Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On puttting the sweet in bittersweet.

The last few months have been a whirlwind of roller coasters, if that makes sense. The high points have been magnificent: love, marriage, honeymoon, piles of blueberry pancakes, miles of walks along rocky beaches, and a new puppy friend added to our little family. The lows have been awful: wedding planning stress, thesis stress, a very long semester, even more wedding planning stress, and a thesis that refuses to end. I'm actually in the process of requesting an extension from the department which is bittersweet. I really need the time, as I seem to have created a study unappealing to all participants, but I also really just to be finished so I can move on mentally and physically.

However, I do not want to dwell upon these low points. The benefit of waiting and waiting for data collection to get off the ground is I have had more afternoons at home which means more afternoons plotting new cooking adventures and cathartic baking. I've even purchased some new cookbooks and flipping through them idly in the late afternoon is a favorite pastime that leaves me feeling refreshed and fills my mind with plans for weekend picnics or leisurely Sunday mornings. During one of these afternoons I was suddenly struck by the memory of a coconut breakfast loaf I had seen in Martha Stewart Living way back when I first started cooking. I remembered bookmarking the recipe for a later date and coming across it every now and again when I was looking for something else (thereby never actually getting around to the coconut loaf). So I went searching for that recipe, knowing that now was the time to have coconut for breakfast.

The problem is, I could not find that recipe. I looked through the copies of MSL I thought it was in (you should know I have a LOT of old issues... another day for that), I searched Martha's website, and I put Google to work with no luck. I just know I'll come across it again when looking for a waffle recipe and my mind will be so set on waffles I will put the recipe aside again and forget where I saw it. This is just the nature of our relationship.

Regardless, in my search I came across a different coconut breakfast loaf recipe and decided it would satisfy my morning craving for coconut. This loaf even has pineapple, which lends some nice acidity to the quick bread.

Coconut-Pineapple Loaf Cake
Adapted from Everyday Food, June 2008

Note: while investigating this recipe, which uses a standard 9x5 pan, I noticed a lot of flat quick breads. I was really worried about this because I inherited my loaf pan from my grandmother and it’s a strange size (9 5/8 x 5 ½). However, my loaf puffed up just fine so be sure to use fresh baking soda and cream the butter and sugar properly.

Makes 1 Loaf

1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp, plus more for the pan
1 ½ cups all purpose flour, plus more for the pan
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 20 oz can pineapple chinks in juice, drained well (I used the can, but if I did it again, I might use fresh. The flavor would be more pineappley and you’ll have more control over the size of the pineapple pieces)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, 5-10 minutes. Toss occasionally to ensure even browning and check often as there’s a fine line between toasty deliciousness and burnt! Meanwhile, butter and flour a 9x5 loaf pan and set aside. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl, set aside.

2. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. I used my hand mixer on high, but you could use a stand mixer. Just keep an eye on it to make sure the butter and sugar are incorporated and it’s really pale and fluffy; it’s a lot of sugar and a little butter so it takes a little while. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and alternate adding the flour mixture in three parts and the sour cream in two parts, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until combined.

3. Fold the pineapple and 1 cup of the toasted coconut into the batter. Spoon the batter into the loaf pan, smoothing the top (a few gentle tops on the counter can help). Sprinkle the remaining coconut on top. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, approximately 70 minutes, covering with foil halfway through (to prevent burning the coconut). Let the cake cool for 15 minutes before turning the loaf out onto a cooling rack and allowing it to cool completely. It’s best the first day, but can be wrapped and stored for a few days. Delicious toasted, too!

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