Happy Easter with chocolate and coconut bites

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This is a tale of redemption. The lesson here is: when life gives you chocolate and coconut, put them together. Because it’s a match made in sweet heaven.

I started last week with a clear image of a happy Easter egg assembly line in my kitchen. My plan was a simple one, and seemingly a winner: home made Easter eggs made of two thin layers of milk chocolate, and a creamy coconut paste in between them. An Easter egg Bounty bar, if you will.

 

And then a succession of failures ensued. The picture inside my head was quickly shot down by reality. The pile of coconuts I had planned to grate yielded a bunch  of dried, brown, foul smelling pulp that went straight to the bin. And Easter egg moulds proved to be the most difficult kitchen item to procure in the history of the world. By the time I resigned myself to the fact that no shop in the UK was prepared to sell me chocolate moulds – they’re either discontinued, or require a purchase no later than Christmas to guarantee delivery by Easter – I had a large bowl of delicious creamy coconout in my hands. Yes, because shredded coconut made an excellent alternative to the fresh stuff.

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And so I finally let go of the original Easter egg idea, and instead had an enormous amount of fun melting chocolate and turning them into coconut-chocolate bars. This was not the fancy, exclusive chocolatier boutique sort of bar. Yes, they taste moreish and delicious. But they look far from perfect and pristine, and since it is Easter, I decided to dress them in not exactly the most elegant or sober packaging. After all, Easter eggs are like chocolate in drag. I made mine into small morsels and wrapped them in colourful tissue tied up with ribbon. And I am now sitting here praying the weather will hold, as there are dozens of these things spread around the garden, ready for tomorrow’s Easter egg hunt.

Happy Easter!

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Post-Easter update: the chocolate disappeared in record time. I thoroughly recommend this if you’re looking for an instant crowd pleaser.

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Chocolate coconut bites

The first step in this recipe should read: Move to a tropical country. Sadly, the coconuts I managed to find in London were no good. The alternative was very good, and I ended up with a moist coconut paste that carried a lot of flavour. If possible, look for packets of flaked, instead of dessicated coconut. There’s more moisture and flavour in them. I then shredded them finely in a food processor. The coconut paste is incredibly tasty on its own, and I’d advise you to make a little extra, as several spoonfuls seemed to mysteriously disappear in the making of this.

As for the chocolate, I went for milk, as the kids I was making this to prefer it. I like Green&Black’s for an easily available, reasonably priced, good quality chocolate. Choose the chocolate you prefer, and go for a really fancy one for a treat – and if you’re not feeding a bunch of famished kids!

makes about 50

  • 300g fresh coconut, grated. Or 300g flaked coconut. I used Neal’s Yard one.
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 300ml full fat milk
  • 500g milk chocolate

Make the coconut paste:

Put the coconut (fresh or flaked) into a food processor and shred it finely.

Mix shredded coconut, milk and sugar in a medium sized, heavy bottomed saucepan, and bring it to the boil. Continue to cook on medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not let it burn. It is ready when you can easily see the bottom of the pan as you stir it. You should end up with a thick porridge that doesn’t fall off the spoon as you turn it. Let it cool completely before using it.

Melting the chocolate: If you’ve never made chocolate, this step-by-step guide from the BBC Good Food pages is excellent. If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, here’s a rough guide that will work well in this recipe:

  1. break 350g of the chocolate into chunks and process the remaining 150g finely in a food processor.
  2. place the 350g chocolate chunks into a bowl over simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir only a little bit, and when it is almost fully melted, remove from the heat. Reserve about 5 tbsp of the melted chocolate and keep it warm (keep it over the pan with hot water, but out of the heat).
  3. Add the 150g finely processed chocolate to the large portion of melted chocolate and stir until the whole lot is melted. Then add the bit of melted chocolate you set aside earlier. This should ensure the right temperature and you’ll end up with shiny, smooth chocolate.

Assembling the chocolate-coconut bites:

Grease your hands a little with butter. Take about a full teaspoon of coconut paste into your hands and roll it. Dip the coconut ball into the chocolate to coat it well, pick it up with a fork and let the excess fall into the bowl, then rest the final product on a sheet of parchment paper. Let it cook completely, ideally for a few hours until it has dried up well.

Wrap it up: I used a layer of foil for direct contact with the chocolate, and then wrapped tissue paper around the foil.

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Coconut marshmallows (Maria-Mole)

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Children’s parties can be loud things. The ones I attended when I was growing up in Brazil were insane. Brazilians have a very sweet tooth. Very. We don’t go much for the hint, or suggestion of sugar in our desserts. We go the full hog.  Back in the 70s, with not a lot of thought given to ADD or E numbers, there was nothing standing between a birthday table covered in glucose and a pack of 7 year olds. The result was a bunch of crazed kids buzzing around in a collective sugar rush for hours, until the first inevitable crash came knocking down everyone else like dominoes. And we all went home sobbing and a bit bruised, ready for the next birthday do.

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One of the many treats I stuffed my face with in those parties was Maria-Mole. They’re not quite marshmallows, since there are no eggs in them, but it’s a similar texture, a little bit lighter, and covered in coconut. If you’re thinking of turkish delight, forget it. These are much more delicate, a bit more bouncy, and not  chewy or sticky. Before you know it, an entire tray of maria mole can go in 2 minutes. They’re the very definition of moreish.

In the true spirit of the 70s, you’ll find maria-mole in various pink colouring shades, or coated in a thin film of chocolate, or sometimes sprinkled with toasted peanuts. I suspect the  ones I had as a kid were out of a pre-mixed packet, with synthetic coconut flavouring. I like the white, unadulterated coconut version, and made my own here, dispensing with the help of Dr Oetker. You could use fresh coconut milk if you’re lucky enough to have them handy. I used coconut milk out of a tin.

 

And it worked a treat. Imagine biting into a coconut cloud. Made like this, maria-mole are definitely not a sickly children’s treat, and would make a very proud and grown-up appearance at any table. I served mine with coffee after Sunday lunch, and I wish I had some kids to blame for the mysterious disappearance of all maria-mole by the time I went to bed. With a slight ringing in my ears.

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Coconut marshmallows

(Maria-Mole)

  • 2 sachets of unflavoured powedered gelatine (20g)
  • 1 cup boiling water (200ml)
  • 1/2 cup cold water (10ml)
  • 2 tins coconut milk (800ml)
  • 2 cups caster sugar (320g)
  • shredded coconut
  1. Butter a baking tray that is at least 5 cm (2 in) deep and approximately 35cm X 25cm (14 X 10 in)
  2. Start with the coconut milk: empty both tins into a saucepan, bring it to the boil, then lower to a medium heat and let it cook until it’s reduced to 1/2 cup (100ml) – about 30 minutes. You can use it straight away and don’t need to wait for it to cool down.
  3. In a small bowl, dissolve the gelatine in the 1/2 cup boiling water, stirring all the time until there are no grains left. Transfer it to the large mixing bowl of an electric mixer.
  4. Add the reduced coconut milk, cold water, and sugar. Start the mixer in the lowest speed, and gradually raise it to the highest. Do this carefully, as the liquid will splash a lot to start with. It’s a good idea to shield the bowl with a tea towel. Or just wear a big old apron like I did. Continue to mix until it thickens to a texture similar to stiff egg whites and the volume at least doubles up. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Pour the mixture into the buttered baking tray, and leave it in the fridge for at least 4 hours until it’s firmed up. They’re quite easy to handle after that.
  6. Cut the marshmallows into small squares and coat them in shredded coconut.

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