A new and exciting trend is taking my little Idaho hometown by storm-- Bountiful Baskets. It's a fantastic idea, really; each week, you order a basket filled with an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables, and when Saturday rolls around, you go pick your basket at the nearest Bountiful Drop Off location. But here's the catch-- you never know exactly what you're going to get. It's like Christmas morning, only with produce. I'm a big fan. (My birthday is in August. Please feel free to give me obscure fruits and veggies.)
And it was through these lovely baskets that we came to be the proud owners of three fresh coconuts. Three.
Um. Now what? And have you seen a fresh coconut lately? It's protected by nature's version of armor plating. And once you do get that brown husk cracked open (I had to use a really big hammer and a lot of moxey), getting all the good stuff out isn't easy. But I was motivated by a tasty looking recipe for coconut shortbread from one of my favorite cooking blogs, Smitten Kitchen (lovely pictures). So. Armed with a butter knife and a melon baller, I attacked. About an hour and a half later, I had the lovely white flesh from one half of my coconut, some slightly roughed-up hands, coconut oil all over said hands as well as my arms, and some flecks of coconut in my hair. It was a battle. I consider myself victorious.
Anywho, long story somewhat short, I grated my spoils, toasted (at 325 °F) them until they were lovely golden brown, and adapted the following recipe from SK. I wanted a bit more coconut flavor, and a slightly softer, chewier cookie, so I added brown sugar and a bit of coconut milk. This didn't work in the soft/chewy department, but I would like to think that it did add a bit of depth in the tasty department. I also decided to top the cookies with some lovely sugar crystals, which required a light egg wash to stick. And now, without further ado:
Coconut Shortbread Cookies
1 1/2 sticks salted sweet cream butter, softened (it's worth investing in the good stuff)
3/4 cups flaked coconut (I used a blend of fresh & the sweetened stuff from a package)
1/2 cup sugar, minus about 1 tblsp.
2 tblspoons brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tblspoons coconut milk
1 1/3 cups flour
pinch of salt
sugar crystals, as a garnish
Preheat oven to 325°F. Spread coconut flakes on a baking sheet & bake until coconut is light golden, stirring about every 4 minutes. It will brown rather quickly, so keep an eye on it. Cool completely, then grind in a food processor or blender until coarsely ground. (Really- let it cool first. I didn't & it was kinda hard to get out of the blender.)
With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars. Add vanilla, coconut milk, & a pinch of salt. Blend thoroughly, then add the flour in two separate additions--this just helps it all combine a bit more smoothly. Scrap down the sides of the bowl & stir in ground coconut. Scoop out your dough (it will be a bit soft) onto a large sheet of plastic wrap, wrap it up, & let it chill out in the fridge for about an hour.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Coat your counter with flour & roll out a portion of the dough to a very thin 1/4 inch. Using whatever smallish cookie cutters you like (I used various circles & hearts) & place the shapes on baking sheet. Bake for about 13 minutes, until golden brown, & let cool on pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Voila. You now know how to tackle a coconut, wrest it's gloriously rich white goodness from the shell (the melon baller was the best option), & make said goodness into even better cookies. Victory.