There's a back story to the previously mentioned Coconut Chai Blondies. I envisioned wide pearly strips of coconut majestically gracing the tops of the tall, round statuesque blondies planned for Valentines Day.
What seemed like a such simple idea, morphed into one of those major events (a fiasco?) - or perhaps just another learning curve. The only coconut I could locate matching my imagination was the slim smatterings found in small bags of mixed dried fruit. When I spotted a fresh coconut in my market's produce section the solution seemed obvious.
The fact that I have never successfully cracked a coconut did not phase me. Is it co-incidental that the mighty coconut seems to present itself time and time again when I am off on carefree tropical adventures? Hawaii, Tahiti, Mexico, Bahamas.. good laughs, a few injuries, but the coconut always won.
I've read numerous accounts on how to approach and conquer the coconut, nevertheless I did my homework again, just in case there were new discoveries in this realm. Hammer, sterilized nails, 2-cup glass measurer (we're ready for lots of coconut water!), bowl, 2 knives, board, newspapers - and a potato peeler!
Outside, I cautiously drop the nut onto my courtyard pavers. Nothing happens. Next, a good firm downward pitch and miraculously the husk cracks and separates. It peels off easily! I shake it, inside I feel and hear liquid sloshing about.
A few well positioned taps with the hammer and nail and the coconut's eyes are punctured, I place the nut over the glass measurer and the coconut water slowly begins dripping out! I watch, as my thirst increases by the minute. I imagine myself on a deserted island alone with my coconut. Finally, when the nut is completely empty I eye the glass measurer and it holds less than 1 cup. I draw the elixir to my lips, I think I am having a religious experience. I can smell the fruity coconut essence, the water is surprisingly mild, not sweet, not salty, just perfectly refreshing. I can do this!
Transported maybe, but not done by a long shot. The next step is to break up the coconut and access the meat inside. Forget the hammer; more aggressive slams to the pavement and the nut shatters about in manageable pieces. Now, the work of removing the inner skin begins. This is where the island mentality is helpful. I am mindful that this is a process, embrace it, try not to hurry. I am one with my coconut, enjoying life. Paring knife in hand, time passes as I patiently carve away.
Ultimately, I am left with hard, iridescently white, moist coconut chunks. Armed with potato peeler I pull across an edge and wide strips roll off. I place a layer of shreds on paper toweling, sprinkle them lightly with sea salt, and microwave a batch a minute or two until nicely toasted. This is the real deal, nothing like the stuff in packages. Pure bliss! A tall, cool drink is clearly in order.
For my blondies, I bake the coconut strips in a slow oven (about 300 degrees F.) for 20 minutes or so, not to brown them, but long enough to remove moisture. Total yield: about 3 cups. For 24 blondies: about 1/2 precious cup. Oh, my.