Monday, April 20, 2015

Coconut Bites

Sometimes some of us just want coconut.

I'm well aware this does not apply to everyone, but I think for some people there may be an actual need.

Coconut candy can be made at home, it's relatively simple, and can be made well.
All that, plus you know what's in it.
The interior here has four ingredients- that's it- and they're four things you might already have in your pantry. 

As for the outside, it's just dark chocolate.
Now, you can choose to go ahead and temper the chocolate, but if that's too much for you to deal with, you can just melt it and keep these little bites in the fridge. A cold coconut and chocolate combination isn't such a bad thing. In fact, it's quite nice.

Normally, I would say you definitely don't want your chocolate to make it's way to your fridge- this is one of those chocolate caveats as it's not the best way to treat good chocolate. However, an exception (to me, anyway) is when dealing with coconut. At this moment, it's not about the chocolate. It's about the coconut. Certainly, use good chocolate (make no mistake, bad chocolate is a bad thing), but remember that the chocolate is there to elevate the coconut a bit, make it a little more special, and contain all that coconutty goodness.  That chocolate is not the main attraction, it's got a functional job that happily ends up being something more than merely functional.

There are people out there that may balk at that comment about chocolate, but it's true. Chocolate chip cookies in their "regular" form are not chocolate cookies. True, the chocolate may be the purpose and the cookie part just be a vehicle for some. Chocolate and cookie work together.
What a team.

(For some reason this is reminding me of a saying my mother likes to use that never makes sense to me. It's about alligators, a swamp, quick thinking and focus- but frankly, I never understand it. It won't matter how many times I hear it. And then I wonder how often people in Indiana really need to think about alligator confrontations, which I imagine to be almost never. And why discuss it? It doesn't apply so well in the Midwest.
I guess my point was that some people will never be able to make sense of the need for coconut, or the sacrilegious reasoning behind someone feeling the need to discount chocolate.)

Anyway, if you choose to go the tempered chocolate route, you can find some information here.
Just remember that the coconut will be cold and affect the setting of the chocolate somewhat. Tempered chocolate stiffens more quickly than that which is untempered. It will set up even faster on something that is cold, and sometimes this causes the chocolate to crack. 

After being dipped, you may choose to top the coconut bites with a bit of shredded coconut as decoration or to help identify the interior. Fleur de sel is also a nice topping for a little sparkle as well as a contrast and flavor burst. Of course, they're still just fine unadorned

Coconut Bites
(makes about 25, 1 tablespoon/15 ml capacity confections)

14 oz (400 g) shredded coconut
1/2 c plus 1 T (135 ml) maple syrup
1/3 c (75 g) coconut oil
1/4 t (1 g) fine sea salt
12 oz (340 g) dark chocolate, chopped

(*Note: if you have a drier, more natural and without extra sugar type of shredded coconut- my preference here, you may want to add about 1T more each of maple syrup and coconut oil, 15 ml and 20 g, respectively. These can be added after the initial blending after checking the consistency and whether the mixture will be sticky enough.)

In the bowl of a large food processor, place the shredded coconut, maple syrup, coconut oil, and salt. Process in several long pulses until well-combined, but only just so. You don't want the coconut mixture to turn into a paste. Scrape down the sides once or twice and re-process.

Scoop the coconut mixture into tablespoon-sized portions, tightly packed, and place on a parchment paper lined sheet pan. (A cookie scoop or mini ice cream scoop does a great job of this.) Refrigerate the tray about 2 hours before removing to dip the coconut mounds. 

Right before you are ready to dip, place the chopped chocolate in a bowl placed over a simmering pan of water (bain marie). Let the chocolate melt, stirring occasionally until smooth. 
(Alternatively, follow instructions to temper the chocolate.)
Dip each coconut mound into the warm melted chocolate, and using a fork, remove to a parchment paper lined sheet pan.

Refrigerate until the chocolate is stiff, or let set at room temperature (untempered vs. tempered chocolate). Keep the coconut bites refrigerated in a covered container.

(Addendum: If the chocolate is tempered, of course the bites don't need to be stored in the fridge as the chocolate will have completely set. Also, they're best if not served directly out of the fridge- at least a few minutes sitting at room temperature will help. The bites are better if they're given time to take the chill off a bit- if you can wait!)