From the moment I start cooking something for a blog post, I begin to think about how I want to style it, often sketching out something onto the recipe itself or on a separate piece of paper if room doesn’t permit. And while I’m making pictures along the way, words and snippets of thought to be included in the post freely move about in my head like internal dialogue in a comic strip. I’m so in the moment, trying to achieve the shots I want, that I don’t take time to jot down my thoughts. Multi-tasking while in my creative mode isn’t something I’m particularly interested in. I’ve come to realize this isn’t the best way to roll because days may go by before I’m able to sit down and actually write the post. It’s often hard to get that word mojo back while trying to connect the thoughts that linger in my memory. Of course this is with the assumption that the words and snippets are still there and haven’t been replaced by a million and one other parcels of life that have been grouped under the heading of “distractions.”
Quite often I wish to be the kind of person capable of keeping the spigot at an even flow, accruing things in a manner of degrees rather than all at once. But I’m not that kind of person. And I’m not so naive to think that I really have all that much control over the majority of what is often perceived as being thrust upon me – that which makes me choose between this blog and my family. There really is no choice as far as I’m concerned, just a commitment to act as quickly as possible and get back to where I left off.
So I look to my photos for inspiration and try to recover my misplaced direction. It also really helps to step outside on a winter day and be greeted with near 80-degree temps. Typically this kind of summer-in-winter weather pattern disappoints me but some days it appears as a gift, especially when I need to be reminded of the warm, distraction-free days of last October when all that stood between me and relaxation was paradise and a small bag of Hawaiian coconut candy.
I’d love to say that our unseasonably warm weather along with the photos brought all of my thoughts right back where I’d left them, but they didn’t. Too much time has passed and too many life circumstances have directed me elsewhere. All I am left with is the memory of sweetened, caramelized, crunchy coconut shavings – any remaining bits of which have also disappeared with the passage of time.
So rather than fight time I’m going to surrender to it, accepting that it is better to pick up the other coconut that sits on my kitchen counter and get back to where I left off .
I consider it the sweetest of all distractions.
If you have ever traveled along the roads on Maui and have stopped at a roadside stand or swap meet, then you may know of the Hawaiian Coconut Candy of which I speak. There is absolutely nothing like it.
- 1 whole coconut, drained and shelled
- 3 3/4 cups water
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- With a vegetable peeler, shave the coconut into long strips and set aside.
- In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, add water and sugar and dissolve over medium heat.
- Add vanilla and coconut and increase heat to high.
- Stir occasionally and boil for 30 minutes or until the syrup has reduced significantly (about 2/3 of it should be gone) and the coconut becomes translucent.
- Remove strips of coconut with tongs, allowing excess syrup to drip off, and lay in a single layer on silicone mat-lined sheet pans.
- Place sheet pans in a 275 degree F preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until coconut is evenly browned and caramelized.
- Promptly and carefully remove coconut candy from sheet pans while it is still hot (use tongs or a metal spatula) and place candy on a cooling rack.
- When candy is completely cool, store in an airtight glass jar.
Coconuts can be found at most supermarkets. Choose one filled with coconut water (you'll hear it sloshing around when you shake it), and drink the water. It is the most natural source of rehydration and I love it with a splash of pineapple juice.
The coconut will more than likely be scored around the "equator" of the shell for easier cracking. Instructions for opening the coconut are usually on a sticker attached to the coconut.
When the hard shell of the coconut is removed, there will be a brown skin on the outside of the coconut meat. There is no need to remove this. It is fine to eat and will not alter the flavor of the coconut at all.
You want to keep the coconut meat in big pieces so you can achieve long strips of coconut so be careful when prying it out of the shell. Once I broke the coconut in half, I broke each half in half which made it easier to get the meat out.
I found it best to put as many pieces of coconut onto the sheet pans at one time making sure not to create a pool of syrup which will present problems when it's time to remove the candy to cool. A little syrup will inevitably form around each slice of coconut; that's okay.
It seemed a waste to discard the remaining syrup, so I used some of it to sweeten my coffee and tea.