coconut-corn soup with red curry

As the weather shifts from hot to cool, soups appear on our table frequently.  One of my favorite flavor combinations in a soup is corn and coconut milk with a little red curry paste and as the temperatures begin to drop, it is one of the first soups I will make.  The soup is not as thick as a traditional cream soup but it is every bit as filling and on occasion, I add a few shrimp when I serve it for dinner but usually, I prepare it with just vegetables.  To get the true flavor of corn in this soup, use 3-4 ears of corn when they are in season.  Prepare them by slicing off the kernels and breaking the cobs in two.  Simmer the cobs in the soup for 15-20 minutes and then remove them.  Although corn is a real star in late summer, the convenience of frozen products keep it around all year and this recipe can be made with frozen corn kernels which is what I did for this recipe.

Use this recipe as a guideline; add fish, seafood or poultry pieces if you like, keep it vegan if not.  The vegetables you choose are up to you.  For this batch, I used corn, onions, carrots, celery and red peppers but you could easily add mushrooms or chunks of hard squash.  To make it a little extra filling, serve it with rice.

coconut-corn soup with red curry
serves 4
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced small
1-2 ribs celery, sliced thin on the bias
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon red curry paste
1 (12 oz) bag of frozen corn, thawed
2 cans light coconut milk
3 cups vegetable broth
3 large sprigs of basil
1 (2-3″) stalk of lemon grass
2-3 slices of fresh ginger
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce, optional
garnish-additional fresh basil, cilantro, slices of jalapenos, bean sprouts if desired
2 cups cooked rice
In a deep, heavy bottomed pot, melt the coconut oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery and red bell peppers and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and the curry paste and saute for another minute.  Pour in the corn, coconut milk, broth, 2 of the basil sprigs the lemon grass and ginger slices and adjust the heat so that the mixture simmers gently for 15 minutes or so.  Remove the basil sprigs, lemon grass and ginger slices and add the fish sauce if desired.
To serve, arrange the garnishes on a large platter for all to share.  Divide the soup into large bowls and serve the rice in small dishes on the side, allow everyone to garnish their bowls as they desire.
***If you have fresh corn on the cob, omit the frozen corn and add the fresh shucked corn and the cobs in its place.  Allow the soup to gently simmer for at least 15 minutes to extract the flavor from the cobs.  Before serving, remove the cobs.
***If you chose to add fish, seafood or poultry, add it when the soup is at the simmer and stir to prevent it from sticking to the pot.  Allow the soup to simmer long enough to ensure that the protein is properly cooked.

a touch of fall; coconut sugar cookies

sugar cookies are something that never go out of season.  for a baker, they are the equivalent of a blank canvas just waiting to be transformed into tasty works of art.  the dough is also flexible enough that the ingredients can be manipulated with substitutions and it will still be easy to roll out.

for this batch i replaced the butter with coconut oil and the result was a crispy, flaky cookie with a rich coconut flavor.  since it is now fall, i thought a few swirls of fall colors in the dough and a leaf cutter would be a nice way to try out my new kitchen and oven.  by using toothpicks, it is easy to add little dabs of color to the dough.  do this carefully, as you can see, the red i used overpowered the orange and yellow and made the dough look a bit cherry red instead of marbleized fall colors.

marbleized coconut sugar cookies
makes about 24 large cookies
7 ounces coconut oil, at room temp and solid
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for rolling the dough
paste food colors and tooth picks
leaf cutter
place the coconut oil into a mixing bowl with the sugar, vanilla and salt.  with the mixer on medium-low, combine the ingredients completely but take care not to mix too long.  coconut oil responds to friction quickly and will melt with a lot of mixing.  add the egg and mix to combine.  add the flour and mix the dough until it is combined.  
scrape the dough out onto a clean tray or large platter to prevent the colors from staining your counter top or cutting board.  to color the dough, dip the toothpicks into the food color and dab it onto the dough.  the more you add, the more the colors will mix and homogenize so do not try to add a lot.  wearing gloves if you do not want to stain your hands, gently knead the dough to distribute the colors.  add more color if you like, and knead it in.  do not knead it excessively or the colors will blend to form a single tint.  place the dough on the tray in the fridge to set for about 10-15 minutes to make rolling it out easier.  preheat the oven to 350.  line several cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpats.  
to roll the dough, refer to this previous post which illustrates the use of dowels.  roll the dough, cut out the leaves and transfer them to the prepared trays.  bake the cookies for about 14-16 minutes.  the cookies should be lightly browned around the edges.  allow the cookies to cool completely, store air tight.

holiday cookie round up: coconut spritz

several years ago, i scored this vintage cookie press on ebay.  it has lots of disks to make many shapes.  the box is in nice shape too and even has the original price on it, $3.95.  try and find a new set this nice for that price.  i love the trigger action, it works perfectly.  the only advice i can give you, press them directly onto the sheet pans; do not use paper or grease the pans!  the reason, the cookies will not separate from the gun and you will find yourself getting rather irritated when you have to peel each one off and put it on the pan…yes, that is experience talking.

for my batch, i decided to make them coconut flavored.  to do this, i used coconut oil in place of the butter and because it seemed a little on the dry side, i also added a few tablespoons of unsweetened coconut milk.  if you would like to try mixing up a batch, try this recipe from the joy of cooking, it is the base recipe i started with and then made the substitutions.

when i switched to pans without paper, it was quick and easy to pump out the cookies.  to make it even easier, i used the same pattern for all of the dough.

each pump of the trigger releases the exact amount of dough for one cookie.

because i also added a little coconut milk to the dough, they spread out a bit.  the combination of coconut oil and coconut milk gave nice flavor and brought back childhood memories of danish butter cookies.

each christmas, my grandfather would bring us a tin of (store bought) danish butter cookies.  the different shapes and varieties were stacked separately in the tin using large fluted paper muffin cups.  one of my favorites was always the coconut bars.  they were rectangular in shape with grooves across the top.  these were also some of the last to go-apparently, i was the only one who liked them.

pina colada cake

this is the story of two cakes.  one a beautiful cake and the other, a shipwreck.  or train wreck, take your pick.  either name will work.

as i have mentioned before, i work in a demonstration garden with my fellow master gardeners.  it is my responsibility as the project chair to round up the volunteers and maintain the garden.  to do this, i have resorted to bribery; it works out so much better than whining and begging…since i go out to the garden every sunday morning, i have made it a habit to take a freshly baked cake with me.  sounds easy but it is a challenge to come up with a different cake each week.

the result is that every week, i create a new recipe.  sometimes, it is as simple as substituting an ingredient or two in an already successful recipe.  other weeks, it can be complicated as i attempt a new formula all together.  most of the time, the cake works out and i am able to make minor adjustments to use the next time i bake the cake.  other times, not so much.  this last time, really, really not so good.  and by not so good, i mean the cake was self destructing from the moment i took it out of the oven.

 don’t you love the ski slope effect?  trust me, it went completely down hill from here…

as i stood there looking at my sad cake, i watched in horror as more and more of the sides of the cake just fell off and littered the tray.  so sad, so embarrassing.  how would i fix this?  there wasn’t any time to bake another cake, i would just have to bring it out to the garden and hope for the best.  the best laugh that is.  shirley quickly dubbed it a total shipwreck.  and honestly, it was-no harm, no foul, just lots of giggles.  she and lynn were astonished that i could have baked this.  so as you see, even a pastry chef is capable of a shipwreck every now and then.  the mistake here, i tried to temper the acid level of fresh pineapple by adding a little baking soda to the recipe.  guess what, the cake did not need any tempering.

so this week, when i set out to bake a cake for my gardening friends, i had a new challenge; no eggs.  we have a couple of new volunteers that both follow a mostly vegan diet and the eggs needed to go.  luckily, they were both okay with a small amount of butter but definitely not the eggs.  and luckier still, i happened to have a package of ener-g egg replacer in the pantry and a supply of coconut milk and coconut oil.  i also had the determination of a baker scorned; i simply was not going to be pushed around by a cake.  no, i was going to win this thing, we were going to eat pina colada cake and it was going to be a good cake.  no ifs, ands or buts.  just a really good cake!

recipe notes:  to get a nice pineapple flavor, use fresh, ripe pineapple.  peel, core and cut enough of it into 1″ cubes to make 2 cups.  place the pineapple in a food processor and pulse to produce tidbits.  do not let the machine run for more than 5 or 10 seconds at a time or you will quickly make puree.  put the pineapple tidbits into a mesh strainer and press out as much of the juice as you can.  reserve the juice for the syrup that is poured over the warm cake.  2 cups of chunks should yield 1 cup of tidbits and 1/2 cup of juice which is what you will need for the cake.

for the liquid in the recipe, i have used coconut milk.  to get the best texture without it being gummy or overly moist, use a light coconut milk or an unsweetened coconut milk beverage.  these will add moisture without excess fat that can make the cake greasy and heavy.

for the vegans, use all coconut oil(2/3 cup) and ener-g egg replacer(4 1/2 teaspoons mix to 6 tablespoons of warm water).  for the not so vegan, you can do as i did and use half unsalted butter(6 tablespoons) and half coconut oil(1/3 cup) with the egg replacer.  and for those of you throwing caution to the wind, you can also just use 3 large eggs, and all butter but you will have to use  coconut milk to be able to call it pina colada!

if you have never used ener-g egg replacer, it is easy!  follow the instructions on the box and use as you would real eggs.  place the powder in a mixing bowl, whisk in warm water and let it sit while you start mixing the recipe.

pina colada bundt cake
1 bundt cake serving about 12
*before starting-read the notes above!!!
1 cup fresh pineapple tidbits*
ener-g egg replacer equivalent to 3 eggs*
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened*
1/3 cup coconut oil*
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup coconut milk*
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup light brown sugar
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour a bundt cake pan.  place butter, coconut oil, sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor.  pulse to combine.  with the motor running, pour in the egg replacer and process until smooth.  pour the mixture into a mixing bowl with the pineapple tidbits.  stir to combine and distribute the tidbits evenly.  sift the flour and the baking powder over the batter and fold it in a few times.  sprinkle the coconut milk over the top of the batter and fold together until no streaks of flour or butter remain.  scrape the batter out of the bowl and into the prepared pan.  smooth out the top and bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about an hour.  while the cake bakes, make the syrup by combining the juice and the brown sugar in a small sauce pan.  bring the mixture to a boil, reduce it to a simmer and allow it to simmer for 2-3 minutes.  set it aside while the cake bakes.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then turn it out onto a rack to cool.  prick the surface of the cake with a fork and spoon the glaze over the top of the cake.  allow it to cool completely before slicing.

coconut tea cake

 each week, i bake a cake to take to the new group of students attending the master gardener’s classes.  this week, i had to do a bit of foraging in the cupboards-i hadn’t gone to the grocery store and my options were few.  for some reason, which i cannot explain, i found 5 cans of coconut milk in the closet.  then, while searching for some shredded coconut, i came across a package of fresh-frozen coconut from birdseye.  it is finely shredded and barely sweetened but most importantly, it tastes pretty close to fresh coconut and it doesn’t involve the hassle of opening a coconut and removing the flesh.

since there are at least 50 students in the class, i made a big 10″ (12 cup) tube shaped cake.

after the cake cooled, i dressed it up with a simple glaze and sprinkled some toasted coconut over the top.

coconut tea cake
1 (12) cup cake serving 16-20
7 ounces unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
4 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup finely grated fresh coconut (or the frozen shredded, thawed)
1 can coconut milk, whisked smooth if lumpy
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons of half and half (or coconut milk if you have some extra)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted (or not if you prefer)
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour a large tube or bundt cake pan and set aside.  place the butter, sugar, salt and 2 teaspoons of the vanilla into the bowl of a food processor.  pulse to combine.  with the machine running, add the eggs, one at a time and allow to mix in.  scrape the mixture into a large mixing bowl since the rest of the ingredients will be folded in by hand.  place a mesh strainer or a sifter into a bowl.  place the flour and baking powder into the strainer/sifter and set aside.  stir the shredded coconut into the mixture-make sure there aren’t any hard lumps of coconut in the batter by breaking them up with your fingers.  sift the dry ingredients over the batter.  fold the mixture a few times and then pour the coconut milk over the batter.  carefully fold together until no streaks remain.  scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a pick comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes.  remove the cake from the pan and allow it to cool on a rack.
when the cake is completely cool, whisk the powdered sugar with 3 tablespoons of half and half and the vanilla.  add additional half and half as needed until you have a thick glaze.  using a spoon, drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake.  decorate with a little toasted coconut.

is it custard or cream? coconut cream pie-#21 of 52 pies

i am not sure what has happened but suddenly, it seems that i am constantly playing catch up.  no matter what is going on, i just feel like i am falling far behind…take this post for instance.  the pie was done on time, the photos too but when i looked at the calendar, it was suddenly tuesday!!!  as i have said before, it’s that time of year when we have lots to take care of and we are spending as much time as possible tending to the garden.

for those of you who are familiar with my job, you know that i make coconut custard pies-tons of them each week.  they are pretty tasty too.  often i find myself trying to explain the difference between coconut custard and coconut cream.  so here goes…a custard is usually a dairy product that is thickened with eggs; it can be sweet or savory and it can also have other thickeners like flour or cornstarch in it.  while almost all cream fillings are based on a custard, not all custards are creams.  sounds like i’m mincing words doesn’t it?  mainly, it is a lot of opinion but simply put, the main differences between a cream and custard fillings are when and how they are cooked.  in the case of coconut cream and coconut custard pies, the latter is cooked on a stovetop and cooled in a prepared crust while the former is baked in the crust.  since i make the custard version on a nearly daily basis, i decided to go with the cream version this time.

coconut cream pie
1 (9″) deep dish pie that serves 8-10
1 (9″) chocolate cookie crust-homemade or store bought
1 1/4 cup shredded coconut-do not use the fine cut macaroon coconut
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
1 (14oz) can coconut milk-do not use the reduced fat variety
2/3 cup sugar
4 eggs
1″ piece vanilla bean
whipped cream, recipe follows
preheat the oven to 350.  toast the coconut until it is a nice and even golden brown color.  reserve 1/4 cup for the garnish.  place the cornstarch in a heat proof bowl, add 1/2 cup milk and whisk until smooth. place the remaining milk, coconut milk, sugar and vanilla bean in a heavy bottom sauce pot and heat over medium heat.  whisk the eggs into the cornstarch mixture.  when the milk comes to a gentle boil, remove it from the heat and whisk it into the eggs.  pour this mixture back into the pot and place it over medium low heat.  while whisking constantly, bring it to a gentle boil again for one minute to fully cook the starch and the custard.  off the heat, remove the vanilla bean, stir in the coconut and pour it into the pie crust.  press plastic wrap to the surface and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.  make the whipped cream and spread it over the top of the pie and decorate with the remaining coconut.
whipped cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons sugar
in a chilled bowl, combine the ingredients and whip until moderately stiff peaks form.  take care not to whip it too stiff or it will be difficult to smooth it out or even worse, you will have butter…

the latest pie round up

this weeks entry comes to us from benni.  you may recall that she has baked one of my pies before and sent photos.  this time, she chose to make the peanut butter and chocolate swirl pie.  the family loved it and if you look at the photos, you can see that she barely had time to take a photo at all…
thanks for baking with me benni!  for all of you who dare, and i do dare you, double dog dare you to go ahead and bake my day-i mean pie.  send me photos and i promise i will post it here!