xmlns:fb='http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml' Trinidad Coconut Bake (Pot Bake)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Trinidad Coconut Bake (Pot Bake)

In my absence I have celebrated turning 39, which I realized, after much contemplation, isn't so bad after all. Nineteen years ago, I came to the United States after my father died, with only fifty dollars and a dream. No one to depend on for support or guidance. The future certainly did not look bright(didn't have to wear shades). Intertwined with the constant challenges, there have also been many sweet successes. 

With this new number,  I also find myself craving more comfort food and comfort food, as you know, is always the taste of home--the cooking on which we were raised. One taste of home is coconut bake. And this my friends is what I have been eating for the past couple of weeks. A recipe a year in the making. 

Coconut bakes, Roast Bakes or Pot bakes, as they are referred to, are nothing short of heavenly. Eating it with a slather of butter or cheese, or breaking off a piece to scoop up smoked herring and tomatoes, saltfish and tomatoes or buljol is quite a gratifying experience.

I've made coconut bakes off an on over the years, but they weren’t spectacular, just ingredients hastily thrown together hoping that the outcome would be edible. After numerous attempts over the past month, I believe I finally have a blog worthy recipe.

From my experience coconut bakes are dense yet light, full of coconut flavor--but not as dense and sweet as a 'sweet bread'. I tested the coconut bake varying the baking powder, the quantity of butter and coconut just to find the right marriage of ingredients, i.e. texture, taste and balance.  

Some folks suggested adding yeast, cookeen(shortening), milk powder, condensed milk. But you should know me by now, I wanted to keep the bake as uncomplicated as I possibly could, without sacrificing taste, of course...Mummy suggested allowing it to rise and kneading it back down up to three times.  Since I didn't use yeast that was not necessary, saving hours of prep time. 

I only used baking powder because, according to Mummy, that’s what Nani(her mother) used. Plus I didn't want a fluffy coconut bread.  It was the rustic, dense bake that I was after. 

Traditionally, coconut bakes were made in an iron pot over a chulha (wood burning earthen oven). Once I finalized the ingredients I was very curious to discover whether I can cook it in a pot too [no wood burning earthen oven though]. Bad idea for a person without patience. After waiting and waiting, checking the pot every minute, I just couldn’t restrain my impatience. I increased the heat to medium and went off roaming the house in search of distraction and chaos to conquer. 

I returned several minutes later, after "smelling something burning", as we say.  The bake was infact burning! The kitchen engulfed in smoke and my Hubbie engrossed in a game, oblivious to the disaster that was unfolding a few feet away from him. Men!!!!!! So where was I? Oh yes…Bake burning, smoke everywhere. I decided immediately that making "pot bake" is definitely not one of my fortes. I will stick to the oven. Set it and forget it...for about 30 minutes. 

In a few of the test recipes, I used the Kitchen Aid mixer that my DH (yes, now he is dear husband) bought me for Christmas. Kneading it was effortless and the outcome was just as good...but kneading the coconut bake by hand was just as effective and simple. Once all the ingredients are combined, I only kneaded the flour for a minute...I'm sure the pictures speak for themselves...

Cook's Notes:

[See instructions here on how to get the meat from a dried coconut. When my husband isn't available to remove the meat from the coconut, I use a hammer to break the dried coconut into many small pieces which makes it easier--very therapeutic.....

However, the Mexican guys at the West Indian Market (which is owned by Chinese) are always happy to break the coconut for me--to also check to see if they are good and not rancid. Because I use dried coconut very often, I occasionally buy a few and freeze them, the meat comes off easily after it has defrosted. I remove the meat, rinse, dry, cut it into small pieces and grate in the food processor....

If you don't have a food processor, grate using a regular stainless steel grater--the fine side-- or blend 1/3 of the coconut in the blender very fine (to make one cup) using the minimum amount of water necessary to make it work. Blend the remaining coconut with about 3/4 cup warm water. Strain and reserve liquid, discard husk...]

Ria's Trinidad Coconut Bake 
Makes 1 Coconut Bake

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour, sifted
3 teaspoons baking powder (aluminum free)
2 tablespoons raw brown sugar
1 cup grated coconut (lightly packed) 
¾ cup fresh coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt (I use Himalayan Salt)
3 tablespoons organic butter (salted or unsalted)

1. Remove the meat from a whole dried coconut. Wash, dry and cut into small pieces. Place in a food processor and grate until fine, about 1-2 minutes. 

2. Measure and set aside 1 cup of the grated coconut---lightly packed. 

3. Place the remainder of the grated coconut in a medium bowl or measuring cup, add 1 cup warm water(pic on the left below). Let it sit for a few minutes and then strain-- squeezing out as much liquid as you can. Set milk aside. Discard coconut husk.

4. Sift flour into a medium bowl. 

5. Add baking powder, salt and sugar.

6. Add butter to flour mixture and rub in, using fingers, until well incorporated.

7. Add grated coconut and mix until combined.

8. Gradually add coconut milk and mix, with a wooden spoon, until the dough comes together, not dry or too sticky. 

9. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a lightly floured counter. Knead dough by hand for about a minute by pressing dough down with knuckles to smoothen and folding the dough over itself and pushing out with the heel of your hands, not down. [Like I did here]. Rotate dough and repeat. Remember only about 1 minute. [I never overwork the dough.] 

10. Shape dough into a large round ball, cover and let it sit for 30 minutes. 

This is the dough from using the stand mixer. Just a little smoother. 

11. Shape dough into an 8-inch round (3/4 inch thick) by pressing and pushing dough out on all side [I don't knead it again]. Place in a greased sheet pan or cake pan like the picture below. Pierce dough with a fork. Allow the dough to rest about 20 minutes.

12. Place in a preheated oven 350F. Right before placing it in the oven, brush with a little water (about a teaspoon) and cook for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and bake is light and sounds hollow...and the kitchen smells heavenly.....

Remove from the oven and baking sheet. Butter a slice and eat immediately!!!!!!!

Wrap in clean kitchen towel--while eating...

[Wrap leftovers in plastic wrap and place in a zip lock bag. Store in the refrigerator. Heat before eating. I like toasting leftovers--in the toaster of course-until it is nice 'n crunchy--and plastering it with butter....]

Serve with butter, cheese, eggs, buljol, or saltfish and tomatoes...or whatever else turns you on....

Then write me and tell me how good it was...I'l be waiting....

Hope you are liking my recipes so far....! 

Always feel free to ask me any questions...I would love to hear from you.....

With love,
...all things coconut,
....& you too,


Sherry Ann Shirlyn said...

I will try this and give feedback. Looks delicious. Thanks for posting.

Cooking with Ria said...

Thanks Sherry Ann!

Cooking with Ria said...

No thanks to you I lost a few fingers today....DEEEEEEEEELISH...going to make more now...for

Cooking with Ria said...


Cooking with Ria said...

Hi Ria..... I felt for bake one evening and decided to take a look at your sight to see how you would make it but i didn't have coconut so i kept it simple and follow your recipe without the coconut. I also cooked it in a pot not in the oven because i wanted the outside to be crispy i got to say girl it turned out wonderful and boy was it delicious.
I am going to take a try at the brownies next then the Quinoa Salad....i cant wait to eat, i will let you know how it turns out :-)

Cooking with Ria said...

Hi Ria..thank you so much...you are making me hungry! Next time try it with the coconut!!You will enjoy it much more!! Thanks again for visiting my blog...

Cooking with Ria said...

I love yr recipes .can i use already dry shredded coconut in indian grocery.

Cooking with Ria said...

Hi! I made this bake tonight, it turned out excellent! I am dairy-free so I substituted the butter for the equal amount of Extra Virgin Coconut oil.
I will make this again! Thanks for posting your recipes.

Cooking with Ria said...

Hi Carolyn! You are most welcome..Thank you for your comment on the dairy free substitution, I am sure others will benefit from it..:-)

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