Friday, January 20, 2012

Coconut and Almond loaf

Seven minutes. That's all it took for this potentially moist cake to go dry. I dozed off in front of the TV (serves me right for baking at midnight I guess) and woke up to realise that I'd left the cake in the oven a little too long. Arrrrgh. I rushed into the kitchen, expecting to see a loaf of charcoal. 

God musta been looking out for me, I guess. 

The cake was, thank goodness, salvageable. Just a little browner than I would have liked on top and a tad dry. Nothing that a little syrup infusion would not fix (more on this later).

The star ingredient of this cake is coconut oil.

Coconut oil has featured prominently in my life, all my life. As a child, I remembered the people around me -- aunts, cousins, family friends -- who had thick, lovely hair that was neatly plaited or pulled into a tight pony tail. Their hair had a nice, healthy sheen to it which mine lacked and I later learnt that the sheen was thanks to a daily (almost) coat of coconut oil. At the time, I couldn't imagine putting oil on my hair and so my hair was never magnificent.

Years later, when my mother grew ill and her skin became dry, she used to rub fresh, home-made coconut oil on her arms, elbows and legs. This time around, I follow suit.I even applied it onto my hair. It was the best moisturiser I'd even tried.

And, it smelt wonderful..

But I never, ever considered cooking or baking with coconut oil. Until I read an article in The New York Times last March about the benefits of cooking with coconut oil.

"... virgin coconut oil has a haunting, nutty, vanilla flavor," wrote Melissa Clarke of the NYT. "It’s even milder and richer tasting than butter, sweeter and lighter textured than lard, and without any of the bitterness you sometimes get in olive oil."

Seriously? I was interested. Very interested. I went out and bought myself a bottle of organic virgin coconut oil.

That was four months ago. I kept getting side-tracked and never got around to testing out Clarke's assertions.

Until last week that is. I decided to make a version of the Almond and Lime Zest Pound Cake that accompanied Clarke's article. The cake was tasty. And, true to the article, nutty too. And the smell. Oh my!

Next time though, I will not fall asleep and so the cake will be super moist and that would make it perfect.

Almond and Coconut Pound Cake

1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
3/4 cup milk
3 eggs
Zest of 1 lemon
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsps baking powder
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt.
1/3 cup grated, sweetened coconut flakes /dessicated coconut

Lemon Syrup (to rescue the dry cake)
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar

For the topping, mix the almonds, 2 tbsp of of sugar and 1 tbsp water and set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs, milk and the remaining sugar in a bowl until well incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Add the lime zest and the coconut flakes to the mixture.

Grease and line a loaf pan. Pour the batter into the greased pan. Sprinkle the topping all over the top and bake for 50 mins.

ONLY if you let your cake over bake, here's a quick lemon-syrup infusion to help moisten it.
Heat the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Keep on the stove for 2-3 mins. Invert the cake from the loaf pan onto a baking sheet. Using a toothpick, poke holes in the top and sides of the cake and drizzle the syrup over and let it seep into the cake (a couple of hours or overnight) before cutting/serving.

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