While pondering what to write about for this week’s column, I kept seeing a lot of recipes that featured coconut. I know there are more than a few people I’ve met who said they hated coconut, but most folks I know seem to like it. If the coconut haters will forgive me, I would like to share some of my favorite recipes that use the white shreds we see in many desserts. As a kid, it was always a treat when my mom would buy a fresh coconut at the grocery store and we’d have fun poking holes into it and draining off the coconut water. Then it would get cracked and we would enjoy the tender flesh. I did find the rind a bit challenging to remove, though. On to the coconut recipes, but keep in mind that coconut cream is not the same product as coconut milk or water.
Easy coconut macaroons
2/3 cup condensed milk
2 2/3 cups flaked coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
1. Preheat oven to 350. In medium bowl, combine all ingredients until well blended. Drop by teaspoonfuls, about 1 inch apart onto well-greased sheet.
2. Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately remove from baking sheet. Cool. If desired, garnish tops of macaroons with red or green cherry or whole nut meats.
Coconut cream cake
1 package (18.25 ounce) white cake mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1 can (14-oz.) coconut cream
1 can (14-oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup flaked coconut
1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix cake mix, eggs, oil, water and coconut extract. Beat for 2 minutes and pour into the prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
3. In a medium bowl, combine coconut cream with sweetened condensed milk and stir until smooth. When cake comes out of the oven, poke holes in even rows using a large fork or chopsticks. Pour milk mixture over, allowing it to soak into the cake. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
4. In a large, clean bowl, whisk or beat heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar and continue whipping until stiff. Spread over cooled cake. Sprinkle top with flaked coconut.
It’s your choice to toast the coconut or not.
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons minced sweetened coconut
5 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 packages (8-oz. each) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons sour cream
3/4 cup of coconut cream
1 and 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons minced sweetened coconut
1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut, toasted, if preferred
3 tablespoons cream of coconut
1. For crust: Preheat oven to 350. Wrap the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with two layers of foil and spray the inside with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the crumbs, brown sugar and minced coconut. Pour in the melted butter and vanilla and mix until crumbs are moistened. Place into prepared pan and press together in an even layer with the bottom of a drinking glass.
3. Place on a baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool while you prepare the filling.
4. For filling: After baking the crust, lower oven temperature to 325. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until smooth, scraping sides a few times. Add vanilla, sour cream and cream of coconut. Mix until combined, scraping sides once.
5. Add eggs, beating in between each. Add cornstarch and coconut and mix well. Pour cheesecake filling into cooled crust. Place in water bath and bake for 40 minutes. Note: Water bath meaning place cheesecake in another baking pan, deep enough to bring the water about halfway up the cheesecake pan’s sides. This can help to avoid cracking, even though if you are using a topping, it usually hides any cracks.
6. For topping: While cheesecake is baking, spread coconut into an even layer on a baking pan and place on top shelf in oven. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until desired toasted look is achieved. Remove and while warm, transfer to a mixing bowl with the cream of coconut. Mix well and set aside to cool.
7. When cheesecake is done baking, evenly sprinkle toasted coconut on top of cheesecake while still in pan. Turn off oven and crack the door. Leave in cooling oven for at least one more hour.
8. Remove from oven and let rest on a counter top until at room temperature. Carefully remove outer ring and place in refrigerator overnight.
Coconut pineapple cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/ 3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut flakes
1 1/3 cups pineapple jam
1. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla, salt and flour until smooth dough forms. Wrap in plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle and lower positions and preheat oven to 350. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in egg wash then coconut flakes to cover. Use your thumb or the back of a teaspoon to make an indent in each cookie. Fill each indent with jam.
3. Bake cookies in preheated oven until lightly golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.