Three weeks ago, we together rolled our eyes because it seemed like everyone was either celebrating spring (pea tendrils! meyer lemons!) or on vacation without us, cluttering our social media feeds with shiny, happy scenes on distant beaches. We had a brief but unequivocally necessary pity party because while we were stuck here, shivering, with a fresh layer of sleet accumulating outside. We consoled ourselves with blood orange margaritas.
And then — EH TU, DEB? — I turned on you too.
Really, I have some nerve. There we were, finally getting caught back up after a fall and winter of extended absences while I hopped from Atlanta to Austin, Boston to Bridgewater, Minneapolis to Montreal, Salt Lake to St. Louis and I unpacked my thick sweaters and wool socks only long enough to replace them with sunscreen and flip-flops.
What a terrible week.
It really was the worst.
Almost seven years ago, Luisa Weiss wrote glowingly about Bill Granger’s Coconut Bread on her awesome site, The Wednesday Chef. It was one of those loaves we confusingly call “bread” — like banana or any other quick bread — but are actually cake, except instead of hinging on fruit, it zoomed unapologetically in on coconut. My husband really doesn’t like the shredded stuff, and so although I pined for it, I never made it. But before I left for vacation, I went on the cleaning tear of all cleaning tears (does anyone else do this? I can’t bear the idea of coming back to some mess I hadn’t dealt with — messes I can willfully walk by and ignore all other days) and found a bag of shredded coconut in the freezer leftover from… don’t worry about it. Suffice it to say, I decided I’d kept myself from the coconut bread long enough and within two hours, with some help, I was pulling the most gorgeous loaf, ever, out of the oven.
A mile high, glossy and bronzed, with a coarse crumb from a tangle of coconut, cinnamon, brown butter and vanilla — if Smitten Kitchen could be bottled into a scent, this would be its Love’s Baby Soft — it told me, in no uncertain terms, what a fool I’d been to wait so long to make it. It’s fantastic from the oven, still warm, but it’s even better toasted with a pat of butter and a dusting of powdered sugar. Trust me. Trust Luisa, trust Johnny Apple, trust that the people of Sydney, who won’t let Bill take it off his menu, are onto something. Your week will be much better with this in it.
One year ago: Carrot Cake Pancakes
Two years ago: Sally Lunn Bread + Salted Honey Brown Butter Spread, Tiny Poppy Seed Hamantaschen
Three years ago: Breakfast Pizza, Irish Soda Bread Scones and Spinach and Chickpeas
Four years ago: Migas with Tomato-Chipotle Coulis, Layer Cake Tips + The Biggest Birthday Cake Yet and Penne with Potatoes and Rocket
Five years ago: Almond Biscotti, Roasted Acorn Squash and Gorgonzola Pizza, Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake, White Bean Stew and Butterscotch Ice Cream
Six years ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Pecan Loaf, Italian Bread and Mediterranean Eggplant and Barley Salad
I had to practically physically sit on my hands to keep myself from tweaking this, because I love coconut with so many other flavors — lime! (I’d add some zest) mango! pineapple! (I’d add chunks, or slather it with mango curd) banana! (I’d puree some into the milk portion) raspberries! brown sugar! (I’d replace some of the granulated sugar with this)– I wanted to incorporate at least one of them in each batch. I was additionally tempted to amp up the coconut, using coconut milk instead of regular milk or virgin coconut oil instead of butter. And yet, I’m glad I didn’t because it doesn’t need any fussing to taste fantastic. Okay, FINE. I fussed in one place: I browned the butter. These things, they happen when a recipe asks me to melt butter and here, it is absolutely wonderful, adding a background of toastiness that plays happily off the coconut.
The crumb is here is more coarse than banana bread, and less squishy-moist too. There’s a real change in texture from the dark crust to the tender center that makes this bread excellent toasted with a pat of butter and sprinkling of powdered sugar. This salted honey brown butter spread would be excellent here too.
Despite the volume of sugar here (I admit, I was convinced it would be overkill) this bread is not very sweet. If you would like a less sweet bread, you can use unsweetened coconut, which usually comes dried. The original recipe didn’t call for salt, and I think this and all breads, really need salt so I added 1/4 teaspoon table salt but I think one could easily take the amount up to 1/2 teaspoon.
This loaf, once baked, entirely filled and towered above my 9x5x3 (8-cup) loaf pan, so if yours is smaller, you might want to pour off a little batter into greased muffin tins.
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups (295 ml) milk
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (315 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt (see Note)
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (Bill calls for 2 but I preferred 1, so that it didn’t dominate)
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
5 ounces (140 grams) sweetened flaked coconut (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted or melted and browned, if desired
Vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray for baking pan
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add sugar and coconut, and stir to mix. Make a well in the center, and pour in egg mixture, then stir wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Add butter, and stir until just smooth — be careful not to overmix.
Butter and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or coat it with a nonstick spray. Spread batter in pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, anywhere from 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool in pan five minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack.
Serve in thick slices, toasted, with butter and confectioners’ sugar or salted honey brown butter spread.