BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


32 Comments

Oldie but Goodie

Recipes come and go as the years pass, but coconuts are forever. At least, the latest coconut craze seems like its a trend that could last until the end of eternity. Looking back on older posts where I declared 2009 the “year of the coconut,” I have to wonder what that made 2010, and now 2011, too, because that tropical fruit was still king of the health food castle last time I checked.

Not everything is the same since that original review though. Branding has become more dangerous, a fine line between enticing and deceiving customer, and wording on packages more careful. You’ll no longer find coconut kefir in the marketplace, but “cultured coconut beverages” instead. Same thing, new name. Perhaps it was deemed a more accurate description of the opaque bottles’ contents, or just a more approachable label for those intimidated by fermented edibles, but I can’t say for sure. All I do know is that it can still make a mean stack of pancakes.

Though these pancakes originally showed up around the same time as that review post, I never shared the recipe. Unsurprisingly, the no-bake “kefir” cheesecake stole the spotlight at the time. It’s a damn shame, because these are some of the fluffiest pancakes to escape my frying pan, and the added nuance of subtle coconut flavor adds an irresistible element of salty, savory goodness. Their naturally tropical flavor makes them the perfect fit for a summer breakfast or brunch, but still every bit as tasty served up in any season.

If you can’t find the cultured coconut beverage in your area, you could very happily substitute 1 cup of plain coconut yogurt plus 1/2 cup of plain coconut beverage (or any non-dairy milk) instead. To really bump up the coconut flavor if you want more than a gentle hint, add a splash of coconut extract.

Fluffy Coconut Pancakes

1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Coconut Flour
1 Tablespoon Granulated Sugar
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
Pinch Salt
1 1/2 Cups Original (Plain) Cultured Coconut Beverage
1/3 Cup Water
1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Like most pancakes, these couldn’t be easier to whip up. Just combine both flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, and whisk to distribute all of the dry goods. Separately, stir together the coconut beverage, water, oil, and vanilla, and then pour these liquids into the large bowl as well. Whisk just to combine; a few lumps are just fine here, so don’t over-mix.

Place a large (preferably non-stick) skillet over medium heat, and very lightly grease. Use about 3 – 4 tablespoons of batter for each pancake, and cook on the first side for 4 – 6 minutes, until bubbles burst on the top and they feel sturdy enough to flip. Flip, and cook on the second side for an additional 2 – 5 minutes, until golden and fully cooked through in the center. Serve immediately, or keep warm in an oven preheated on the “warm” setting.

PS, for a treat that combines the best of breakfast and dessert, try a short stack of these babies with a generous scoop of coconut ice cream on top!

Makes 3 – 4 Servings

Printable Recipe


44 Comments

Coconut Oil Craze

No longer seen as the evil cholesterol killer it was once billed as, coconut oil has been practically reborn within the span of a year, now sitting proudly in health food stores right along with the other miracle cures and potions. Though I don’t quite buy into the whole craze, it always struck me as being every bit as worthy of the limelight as any other plant-based cooking fat, so congratulations to the coconut for its sudden redemption. The real difference for me comes not in the perception, but in the choices. Once upon a time, few sources for a high quality, food grade option existed, and now the marketplace has been flooded by a veritable downpour of tropical cooking fats, each one touting at least one or two of the latest buzz words: “Unrefined,” “Organic,” and “Fresh-Pressed” are popular slogans, each bottle chanting nearly the same health mantra at exactly the same volume. So, what’s a curious cook to do? Start tasting, of course.

Kelapo is a new brand to me, but when they offered me a sample, I was very much intrigued to see how it would compare to my standby, Tropical Traditions, which can conveniently be ordered in bulk, at very reasonable prices. Unassuming at first glace and looking very much like all of the other solid, white bricks available these days, I wasn’t expecting any revolutionary discoveries within the rotund twist-top jar. And yet, that first spoonful surprised me- Instead of scraping off shards of completely hardened oil, that flimsy wooden spoon slipped right in, yielding a dollop of creamy oil as soft as (non-dairy) butter. Already, I could see the new possibilities.

Slathered on toast and unadorned, this could be the new breakfast staple everyone will be talking about. No kidding, that subtle but sweet nuttiness adds richness beyond just fat, and amazingly, it actually spreads at room temperature with no muss or fuss. Though the flavor is admittedly comparable to most other coconut oils, it’s the consistency that really sets it apart.

Craving a classic movie-theater style tub of popcorn, it’s practically a matter of luck that most theaters have been popping their kernels in the tropical stuff for decades, and that same flavor is so readily available at home now. With a light sprinkle of fine sea salt, a handful of coconut oil-popped corn is quite a treat, movie night or not.

Not content to leave such a versatile ingredient alone, it struck me as the perfect start to a rich caramel sauce, ideal for topping everything from ice cream to cake to waffles. The experimentation certainly won’t end right here, but for now, I think I have a naked stack of pancakes and a big jar of this golden elixir to attend to…

Coconut Caramel Sauce

1 1/4 Cups Granulated Sugar
5 Tablespoons Light Agave Nectar
2 Tablespoons Water
1 Cup Coconut Milk
1/3 Cup Coconut Oil
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

In a medium sauce pan with high sides, combine the sugar, agave and water, and set over moderate heat. Allow the sugar to dissolve completely and continue cooking gently without stirring. Swirl the pan gently to keep the contents moving, as necessary.

Meanwhile, heat the coconut milk, oil, ginger, and salt together in a separate pot, just until the mixture comes to the brink of boiling. Set aside.

Now is the time to pay full attention to the pot of sugar. You should see caramelization starting to occur slowly, and at that point, you should keep swirling the contents of the pot fairly steadily to get even browning and prevent burning. Continue cooking until the liquid sugar is a deep amber brown just barely beginning to smoke, and very quickly pour all of the hot coconut milk in to stop the caramelization. Stand back slightly when you do this and make sure your face is not right over the pot, as this can sputter and spit quite severely- Be careful!

Once the bubbling subsides, stir gently and cook for a minute or so longer, as the sugar on the bottom may briefly solidify. Stir just until the mixture is fully combined and liquified, and turn off the heat. Incorporate the vanilla, and let cool briefly before serving, or transferring to glass jars for storage.

Make About 2 Cups

Printable Recipe


25 Comments

A Breath of Fresh Air

Going through the motions of the daily grind, beginning with the same flavors and same approaches everyday, everything starts to taste the same after a while. It’s simply so easy to get lost in the same cycle of cookies and cakes, cookies and cakes, that all the other options slowly fade from memory. Plated desserts? Part of another life time, from a whole different skill set. That so much time has elapsed without something more spectacular on these virtual pages is a downright shame, and now awoken by spring and craving a positive change, something that I plan to correct.

Starting slow, this fairly humble panna cotta, composed of rich coconut milk and complimented by thai-inspired aromatics such as lemongrass and galangal is an easy composition with complex flavors. Though mine was garnished with excess matcha coating leftover from my peppermint patties, molded into leaf shapes, it was ultimately agreed that a plain fresh mint leaf would have made for a more pleasing, light finish.  Successful plated desserts don’t have to call for the most complicated preparation possible, after all!

Topped off with pineapple cubes sauteed lightly in brown sugar and surrounded by a generous pool of raspberry sauce, each plate remains very light and refreshing, while nicely satisfying the craving for a sweet ending. Perfect for serving after a heavier meal, this would be ideal to whip out after any spring brunch, or either Easter or Passover (yes, it is “accidentally” pasedich!)

Lemongrass Panna Cotta:

1 13.5-Ounce Can Coconut Milk
2 Cups Water
2 Stalks Fresh Lemongrass
1/2 Cup Fresh Mint Leaves, Loosely Packed
Zest of 1/2 Lemon
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Teaspoons Agar Agar Powder

Sautéed Pineapple:

1 Cup Chopped Pineapple, Fresh or Frozen and Thawed
1 Tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Galangal or Ginger
Pinch Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Raspberry Sauce
Fresh Mint Leaves, for Garnish (Optional)

In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut milk and water, and set over medium-low heat. Whisk well, and set aside.

To extract the most flavor out of your lemongrass, you’re going to have to get rough with it; Don’t be afraid to show it who’s in charge. Take the flat of your knife to the side of each stalk, and bash the living daylights out of them. Then, chop them up into pieces as small as you can manage- But don’t drive yourself crazy. They’re very fibrous, so it will be difficult to get the stalks very fine. Next, lightly mince the mint leaves, and slice of the lemon zest in long strips. Add all of these aromatic ingredients into the coconut milk mixture. Bring the liquid up to a boil, clamp on the lid, and then turn off the heat. Allow your flavorings to infuse for at least 30 minutes, or up to an hour.

Set out 6 – 8 4-ounce custard cups or ramekins to prepare for the finished dessert. If you wish to unmold them and serve your panna cottas as photographed above, lightly grease the insides, or leave them alone if you plan to serve the panna cotta right out the dishes.

Once properly infused, strain the mixture through a fine cheesecloth, and return the liquid to the pot. Mix together the sugar and agar in a separate dish first to make sure that the agar is fully dispersed throughout the sweetener, before pouring both into the pot. Whisk thoroughly, and turn the heat up to medium. Stir occasionally until the liquid comes up to a boil, and then cook, stirring vigorously, for another minute.

Pour the hot, liquid panna cotta into your prepared dishes. Let cool out at room temperature for a full 2 hours before transferring them into the fridge, to prevent syneresis. Wait until fully chilled before serving.

For the pineapple topping, simply combine all of the ingredients in a small sauté pan, and cook over medium heat, stirring often but gently so as not to break up the pineapple pieces. They should take just 5 – 10 minutes on the heat, simply to dissolve the sugar and soften up the fruit a bit. Let cool, and either serve on top of the panna cottas while still warm, or chilled.

To complete the plated dessert, tip out on panna cotta onto a plate, and top with a spoonful of sautéed pineapple. Pour a ladleful of raspberry sauce around the base, and finish it off with a sprig of mint on top. Repeat with the remaining desserts.

Serves 6 – 8

Printable Recipe

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,630 other followers