request from esa--he was looking for a recipe that would produce a moist, coconutty, cakey confection like something he had in egypt. most of the macaroon recipes i found online seemed like they would come out rather dry and biscuit-like; but, having recalled the macaroons i'd had in the philippines as being wet and chewy, i thought i would turn to one of my favourite pinoy bakers, celia kusinera. i often turn to her because, as a filipina, she understands the asian palate, but as she lives in the uk, she often uses western recipes and adapts them accordingly. as luck would have it, she had an ideal cherry macaroons recipe, which i only slightly adapted by using only half the stated amount of sugar, and omitting all cherries but the ones on top.
having mostly conquered that particular sugar mountain, i felt the urge to make ina garten's coconut cupcakes again. i've made them before, and i'll make them again, as they are the perfect texture with a lovely crumb, and the right combination of sweet, nutty, and creamy. despite all the butter and cream cheese, these cupcakes are quite light; i also love the dome of frosting and coconut that is simple to create, but charming and fanciful, like summery snowball. (frosting tutorial coming soon)
as a sort of reaction to the sweetness and light of those cupcakes, i wondered if i could create a darker, richer one. i wanted one that had a bolder flavour, but perhaps without relying on so much butter and cream. i thought of a caramel flavour, and of dulce de leche, the spanish milky caramel. in the philippines, there is a coconut milk equivalent, known as katiba or coco jam, which is simply coconut milk cooked down with the native sugar. with the current popularity of dulce de leche, i'll bet that coco jam would be popular too, as it's just as rich and sweet, but lactose- and dairy-free; unfortunately, it's saddled with a stupid name. coco jam? wtf is that? chocolate jelly? mocha choco coco yaya? ugh. even it's singaporean cousin, kaya, sounds prettier and more appetizing. perhaps it can be rebranded as dulce de coco, which makes it sound like the even more exotic sister of dulce de leche. (someone in pinoy food products marketing, call me. asap. i need some extra dosh, and the paper route ain't cutting it.)
i fiddled a bit with a bbc good food recipe for coconut cake, and came up with something rather more tropical tasting than i think the authors' had intended; this combined with the
coco jam dulce de coco (might as well start now) resulted in a rather lovely sticky toffee-like pudding, rather neatly encased in a cupcake. served warm with a dollop of double cream as frosting and a bit of homemade coconut toffee, it was a decadent walk on the dark side that was surprisingly not oversweet, or overly heavy in the stummy.
anyway, i'm not sure how the bill granger cake came into the picture, except after all that sugar, caramel and toffee--and the coconut frenzy still unabated--i thought that a bit of citrus would lighten the proceedings, and of course, stave off scurvy. the cake also appealed because there aren't any dairy products as ingredients, which i thought might result in a lighter cake, both in texture and calories (of course, i managed to ignore the bajillion macadamia nuts that make up the bulk of the cake). the texture is weirdly dense yet light, and the flavours quite subtle, although that improves with age. in this world of instant gratification, and downloads on demand, it's almost charming to find a recipe for a cake that improves in texture and flavour at least one day after it's made. not particularly something most people want to hear, but there are plenty worse things to listen to in this world. and the nenes today could use with a little more patience and subtlety, you know what i mean?
and i, i have to lay off the drifts for awhile.
coco jam/katiba/dulce de coco
1 can of good quality coconut milk (i prefer the brands from thailand)
1/4 to 1/2 cup of muscovado sugar
add ingredients to a small slow cooker/crock pot set on low. stir occasionally to dissolve and to keep from burning; otherwise, keep covered with lid. cook for 6 hours, or until the volume has been reduced to less than half and a thick caramel has formed.
"sticky toffee" coconut cupcake
175g/6oz of softened butter
175/6oz muscovado sugar, or dark brown sugar
175g/6oz self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs, beaten
60g dessicated coconut
60g/1/4 cup coconut milk (more coconut milk might be necessary, depending on the dryness of your coconut)
preheat oven to 350˚F. cream butter and sugar together until lighter in colour; beat in eggs. mix baking powder into flour in separate bowl, then fold into butter mixture. gently stir in coconut and coconut milk to form a thick batter.
measure out batter into lined cupcake tins. bake for 20 minutes, then cool thoroughly. once cooled, use a pastry bag and filling tip to fill cupcakes with coco jam (recipe above), then top with double cream or whipped cream.