Leave your diets at the door. Seriously, that's what I'm doing ... at least for the next couple of weeks. There is just one week to Deepavali (the Festival of Lights celebrated by Hindus) and what that means is the house is stocked with lotsa great treats. I don't make cookies or cakes; I mostly make crunchy, savoury snacks like muruku (there are quite a few varieties). But there is one sweet treat that I succumb to. No Deepavali is complete without it. What? Coconut candy of course ... the Malaysian version, loaded with coconut and, unfortunately for my hips, sugar too.
This candy is sweet. Very sweet. No, devilishly sweet. So sweet you can literally feel your teeth aching if you eat too many pieces at a go. But, it has to be sweet. Have you ever heard of a low caloric coconut candy? You have? Well, it must be god-awful then. Nope, it has to be sweet. I'm emphasising the point simply because I got yelled at (well, I exaggerate but it wasn't pleasant) when I suggested that I reduce the sugar in my coconut candy recipe just a tad. Just a tad, mind you.
"What's wrong with you? Coconut candy is supposed to be sweet!"
I am easily convinced.
As a kid, I used to jump around the house about this time of the year, every year. My mother, you see, only made coconut candy for Deepavali. It wasn't a year-round snack. I tried suggesting that she make it more often and was rebuffed. Numerous times. So I had to settle for once a year. And every year, I'd stand by the stove, very excited (almost trembling) as she made the candy. The thicker it got, the more frantic I became. The smell of the coconut as it was cooking was heavenly. Hanging around the stove had its benefits. The free smells aside, I got to lick the remnants from the wooden spoon she used to stir the candy after she was done. I also got to scrape the pot down with a spoon for crumbs. Oh my, what a little piggy I was. And when all was done -- when the candy was cooked, had cooled and was cut into pretty squares -- my mum would put all the broken bits and odd shaped candy pieces in a jar for me and my brother to eat. My sister, being the eldest, was older and a little more dignified.
I treasure those days. These days, I have to make my own candy. No free rides.
Actually it's quite fun.
Pink and green. Those were the colours my mum used for her candy and I've stuck by them. Pastel pink and green, mind you. Not the garish fuschia and electric green you find in stores.
Ok, lets get down to the recipe. It's actually quite straightforward. All you need is some time and a strong arm. And a fan in the kitchen cos it can get really sweaty.
3 packed cups grated coconut (white part only, please)
500 g sugar (I know! I used 500g for the pink batch and about 400+ for the green)
170g evaporated milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp butter, to grease a lamington pan/baking sheet
Loads of Patience
Grease you lamington pan/baking sheet with butter. Set aside.
In a non-stick wok or pan, add the coconut, evaporated milk, salt and sugar. Over low heat, gently stir until the ingredients and mixed and the sugar dissolves completely (about 15 mins). As the sugar dissolves and forms a syrup, the mass gets really wet and sticky. Remember to keep stirring ... almost continuously.
Next, add the butter, essence and colouring. Stir till the butter and colour is evenly distributed. Keep stirring over low heat until the mass thickens.
As the mass thickens, it will start to come off the pan. Persevere. You have to keep stirring so that the bottom doesn't brown and the mass cooks evenly.
Now comes the only tricky bit: when do you remove it from the heat?
Well, when the mass kinda forms a ball when you stir it. It's thick and not as glossy anymore, almost matte.But don't let it get too dry. It should still have a sticky texture.
OK. When its ready, quickly transfer the candy onto the greased pan. Flatten and level the surface using plastic sheet or aluminium foil. Press down with the help of a rolling pin: it helps make the candy dense compact, so it doesn't break up.
Cover with foil and leave it to set. When it is almost cool, cut the candy into squares. Remove only after it has completely cooled.
|And there you have it ;)|
Ok, so my cutting skills aren't great. My candy squares had legs and little bits sticking out from every direction. But ... the candy turned out great. Yay. Now, onto my third batch!