Friday, March 27, 2009

Coconut Bread

Friday, March 27, 2009

Let's see, what have I done today? Approximately six loads of laundry. Written five e-mails. Eaten two bowls of delicious Caesar pasta salad from my neighborhood Italian deli. Created a playlist solely inspired by songs I've heard in movie previews. Certainly not finished my previously planned post.

Thankfully, I have several backup recipes that I haven't written about yet, so my blog will not sit bereft of new content. This time, it's Tyler Florence's coconut bread that strikes my fancy. I'm not entirely sold on Tyler, although I use his recipe for lasagna and I predictably own several of his cookbooks. I think the solution to my uncertainty is just to venture out more from the sheltered comfort of Rachael Ray and try a few new things.

The coconut bread recipe is found in Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen, also the source of "Drop-Dead Lasagna," my lasagna recipe of choice. I should mention that my mom says my lasagna is the best she's ever had-that should give Tyler at least a few points. I've always read through all my cookbooks many times before I've actually made recipes from them, and the coconut bread is something that has stuck firmly in my mind as something I needed to try. I was instantly attracted by Tyler's little blurb-he and his girlfriend ate a version of the bread at a little breakfast stop in Australia, warm, toasted, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Sounded like heaven to me!

The reason I decided to whip this up recently was due to the fact that I had a large quantity of unsweetened coconut milk left over from this lovely meal. I saved it, thinking I'd surely find a way to put it to good use, and not more than two days later, as I stared with disdain at my store brand box of Grape Nuts (NEVER buy the store brand of Grape Nuts) and thought longingly of the sugar-coated doughnuts at the Korean bakery down the street, I decided that the solution was to make coconut bread! Sure, I would have to sustain myself with coffee and the occasional ginger snap while the bread finished baking, but the results would probably be worth it! And they were, my friends, they were. The bread is absolutely delicious, dense and delicately flavored with coconut and hints of lemon zest. Unfortunately, I had to forgo the pineapple butter that accompanies the recipe in the book, because I didn't have any crushed pineapple on hand, but I can imagine it would make the bread positively sublime. I have two medium-sized loaf pans, and I froze one of the loaves. I'll have a solution for the next morning that I feel uninspired at breakfast!

Coconut Bread with Sweet Pineapple Butter, from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen
Coconut Bread
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut, toasted (see Note)
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting

Pineapple Butter
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 375. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with butter (I used the two loaf pans I own, which are on the smaller side). In a large bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In another large bowl, whisk together the melted butter with the brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Pour in the coconut milk and whisk together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold everything together with a spatula until you have a smooth batter. Gently fold in the shredded coconut until evenly distributed. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and set it on a cookie sheet. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a wooded toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the bread. Rotate the pan periodically to ensure even browning. Cool the bread in the pan for 20 minutes or so; then when cool enough to handle, remove the coconut bread to a cutting board and let it cool completely before slicing.

Press the liquid out of the crushed pineapple using the back of a spoon. (If there is too much juice, the fruit will separate from the butter.) In a small bowl, mash the pineapple with the softened butter until well blended. A food processor is a quick alternative to making the compound butter, so use it if you have one. Mound the butter in a small serving bowl. Toast the slices of coconut bread, dust with confectioner's sugar, and serve with the creamy pineapple butter.
Note: To toast the coconut: Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the coconut on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes, stirring it periodically. Toasting will fluff up the coconut and increase its volume (as well as make it taste better). (I should tell you that my oven is freakishly hot, so I had to check my coconut frequently, and it did NOT take 15 minutes to toast!)

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