Thursday, 1 August 2013

Traditional Coconut Ice

I promised in my post about the homemade chocolate box that I'd give you all the recipe for coconut ice, and here she is!

There are so many variations on the recipe for coconut ice, I've lost count of how many I've read. Some need cooking, some don't, some need a plethora of ingredients, others need only a handful. But through experimentation and learning from recipes for other kinds of sweeties, I've refined a foolproof way to make coconut ice: it's based on the recipe I would've used as a child, which I learnt from my favourite book in the world, Sweet Success by Sackett and Marshall.

I think I may have referenced this book already in a previous entry, but it is probably the best book I have ever read. Filled with some delicious and truly horrifying recipes (it is quite dated), this 1970s tomb of culinary genius has seen me through many a victory and a disaster in the kitchen, and has never been far from my bedside for night time reading. Although this book got me into the world of sugar craft, I now see it as merely a starting point: the measurements of ingredients are all correct, but the methods can be somewhat dubious; some recipes don't even have oven temperatures or baking times in.

As such, I use the coconut ice recipe from this book, but I have altered it slightly, including what I've learnt to be the most vital step in any boiled sugar treat that involves being beaten: leaving the syrup to cool slightly before beating. It makes the sweets gloriously smooth and melt-in-the-mouth. I don't know why leaving the syrup to cool before beating makes it softer, but it works every time.

I will point out, however, this is for traditional coconut ice. I've noticed a lot of Australian cooks on YouTube make coconut ice by mixing icing sugar, condensed milk and desiccated coconut, which is a nice simple no-cook version but I don't really like it. If you aren't familiar with cooking sugar and the different sugar boiling stages, check out the Exploratorium's explanation of sugar cooking.

This is a large quantity that will make about 1¼ pounds (570 grammes) of coconut ice, but I've found it can be easily halved or even quartered. Just be really careful when making small batches because it can burn or crystallise easily.
  • 1 pound (450 grammes) caster sugar
  • 5 fluid ounces (140 millilitres) milk
  • 4 ounces (115 grammes) desiccated coconut
  • A few drops of red or pink food colouring

  • Prepare an 8 inch (20 centimeter) square tin by either greasing it lightly or lining it with non-stick baking paper. You could also use a silicone baking tin, which needs no greasing or lining.
  • Pour the milk into a medium sized heavy based saucepan or casserole dish. You want the milk to fill the pan by about half an inch (a centimeter).
  • Heat the pan gently on a low heat until starting to steam, and then pour the sugar into a pile in the middle of the milk. Using gentle circular motions, stir the sugar into the milk without touching the sides of the pan. This prevents the syrup from crystallising later.
  • Keeping the syrup on a gentle heat, mix until the sugar has dissolved into the milk and you are left with a slightly cloudy liquid. Using a wet pastry brush to wash away any sugar crystals that have formed on the sides of the pan.
  • Once all trace of any grittiness and crystaliness is gone, turn the heat up to medium-high. Allow the mixture to boil and once boiling clip a sugar thermometer onto the pan and don't stir. As tempting as it may be, just don't do it.
  • While the mixture is cooking away, fill your sink or wash basin with about 3 inches (7.5 centimeters) of cold water. This will become clear very soon.
  • Boil the mixture to soft-ball stage, which is 115°C (240°F) (or you could boil to 118°C (245°F) for slightly firmer ice). Once the temperature is reached, take away the thermometer, bring the pan and dip the bottom in the cold water in your sink. This instantly stops the sugar from cooking any more and reaching the wrong sugar cooking stage.
  • Leave the pan of syrup to sit for about 10 minutes, or until slightly cooled.
  • Pour in the desiccated coconut and mix until the mixture is starting to become thick and slightly creamy. Pour half of it into a tin, and then mix a little food colouring into the remaining mixture in the pan to get a delicate pink colour. If it gets a little stiff, just return it to a gentle heat and mix until the right texture. Pour this over the white layer.
  • Leave to set for about five minutes, and then score into pieces while still in the tin. This will make your life so much easier later.
  • Allow to set completely, preferably overnight, and then turn out and cut where scored. Please, don't set it in the fridge: even thinking about the fridge while touching the coconut ice can cause it to crystallise and have a crunchy texture.

This is delicious on its own, but even nicer when smothered in chocolate... as most things in life are. As you may have noticed the pink is a little red, but you could make it any colour you wanted.

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