Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lessons in Coconut...

For me, one of the most appealing aspects of cooking is that I’m always learning something new. It may be a new ingredient, an unfamiliar technique, or the random mistake that shows how certain ingredients and techniques don’t go together. It was the latter that I found useful this last weekend.
Recently, my 15 year old son made his first batch of freezer jam and I wanted to use it for something other than toast. I stumbled on a delightful bar cookie recipe posted on by an online friend in South Whales, JoyfulCook, that called for jam and desiccated coconut. My first attempt at Raspberry Shortbread was a failure. I use coconut all the time but really never gave much thought to the word desiccated. As it turns out, it doesn’t mean shredded. It means dried. But did you know there are 5 different types of desiccated coconut? Yep. Basically they’re all dried, or desiccated as I can now proudly say with a certain air of authority, but there is sweetened, unsweetened, fine, medium or large shredded and is sold in bags or cans. I honestly have never noticed anything in my local grocery store but sweetened coconut in a bag. Using the sweetened variety of desiccated coconut in the topping, mixed with an egg and a good amount of sugar, created a fruity baked soup instead of a cookie. Still delicious, we just had to eat it with a spoon. The truth is I’ve got a bit of an ego and I just couldn’t be defeated by coconut so armed with my newfound knowledge I was ready to go back into battle. I found an online company and ordered my first bag of unsweetened desiccated coconut (I’ve since found the unsweetened variety hiding in the health food section of my local grocery store).
My mom came to visit over the Thanksgiving holiday and we worked on perfecting this recipe. The second attempt wasn’t perfect either, but we were able to cut some of it into bars and transport it to my cousin’s house where the recipe was requested by several family members. Mom and I both continued to rework the original recipe even after the holiday was over and she flew home.
Over the years there have been several recipes that I have tried and failed at. Rarely do I consider them failures and throw out the recipe. If the flavor is there then I feel the need to try again, and again, and sometimes again to get it right. I have a few recipes that were developed by trial and error that my family and friends still request. I am printing here the version of Raspberry Shortbread that was finally successful for me. It’s very easy to make with simple ingredients but a big reward in the end. With a buttery shortbread base, slightly tangy raspberry filling and a crunchy coconut topping each layer compliments the other and these bars will make a pretty addition to any festive tray of goodies.

Raspberry Shortbread
½ cup (4oz) butter (no substitutes)
1-3/4 cup self-rising flour (or: add 1-3/4 tsp baking powder, ¾ tsp baking soda and ¾ tsp salt to all purpose flour)
1-1/2 cups unsweetened desiccated coconut
1-2/3 cup sugar (divided)
2 eggs
4 Tablespoons raspberry jam

1. Line a 9x13 baking dish with foil, making sure the ends extend enough to lift out after baking and preheat oven to 300°F.
2. Cream butter and 2/3 cup of the sugar. Add 1 beaten egg, mixing well then stir in the flour.
3. Knead dough a few times on a piece of waxed paper sprinkled with a little flour, then press dough evenly over bottom of the foil-lined dish.
4. Bake crust 15 minutes then set on baking rack to cool for about 15 minutes.
5. Spread warm crust evenly with jam.
6. With a fork, lightly beat the last egg, stir in the 1 cup of sugar and then add the coconut. Stir well. Use the fork to gently spread the coconut topping over the jam.
7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until coconut is nicely browned and the center is only slightly moist.
8. Immediately lift the shortbread out of the pan using the foil ends and place on a cutting board. Cut into squares and leave to cool completely. If making ahead: after cooling, separate bars onto a cookie sheet and freeze for a couple hours then wrap and store in the freezer.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
TinksTreats by Lorilyn Tenney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License