Sunday, March 17, 2013

Going Loco for 'Coco'nuts

If you are a regular reader, you know that I always plan my holiday meals well in advance.  Having broken away from the 'same old-same old' foods of my childhood, i.e. no tropical fruit salad for Easter, I try to be new and exciting.

Unfortunately, that did not work so well for Christmas when my sons all picked the same foods we had the year before.  This holiday, I did not ask for input.

I had it in my head that I wanted to make lamb shanks, so I just had to build my menu around them.  So, braised lamb shanks with creamy polenta will be the centerpiece.  Trying to be healthy?, we will have hummus and pita toasts and red pepper strips with tzatziki sauce instead of the oft requested baked brie. 

The appetizer will be broiled shrimp with champagne butter sauce.  Our vegetable with be roasted asparagus salad with pancetta.

And then there is dessert.  I decided I wanted to make a simple coconut cake.  Turns out it is not so simple, but then I already knew that.

Two years ago my son called and wanted to know where he could buy a coconut cake for his fiancee's birthday.  I called around and no one made them.  So, I decided to make one instead.  I used a recipe by Emeril Lagasse, which was basically a chiffon cake with coconut in the batter.  Not having tasted the finished product I take their word for it when they say it was good.

But I was still looking for a recipe with real strong coconut flavored cake, not just coconut in it or on the frosting.  How hard could that be?  Plenty.

I have read recipe after recipe.  One that I found online talked of an eight layer cake, but the photo only had four layers.  Searching some more I found that the same photo was used for another entirely different recipe.  I guess you cannot believe everything you read or see on the Internet.  And then I found the recipe that really goes with the photo at the Food Network.

On Friday I picked up the latest mag from America's Test Kitchen of their all-time favorite recipes with a coconut cake on the cover.  I also had some coconut oil I wanted to use in place of some butter, but I was not to enthused about a recipe I found using the oil.  And I wanted to avoid using a cream cheese frosting.

 But now I am set.  I have now come up with a recipe that combines America's Test Kitchen with Bobby Flay and coconut oil.  I know that Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, says never to try something new on your guests.  Well, this is family.  And my fall-back can be some rice pudding if it fails.

Hopefully I will end up with a coconut flavored cake, four layers filled with coconut cream and covered with a wonderful fluffy frosting and fresh coconut.  If it all turns out, I promise to share.

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