Coconut Bimini Bread

I am heavily into reading the international culinary exploits of Sasha at The Global Table.  The idea of making a full meal from every single country in the world tickles my anthropological aesthetic.

Sasha’s venture into the food of the Bahamas caught my eye, and I decided to try her Coconut Bimini Bread.  The Pie is a huge bread fan and I love cake, so this could be a very good thing for our little household.  I don’t have a bread maker, which is where she mixed her dough and had it rise, so I had to make do with my stand mixer and my frigid Newfoundland kitchen.

I don’t fail as much these days, but it does happen sometimes.  This was such an occasion.  Here is how my version turned out.

Take yourself 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast, 4 1/2 cups unbleached flour, 1/4 cup dry milk powder (a handy thing to keep around the house), 1/3 cup sugar, 1 cup coconut milk (warmed, to help activate the yeast), 3 tablespoons honey, 3 tablespoons softened butter, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, and 3 eggs.  Chuck those in the bowl of your mixer in the order given.

Give it a stir in the mixer.  It takes only a few seconds to mix it all up.  Add a bit of extra flour if your dough is too wet.

I popped the dough in another bowl, covered it with a towel, and put it in a warm spot to rise for an hour and a half.

Then the Pie made me a grilled cheese sandwich.  I ate it.  It was good.

After an hour and a half, nothing had noticeably happened to the dough.  Nonetheless, I proceeded.

Sasha says the dough is enough to fit in one Pullman-sized loaf pan or two regular bread pans.  Pop your dough in an oiled pan or two and leave it to rise for another 30 minutes and preheat your oven to 350°F.

After rising, slash the top with a sharp knife (oops, I forgot the slash) and then bake for 35 minutes or until brown on top and cooked through.  I had sincere doubts about this bread.  It hadn’t risen at all.  Maybe I need to knead it a bit first?  Perhaps my dough was too wet.  Probably the latter.

My loaf didn’t brown, but I’m not offended.  My oven isn’t the kind of oven that browns things.  I also failed to get either loaf out of the pan in one piece.

We had it hot with butter and a bit of honey and it was pretty good, though a little heavy.  We also made it into French toast and it was kind of awesome.  I’d definitely like to try this one again and see if I can’t get it right.

So … ap.

My sister-in-law, back before she was my sister-in-law, gave me a wee soap-making kit for Christmas a few years ago.  Love ya Teedz.

I’ve always wanted to learn to make soap from scratch.  I even have a book on it. It’s a pretty complicated process, and I’m not sure where I would get the raw materials here in St. John’s.  Maybe it will be a project for the future.

This wee kit is a good start, of course.  You make it in the microwave!  I really don’t use my microwave enough.  Mostly for heating tea and magic bags.

The kit is from Life of the Party and it contains a block of white unscented soap, a mold with three spaces for pouring, some decorative hand-made paper, a bundle of raffia twine, two tiny pots of metallic colour powder (one pink, one green), a small bottle of scent (half-empty – I think some of it transpirated over time, though the scent is just as overpowering as it as before), and two rubber stamps.  And a sheet of instructions.

Being rather uber-scent-sensitive, I quickly discovered an allergy to the perfume in the bottle (upper lip numb and swollen, that’s a new one).  I think if I make soap again I’ll use natural extracts.  This scent makes my brain feel a little itchy so I think I’ll be using it sparingly – and probably giving away the results.  Better make them good in that case.

This is how we do it.

Each bar of soap uses about four cubes from the big-ass block.  I hacked these off with the aid of one of my stupid sharp knives and some adult supervision (because, let’s face it, I really can’t be left alone).  Actually, it was much easier than I had thought.  The soap has a soft and oily quality that is slightly disturbing to touch but which makes it relatively easy to cut. I had three spaces to fill (but only two stamps, hmm).  I decided to do the bars two at a time, then.

Eight cubes went into a microwave-safe measuring cup (I love Pyrex for so, so many reasons).

Microwave the soap on high for 40 seconds, then stir.  Nuke for a further 10 seconds.  Stir again. Repeat 10-second intervals until the soap is all melted.  It looks like coconut milk when it’s done but smells like soap.

The instructions want me to caution you that melted soap is hot.  No kidding.  It does, however, cool quickly, and will cake on your measuring cup and whatever you use to stir it.

Add fragrance, drop by drop, until the desired level of potency is reached.  Due to my allergy I decided to forgo the perfume and use lemon extract instead.

Add the colour powder in a similar fashion until you get what you want.  I had a hard time mixing in the powder, and in the end much of it ended up clumped in the bottom of the measuring cup.

Put a drop of soap into the centre of your “mold cavity” (that sounds gross) and use it to stick down your embossing stamp.

Fill the rest of the mold with melted soap.  I noticed that a lot of my soap still went under the stamp, despite my sticking.

Allow the soap to harden and remove from the mold by applying steady and even pressure to the back of the mold.  This took a lot more swearing and bending of plastic than I had anticipated.

To remove the stamp from the bar, simply peel it away like a sticker.  Ha.  On both of them I had to cut them out with a knife before peeling them away. 

Also, I noticed that some of the colour from the stamp was left on the soap itself.  The soap still felt oily and left a residue on my fingers.

Plus it was weirdly bendy.

In addition, there was scary stringy soap stuck on my measuring cup and spatula. 

Fortunately, due to the oily nature of the stuff it was pretty easy to scrape off in huge peels.

I decided not to use the rest of the soap, and chucked the lot, keeping the stamps, raffia, and handmade paper for a future DIY.

This was an epic fail (though does not in any way reflect on the giver of the gift).  On the plus side my garbage smells nice.

FLOOR PIZZA

Let this be an example to you people.

Don’t rush things, and be careful in the kitchen.

Or you get FLOOR PIZZA.

The Pie says Floor Pizza is scary because it has a ‘creep face’ on it.  I can see that.

Greenthumbing Take Two

Happy Spring!

Well, not quite yet.  We had a blizzard last week that set things back a pace or two.  The above photo is one I took last spring around this time.  In fact, all the photos in this post are from my garden last year.

Last spring I had all sorts of plans for my garden.  I was going to create a simplified version of a wildflower garden, and plant things that I could name off the top of my head and that I knew how to care for.  I had all my seeds planted indoors, soaking up the sunshine from the warmth of my kitchen.  I was ready to go.Things did not work out the way I had hoped, however.  It was a cold spring and we had a last-ditch blizzard in late May.Most of my seedlings died because I had ignored the frost warnings.  The rest were eaten by slugs.  Even my marigolds, which I planted as slug repellents.  Who knew?

I did have some successes, however, and you can see the results here.

My failures were many, however, so this year I plan to start afresh: no seedlings, just mature plants, and everything will be simple and hardy enough for shallow, rocky, lead-lined soil.

Stay tuned!

Key Lime Pie – Messing up a classic.

I am not a perfect person, and it is my habit to make mistakes when trying new things.  And this blog is not about the perfect dessert or the best paint job – it is about experiments in grown-up living.   What follows, then, is not the first, and not the last, of my epic fails in the kitchen.  It has, however, inspired me to try again to see if I can get this right.  I have added it to my DIY To-Do list on the right-hand column.

***EDIT: The Pie wanted you to know that, despite the aesthetics of the thing, this was the best-tasting pie I have ever made.***

I found a pound of key limes at Sobeys about a week ago so I thought I would make some key lime pie. Obviously.

Key limes made in Mexico?

Key limes are smaller and sweeter than their more common cousins.

You can use regular limes, but purists will tell you it's not the same.

Now, key lime pie and lemon meringue pie are easy.  Really easy.  I decided to experiment a bit with the recipe.  The problem was that I was missing certain ingredients, which inspired me to experiment still further, and I was also coming off a rotten day, so making mistakes in the kitchen only added to my general frustration.  DON’T BAKE WHILE ANGRY.

The recipe I will give you below is how I should have done it, and I will explain as I go about how I actually did it.

I have two very shallow 8″ pie plates, and this recipe filled both of those.  I also have a deep 14″ pie plate, and it would probably fill that one by itself.  One of my next purchases is going to be a standard 9″ pie plate.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Start working on your crumb crust.  In a bowl, mix together 1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs, 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut, and 2 tbsp granulated sugar. In the normal recipe, you would use plain graham crumbs and leave out the coconut.  But that wasn’t fancy enough for me.

Getting fancy with the crust.

Add in 1/2 cup of melted butter and stir until the mixture is crumbly but still dry.  You should be able to squeeze a handful of the crumb mixture between your hands and have it stick together, but not be greasy.  My major failing with the crust is that several of the recipes I was using for inspiration had me add an entire cup of butter, which made my crust soggy and prone to collapse.  You might need more than 1/2 a cup to make your mixture cohesive, but you shouldn’t need much more than that.

Put your crumb mixture into the pan and pat it up the sides and across the bottom evenly.  For a nice, flat crust surface, press a slightly smaller pie plate into the larger one to smooth the edges.

Press a smaller pan into the larger one for smooth crust.

Place your crusts in the oven and bake them for 10 minutes.  Let cool and ‘rest’ while you do the rest of this.

Take a pound of key limes (about 24) and gather the zest of about half of them.  I use a fine food rasp from Lee Valley with a zester catcher.  It makes my life a lot easier.  I recommend you pick one up.  You can use a wood rasp as well (that’s pretty much what this is, anyway).

Pick up this rasp from Lee Valley.

Zesting 12 tiny limes took quite a while, and only rendered about 2 tbsp of zest, but that’s all you really need.

Careful when rasping - it's easy to get your fingertips caught.

Now we juice the limes. First, roll each lime on the counter while pressing with your hand.  This will bruise the flesh inside and make them easier to juice.

Cut all the limes in half and juice those suckers.  This took forever for me because the juicer kept sliding all over the place.  I had to put down a silicone baking mat, kind of like this one from KitchenAid, to get the thing to stay still.   Have patience.  You should end up with about a cup of juice.  Feel free to add more from a bottle if you feel you need more.

Juicing 24 tiny limes is a pain.

After this, I was already frustrated, and things started to go downhill for me.  As I’ve said, I put too much butter in my crust, which had sagged to the centre of each pan.  I pressed paper towels into the molten crust to remove excess butter and shored up the edges as best I could before baking them again and letting them cool.

This is easiest with a mixer.

Moving on … separate 6 egg yolks and plop those suckers in the bowl of your mixer.  Most recipes say to use 4 yolks, which is what I did, but I had problems with the stuff setting.  I will explain why shortly.  Add your zest to the bowl along with 2 tbsp granulated sugar and mix on high for about 6 minutes until the stuff is pale and fluffy.

Pale and fluffy.

At this point you add your condensed milk.  All the other recipes call for a 14-oz can of condensed milk (or, if doubling the recipe, two cans).  What I have discovered, however, is that a 14-oz can is slightly over 400 mL, while the available cans in Canada seem to only contain 300 mL.  Also I only had one can and I needed two.  I did, however, have a 500 mL can of baker’s coconut milk (this is why I added the coconut to the crust).  I figured adding the coconut milk would make the filling not as sweet, which is why I added a bit of sugar to the yolks and the zest.  I might even add more sugar next time.  Anyway, the coconut milk makes everything a little more runny, so that is why I suggested using 6 yolks instead of 4, just to make sure everything sets.

So you add in your coconut milk and your condensed milk and mix it on high again for another 5 minutes or so, until thick.  Pour in the lime juice and mix until incorporated.  Pour into the cooled crusts and bake for 25-35 minutes or until the filling has just set (as in, it shouldn’t be liquidy).  Cool on a rack, then chill for at least an hour and serve with whipped cream.

Having only used 4 yolks, I had trouble getting my pie to set, though it was all right after I had chilled it.  It was certainly not a pretty pie, but I plan to make up for it.

Not very pretty, but still tasty.