[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I'll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I've recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days. For this fourth edition, I'm focusing on Coconut. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the last entry on coconut.]
I’m loath to admit it, but I’m one of those people who can’t leave well enough alone. I’ll be decorating a cake and think, “Oh, it just needs one more flower on there somewhere. . . “ until the top of the thing could pass for a Jackson Pollock with the words “Happy Birthday” meekly peeking through the splotches. I’m like those middle-aged women (oh, wait, I actually am a middle-aged woman) who don huge, dangly earrings and then wonder if they wouldn’t be complemented by a massive pendant necklace. . . oh, and this lovely, chunky bracelet. . .and must top it off with that favorite equestrian-themed scarf–and can’t forget the cute doggie brooch, of course. As a student, I’d sit planted at the desk and revise my in-class essays over and over, right up until the very last second when the bell rang (I mean, what if I had left early and later remembered a comma splice I’d neglected to fix?)
And then there’s that cringe-inducing conversation–you know, the one with your One and Only that goes something like this:
Scene: Evening. Ricki and the HH lounge comfortably on the sofa, engaged in animated conversation.
HH: . . . And then the guy says, ‘Yeah, maybe the sandwich on its own is good, but it’s the dill pickle that really makes it great!!”
Ricki: Ha ha ha ha HA AHA!! Oh, HH, you are just the funniest!! “ The dill pickle really makes it great!” Hee hee. [L eans over to touch his arm ].
HH: Har har hee hee. What a laugh, eh? Yep, the dill pickle. . . [ stretches his arm around her shoulder.]
Ricki: Hee hee, soooo funny. [ Smilingwith adoration ]: Oh, HH, I love you.
HH: I love you, too. [ Smiles]
Ricki: [ Pause ]. Um, you know, I’m just wondering about something.
HH [Looking suspicious ]: What?
Ricki: Well, you know, I’ve just noticed that I’m always the first one who says, “I love you.” Why is that?
HH [ No longer smiling ]: Well, that’s not true.
Ricki: Really? When’s the last time YOU said it first?
HH: Um, I dunno. . . last month, probably.
Ricki: No, honey, I’m sure it wasn’t last month. Because remember our anniversary? And remember when the next weekend, we went out with Gemini I and her hubby? Well, when we got home, we were sitting on the couch like this, and–
HH: [ Heavy sigh ] And you know, we were having such a nice moment there. I guess you just couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you?
Hmmm. This irresistible tendency to push the boundaries manifests itself in my prowess in the kitchen as well (no, no, I’ve moved off that scene of me and the HH now! I’m talking about cooking, silly!). I love to tinker with recipes and will frequently alter them considerably, even without trying them in the intended form first. After a lifetime of baking (okay, minus the first 6 years of my life), I’ve more or less discovered what works and what doesn’t. And if I attempt something creative that doesn’t quite meet my expectations, I don’t take it personally (unlike my reaction to the HH’s lack of amorous expressiveness).
One of the issues that’s come up in discussions with the recipe testers for my upcoming cookbook is the matter of substitutions in the recipes. Of course, when the testing process began, I assumed everyone would follow the recipes to a “T.” However, in reality, it’s not always possible for everyone to acquire the exact ingredients; or they might not have everything on hand; or they might not own the perfectly-sized pan. It got me thinking, “how often do I follow a recipe exactly?” The answer? To quote the infamous book title, less than zero. (Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration; maybe it’s just a little less than less than zero, more like a little more than never).
But you know what? That’s perfectly fine. Really, if you feel comfortable with cooking or baking and want to introduce minor alterations, that’s terrific; the result may in fact be something even better than the original. The trick is knowing what to substitute, and when it will work. Spelt for all-purpose? No problem. Agave for sugar? Fine, with adjustments. Cherry for pumpkin? Probably not. And chocolate for eggplant? Well, that’s just wrong. (Though, of course, you might like to actually combine the two for a terrific result instead).
When I read about Claudia’s tantalizing Strawberry Coconut Coffee Cake on Vagrant Vegan, I knew immediately that I had to make it. True to form, I adapted the recipe to my own needs and on-hand ingredients, using Sucanat instead of sugar, spelt instead of wheat, and so on. I also decided to bake the cake as an 8 x 8 inch square instead of a 9 x 13 rectangle, as it’s just the HH and me here (and we don’t give The Girls anything too sweet). Then, when I finally went to bake it, I realized strawberries were already out of season–but I had frozen raspberries in the house; why not use those? (and besides, don’t cooked raspberries just impart the most sensational fuscia hue?).
In the end, my version isn’t exactly like the original, but this cake still turned out spectacular. I think the base is a perfect coffeecake batter, one that can handle many deviations and still taste great (which is, after all, the mark of a winning recipe). The cake itself isn’t too sweet, and it offers up a juicy burst of tangy raspberry in every bite. Since coconut is one the HH’s favorite foods, he was drawn by the aroma as it toasted in the oven, and couldn’t wait for his chance to taste it. The verdict was unequivocally positive–he gobbled up a piece and then asked for another.
“That was delicious,” he enthused. “Maybe the cake on its own is good, but it’s the coconut that really makes it great ! “ I could have kissed the guy.
He smiled. “I love that cake!” he said. What? Did he say, “love”?
“Um, you know, I’m just wondering about something. . .” I started. But then I quickly shoved a large chunk of cake in my mouth and swallowed it.
With all of the pink in this recipe, I’m submitting this post to the Power of Pink Challenge for breast cancer, hosted by Jen of the Beantown Baker. Having recently learned that someone I care about is battling breast cancer, I’m happy to be able to contribute. The challenge is on until the end of the month if you’d like to submit something pink.