A couple of weeks ago one of my girlfriends living in St. Vincent posted a picture on Facebook of what we call coconut sweetbread. Needless to say this started a frenzy of posts which went from begging and pleading to almost threatening just for a taste of this scrumptious treat. So, I asked and she was gracious enough to email me the recipe.
Growing up in the Caribbean in the 70’s and 80’s many modern conveniences were rare; there were no stand mixers or food processors (although I don’t think food processors were yet invented.) Everything was done by hand. So, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and make this sweetbread the old fashioned way. It was not quite what I remembered, maybe because I was the one doing the eating and not the actual making/baking of this coconut bread.
I went to a local market and bought the coconut, broke it and removed the “meat” which was a bit of a challenge. Next I had to grate the coconut, yes using a grater not a food processor. My friends, this is so much easier when someone else does it. All the ingredients were mixed together, put into baking pans and into the oven. Let me just say here that because it is a heavy bread I did not make any adjustments for the altitude.
In an instant I was transported back in time when life was simple and in a word “sweet.” The house was filled with the aroma of fresh baking bread which appealed to the senses and filled you with longing. I took these golden gems out of the oven and was amazed that I had actually made them. I allowed them to cool a bit, then I made myself a cup of tea. I cut into the still warm coconut sweetbread and sat down to afternoon tea. I WAS IN HEAVEN! All the hard work paid great dividends as the flavors played on my tongue and I came to realize the meaning of “A Labor of Love.”
Sweet Coconut Bread
4 1/2 cups flour
4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup mixed fruit ( cherry, orange peel etc.)
1/2 cup raisins
3 cups grated coconut ( unsweetened)
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
2 eggs, well beaten
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2 tsp. almond essence
1/2 lb. butter (2 sticks) melted and cooled
- If you can’t find mixed fruit, use 1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries and 1/2 cup mixed peel.
- You can also just use raisins and cherries.
Preheat oven to 325.
In a large mixing bowl combine flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and baking powder using a whisk or fork work to incorporate dry ingredients.
Then add the mixed fruit, grated coconut, raisins and sugar and whisk together. Mixture will be lumpy as the mixed fruit is wet.
Finally, whisk the 2 eggs in a small bowl, add the milk, melted butter and almond essence.
Pour mixture into bowl with dry ingredients and work well to incorporate all ingredients to a cookie dough like consistency.
Grease two bread pans and divide batter equally into them.
Place pans on the middle rack and allow to bake for about 60 minutes ( longer depending on the oven) At about 50 minutes of baking insert a toothpick in the middle of bread if it come out clean bread is done, if there is batter on the toothpick bake a bit longer.
- As a nice touch, when bread is done cooking all the way through combine 1 tbsp. sugar and 1tbsp. warm water to make a glaze. Brush bread with glaze, sprinkle with sugar and return to oven for about 5 minutes.
Tip 1: When coconut sweetbread is cooled, wrap with plastic wrap to seal out air to prevent bread from drying out and becoming too crumbly.
Tip 2: Since there is fresh grated coconut this bread can go bad relatively fast, if there’s any left after 3 days store in refrigerator.