Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Coconut bread

Over the past few years, I've learned that coconut is quite a polarizing food; folks either love it or loathe it.

If you're a coconut lover, you will most definitely want to keep reading.  Heck, I will even direct you to the bottom of this post where you can find the recipe for the most delectable and moist coconut bread.  Go ahead, skip all of my blathering and get to baking.  I won't be offended in the least :)

However, if you're a coconut hater, I have a little speech for you.  If you'll allow me to climb up onto this here soapbox and preach, I'd be forever grateful.

My first memories of coconut hate are courtesy of my dad.  The man made it very clear that he didn't like the stuff, despite the fact that my mother absolutely looooooooooves coconut.  At Easter, my mom would buy a pack of coconut creme eggs and distribute them among our four baskets, knowing that those in my dad's basket would end up in hers.  She certainly didn't complain.  My dad's issue with coconut?  "The texture.  Ew."

Being a kid and looking to my dad as an example, I decided that I, too, disliked coconut.  I wouldn't go anywhere near the stuff.  Again, my mom knew that if she bought an Almond Joy or Mounds bar, the package would go unopened for weeks, even sitting out in plain view of everyone in the house.

My mom finally uttered words that every parent does at some point in a child's life.  "How do you know you don't like it?  You've never even tried it."  Errrr... she had a point.  I'd barely given coconut a stare, let alone a nibble.  Making my most sour facial expression, I took a tiny bite of an Almond Joy bar... and it was good!  Sweet, chewy coconut wrapped in dark chocolate.  There wasn't anything scary, offensive, or even bad about it.  Only divine goodness.

That year, Team Coconut gained a soldier.  Our household was divided, two versus two. (My sister was too young to know the error of her ways.  She's since crossed over to the good side.)

Years later, I discovered the ultimate recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies.  What set them apart from the other recipes I'd tried?  Yep, you guessed it -- coconut.  And, as you might recall, it was those cookies that snagged me a husband.

A few months into our relationship, Matt was with me as I was baking a batch of his favorite cookie and spotted a bag of sweetened shredded coconut on the counter.

"Ew.  What are you doing with that?"
"Putting some into the cookie dough."
(stunned silence, then...)
"There's coconut in those cookies?"
"Mmm hmm."
"Oh.  Well, I love those cookies."
"I know."

And that's all she wrote, folks.  There are similar stories with various friends and family members about the apparently controversial presence of coconut in my best cookies.  They all love and rave about the cookies, and I think I've convinced most of them that, in turn, they like coconut.  If A equals B and B equals C, then A also equals C.  I'm like a campaign manager for coconut's political career.

When I made this coconut bread to take home to my parents' for Easter weekend, I really had my mother and grandmother in mind because both of them adore coconut.  Not surprisingly, my dad's and Matt's noses wrinkled at the announcement that it was coconut bread.  "Just try it!" I urged, while thinking, "Ohmygosh, I'm becoming my mother."

Matt slathered a bit of blueberry cream cheese on his sample, while my dad simply toasted a thick slice under the broiler.  The result?  Both loved it... and went back for seconds.  The loaf stayed on the kitchen island all weekend and, every time someone passed by, the loaf shrank just a bit more.  And who could blame them?   The shredded coconut becomes soft and melds with the bread, so texture isn't an issue at all.  This bread is light, moist, and sweet and with just enough coconut that you'd recognize it but not enough to overpower. 

Not enough to scare off future players on Team Coconut, either.  Trust me.  You'll love this!  (takes a bow)  Now, would someone be a dear and help me down from this soapbox?  Thankyouverymuch.

One year ago: Tomato gratin

Coconut Bread
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
-makes one 9x5-inch loaf or one 8x4-inch loaf and 4-5 muffins

A few notes: I used an 8x4-inch loaf pan and knew there was more than enough batter to fill it, so I reserved some of the batter and made a smaller loaf, equal to about 5 muffins worth.  Whatever you use, fill the load pan about 2/3 full; any excess batter can be used to make a few muffins

2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray for baking pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan or coat with nonstick spray and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.  In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon.  Add sugar and coconut, and stir to mix.  Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and stir together until just combined.  Add butter, and stir until just smooth.

Spread batter in pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, anywhere from 1 to 1 1/4 hours (about 65 minutes for me). Cool in pan five minutes, before running a knife around the inside of the loaf to loosen bread and turning out onto a cooling rack.  Slice and serve, with butter, jam, cream cheese, or plain!  My dad says you should try toasting a slice, too.  Whatever you do, enjoy!

Coconut bread will keep wrapped in plastic at room temperature for up to 5 days.  I'd imagine it would freeze well, too.

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