Thursday, December 9, 2010

Coconut Brioche – cupboard-diving reveals a little treasure

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Once upon a time, I met this surfer dude from California.  He was busking his way around the world with more infectious enthusiasm than musical talent. When necessary, he supplemented his income with a variety of jobs, mostly busboy or short-order cook.  His home was furnished with the fruits of his favourite hobby: skip-diving. He had evolved a uniform – which included thick boots, strong overalls, and gloves. And thus prepared, no skip was left unturned.
As you can see, this loaf bit the dust before I got to take the photos
It was the challenge that attracted him, the sheer creativity needed to assess his discoveries and to transform them into something wonderful. Some of his treasures included a custom-built computer cannibalised from assorted bits, a reconditioned antique dressing table for his wife’s birthday, a stunning dolls' house for his youngest daughter, and a parade of bikes for his whole family. 

Often he would find little treasures ready-made: a ruby ring in a jacket pocket; and, more often than you’d expect, he’d find bundles of cash!
While not quite in the same realm, cupboard-diving can be a bit of a culinary adventure, (Yes, the snow still hasn’t melted!) putting a variety of surprise ingredients in front of you if you venture into the shadowy recesses. For me, snaring store cupboard ingredients in this manner takes them a little out of context because I usually start with a dish in my head and then gather up the necessary bits. This way, the process is reversed.  
The first treasure to emerge was a tiny pot of paté de foie gras. This set my thoughts wandering in the direction of brioche. My discovery of a shortage of cow’s milk coincided with the discovery of a can of coconut milk with its sell-by date looming.  By now, the thought had developed into a craving for the light fluffiness that can only be had from Brioche.  Hmmm...  said my cooking brain, today I cannot live without brioche...  milk is milk... isn’t it?
The result is this divine coconut brioche.

For 2 lovely loaves you will need:
... to pre-heat the oven to 180°C towards the end of step 5

400g plain flour
50g desiccated coconut
1 sachet dried yeast
1 teaspoon table salt
175mls coconut milk, warmed slightly
70g runny honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g butter, softened
4 eggs, at room temperature, beaten
a little beaten egg to glaze
a large pinch of desiccated coconut to scatter over the top

A little star in a universe of canapé bases!

1.   First, mix together the flour, desiccated coconut, yeast, and salt.  Mix together the coconut milk, honey and vanilla extract and mix into the flour mixture (a food mixer with a dough hook is best for this job as it is quite a wet dough).
2.   When the milk mixture has been incorporated, drop in the softened butter - about a tablespoonful at a time - mixing until incorporated before adding the next piece of butter.
3.   When all the butter has been added, mix in the beaten egg, about a quarter at a time. When the egg has been incorporated, keep mixing for a further 5 minutes then cover and leave to rise in a warm place for up to 2 hours or until doubled in size.
4.   When the dough has doubled in size, lightly butter and base-line two 2 LB loaf tins. (To base line a tin, sit it on greaseproof paper or baking parchment and using a pencil, trace around it. Cut out the shape just inside the pencil lines. Lightly rub the inside of the tin with butter so that the paper sticks to the base. This makes it easier to remove the brioche from then tin when cooked.)
5.   Uncover the risen dough and mix for 5 minutes using the dough hook – it will deflate alarmingly. That’s ok - it is supposed to. Divide the dough between the two tins, cover loosely with cling film and leave to rise once more for about an hour or until doubled in size. Towards the end of this time, pre-heat your oven to 180°C.
6.   When the dough has had its second rising, very gently remove the covering, brush lightly with a little beaten egg and sprinkle with desiccated coconut.
7.   Transfer to the pre-heated oven and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch. Cool for about 5 minutes in the tins before turning out on a wire rack.
Best eaten warm, this is also wonderful used in a luxurious bread pudding or – as I did – cut into stars, toasted and used as tiny rafts for my pot of paté de foie gras.
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  1. I love to cupboard dive. When something comes out tasting delicious, you couldn't feel prouder!.. This looks great! Thanks for sharing. All the best. Luna

  2. I love making bread, but I'm not a big fan of coconut. Do you think this recipe would work with out the coconut and replacing the coconut milk with regular milk?

  3. Coconut brioche sounds so cool! I bet it's even more yummy than regular brioche thanks to the creaminess of the coconut milk. What a great adaptation!

  4. @Meg - Hi Meg, yes, I tried it with regular milk too and it works out fine (maybe add a touch more vanilla extract and leave out the desiccated coconut).

  5. Never used coconut when making bread, sounds like a great idea! Hubby loves the flavor of it, so must try it.Thanks for the idea!

  6. That sounds really simple and tasty. I love coconut so will be giving this a go. With pate de foie gras you say? Sounds delicious.

  7. I'm seeing a lot of coconut recipes these days. I love it, so this is right up my alley!


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