I, in the normal run of things, am not one for repeats of ‘needs a tweak’ sort of recipes. I want it to work the first time, since my enthusiasm can only sustain me that far. Or rather that’s how long my laziness can remain dormant. I broke the mould however, for the idea of a coconut mini doughnut. I suddenly had some sort of unquenchable craving for a coconut baked treat and it had to be made in my shiny new mini doughnut tin. I did various versions using Nigella’s Jam Doughnut muffins as the base and it had enough potential, to give me impetus to try again. And yet again, tweaking all the while. The reason is simple really, I’m stark raving nutts about coconut. Now, please…don’t start about saturated fats. I know, but I don’t care. There are few foods with which I am as stubborn as a bulldog about and coconut is definitely the first on the list.
With good reason. The evergreen state of Kerala is so named because of the shade and bounty lavished on it by the tall stately, shapely, curved coconut trees. Kera means coconut in Sanskrit. Alam means Land. My native home is the Land of the Coconuts. There are worse places on this good earth that you could say you were from.
Every single part of the tree is usable – for furniture (the trunk), kitchen fire stove fuel (the outer shell of the coconut as well as the immature part of the tree), natural biodegradable scotch brite (the thick, wiry bristles that hug the nut stubbornly), for making brooms (the vein/ribs of the leaves, which are stripped and bunched together), thatching roofs (using dried leaves), dyes (from the root), the actual shell serves as an odds and ends sort of spoon and of course, in the sweet and savoury uses of the fruit itself. No wonder that the family trees in private plots of land, are guarded so jealously.
Grating a coconut in Kerala can be a dangerous business. You grate it, at the end of a metal circle with menacing spikes coming out of it, attached to a stool no higher than half a foot off the ground. A proper lady, would sit side saddle (unless no one else was there) and grate away, letting the tiny peels (it had to be fine or my grandmother would have a go at me) fall onto the plate placed under the threatening spikes. My work shy, soft hands took a week to harden against the grazing I would get while turning the scratchy, wiry carapace so as to get an even grating.
My treat for such cruel labour at the start of every morning, was to nick the first grating, all waxy and moist. I got into trouble for that too; my grandmother with narrowed eyes and a wagging finger, said it would rain on my wedding day. That’s why I got married in a desert!
I tried several methods of inserting a good degree of coconut flavour into my experiments. They were all wonderfully insipid or overbearingly greasy. I tried baking it with lite coconut milk (wonderful, fluffy texture, but not enough flavour), then with full fat coconut milk (too thick and the muffin was dense, but the taste was better), a mixture of coconut and veg oil (ditto on the dense front and the oil flavour was too strong) as well as topping with sweetened shredded coconut. They were fine, just…fine.
My next attempt (yes, I wasn’t thwarted yet) was going to involve coconut milk powder. And then I stumbled on this uber-simple recipe from King Arthur’s flour website. Brilliant! Someone has done the work for me. Mix wet and dry ingredients separately, bring together, and pour and bake. A couple of bowls and a spoon were all the equipment needed. It uses coconut milk powder, no butter, just healthier vegetable (I use canola oil) oil and coated in some sugar and coconut milk powder.
If you don’t have a mini doughnut tin, then a mini muffin one works splendidly. Just make sure in both cases that you grease and flour really well. The original recipe calls for making it in a regular sized doughnut tin. I am actually relieved I do not own one, as I have no restraint when it comes to these beautiful pale, cream coloured beauties.
This recipe is made using icing (confectioner’s) sugar and what happens is that you can a soft, unbelievably tender, close crumbed, cake like, fluffy bake. The balance of coconut was perfect, coming in firmly and sweet because of the drenching and finishing through the doughnut. One of the finest wee things to come out of my oven. Heavenly.
I am ashamed to admit to how many I have eaten. Between four of us in this house and out of 16 doughnuts and 12 mini muffins made out of one lot of batter, two are left, which will promptly disappear after I publish this post.
After the requisite baking, testing, photos and writing, I sought to reward myself for my uncharacteristic perseverance. I indulged in the pleasure of sitting by the sunny window, in my favourite chair, with a fabulous book, a cup of tea and these coconut mini doughnut morsels placed at a very convenient distance from my fingertips. It’s the small, sweet things that makes the day special.
And finding what you’ve been looking for.
To view and print recipe, click here.