Popular in Southeast Asian, Indian, and Jamaican cuisine, coconut is added to cakes, cookies, and other desserts to provide a nutty sweetness and pleasant texture. Coconut is actually a fruit and not a nut – sold as juice, milk, shredded (sweetened and unsweetened) flakes, and as a whole fruit with its edible, thin brown skin. For the freshest results, it’s suggested to crack your own coconut.
What’s So Good About Coconut?
High in saturated fat, the natural oils in the coconut provide the body with plenty of benefits. From boosting the immune system to improving digestion, coconut offers a high-fiber skin, iron, potassium, and a decent amount of electrolytes found in the coconut juice.
How to Crack Coconut
It takes a little effort, but cracking your own coconut will provide your desserts with a fresher flavor that enhances the overall taste. As you stare at the hairy shell, make the task a little easier by baking the coconut for 20 minutes in an oven set to 350 degrees. After letting the coconut cool, pierce a hole in two of the “eyes” with a hammer and screwdriver. Turn the coconut upside down in order to drain the juice. Use the hammer to tap the screwdriver until the nut breaks into two pieces.
Place each half of the coconut with the flesh facing down on your countertop (or other stable surface) and tap each piece with a hammer to break it up. You can then break the coconut into pieces using your hands. A table knife will help you dislodge the “meat” from the shell. Some people even peel off the brown skin of the coconut and eat it – it’s edible.
Ways to Use Coconut in Your Desserts
Coconut in Salads: Enhance a tropical fruit salad by sprinkling finely grated coconut on top of fresh mango, papaya, orange, and banana. You may use fresh or toasted coconut to achieve varying flavors.
Coconut in Coffee: Some people have added coconut milk to their coffee for a unique, hot beverage.
Coconut in Pie: With an irresistible whipped cream topping, coconut cream pie is comprised of a rich custard or pudding consisting of milk, cream, flour, and eggs. Sometimes, chocolate shavings serve as garnish, while toasted coconut is more commonplace.
Coconut in Cookies and Bars: Whether used as a garnish for cookies or added to your favorite recipes – sky’s the limit with coconut. Popular cookies with coconut include Coconut Macaroons, Coconut Bars, Chocolate Chip Coconut, and variations of the Almond Joy bar.
Coconut in Ice Cream
Add shredded coconut to your ice cream sundaes or create a vegan sweet treat with your ice cream maker called Coconut Curry Ice Cream. First, simmer two and a half 13.5-ounce cans of canned unsweetened coconut milk, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 ½ teaspoons of mild curry paste in a large heavy saucepan. Whisk often, and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer to allow the flavors to blend for about 10 minutes.
Slightly cool and then refrigerate the mixture uncovered until cold. Cover and chill overnight. When you are ready, process your ‘ice cream’ according to the directions of your maker. Add in ½ cup of toasted, sweetened flaked coconut to the mixture. Use extra toasted coconut flakes as a garnish.