How I Learned To Love Coconut Milk Even More.
Before the events of this post, I already loved coconut milk and keep several cans in the house at all times. Big cans, for when I’m making rice (it’s soooo good) or little cans, to toss into a smoothie. By the way, the little cans are Cool Runnings brand, because apparently my kitchen needs a bobsled team.
As previously mentioned, we are big fans of the Toronto Zoo and I am a big fan of penguins. So when they mentioned they were having penguin encounters where you get to get very close to a penguin, well, I am there!
This is the back of my head and Penelope the Penguin. Just because.
And what better snacks to bring to the Zoo than Elephant Ears and Turtle Bread? For those not in the know, Elephant Ears are cinnamon rolls that aren’t sickeningly sweet (though my recipe does list sugar three separate times) and Turtle Bread is…bread. In the shape of a turtle. In my defence, these recipes are from a children’s cookbook my grandmother gave to me in 1990 called the Alpha Bakery.
I use this cookbook to this very day. My lemon squares recipe is in here and my lemon squares rock. It’s an amazing little cookbook for kids that teach simple, every day recipes. B is for Banana Bread. D is for Delicious Drumsticks (the chicken kind, not the ice cream kind). F is for Fudge Brownies.
The cover is falling off of my copy and there are some pages filled with notes, both in my mom’s handwriting and then my own (L is for Lemon Squares). Some pages have half the text missing because I set a sticky spoon on the cookbook (K is for Kart Wheels). Some have been used so much that there is food all over them (H is for Honey Bee Cookies) while others are pristine, never been used (O is for Oatmeal Pancakes). One always makes me smile (Q is for Quick Cheeseburger Pie – My Mom hates it, but my Dad loves it, so I always made it when Mom was out of town.) and one nearly got torn out and thrown away (Z is for Zebra Stripe Cookies – looking at the recipe now, I AM SO SORRY I MADE YOU MAKE THEM SO MUCH, MOM!). And while now I would take the recipes and adjust them (make my own pie crust for the Quick Cheeseburger Pie instead of using their recipe for Pat in the Pan Pastry, which always came out crunchy and awful), this book is part of the reason I can cook today. Using this book always makes me smile and makes me think of my Grandma and my Mom. It brings back memories of my childhood when we’d make lemon squares as a special treat for Dad, or we’d make Kart Wheels, which are like mini pies, because they were messy as heck and I loved them. Instead of making a simple loaf of bread, Mom would take the time to let me help and make the bread into the shape of a turtle. My Mom taught me the basics of cooking using this cookbook and for that reason alone, it will always have a special place on my shelf.
But it’s useful too! I’ve never made Elephant Ears before, but they looked easy enough and they were thematic. I had already decided to make Turtle Bread to save money on food at the Zoo. Of course, after he was done, I then cut his back into squares and made a cheesy pull-apart bread loaf out of him. Yum.
I need to start over. I made these treats yesterday to take with us, and as I was gathering all of my ingredients (a good way to make sure I actually read the recipe before I start cooking AND make sure I have everything I need) I realized I needed milk.
And I had had the last of the almond milk on my Cheerios that morning.
I stared at the cookbook for a good minute while cursing my foolishness in my head. I could try to search out a good substitute for milk. but I hate trying substitutions I’m not familiar with (which is why I have such a hard time replacing the eggs in things to make them vegan). Now, I know I should have arrived at this point sooner, but in my head, coconut milk is for adding the flavour of coconut to things like rice and smoothies, not for replacing, well, milk!
I eventually got there, though, and since I only needed 1/3 of a cup of milk for each recipe, I figured it couldn’t affect the flavor that much. So I go to my pantry only to find no coconut milk. ARG. After a bit of digging, I find a lone can. A tiny can that didn’t even hold a cup of milk. But that’s okay, I only needed 2/3 of a cup total, and it came to just over 2/3. Score! I nearly kissed it, I was so relieved.
So my love of coconut milk has been renewed and redoubled into an unhealthy obsession. I can’t wait to try cooking with it more. And you can’t taste it. I don’t have coconut Elephant Ears or Tropical Turtle Bread. I am impressed. Two for you, coconut milk, you go coconut milk!
The Elephant Ears were simple enough.
1/4 c margarine or butter
1 cup of Gold Medal all-purpose flour (or, y’know, No Frills Unbleached Flour. Or whatever you’ve got)
2 Tbsp of sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp of salt (as always, I only use half the salt called for, but if you want to use the proper amount, use 1/2 tsp)
1/3 milk (Just once, try coconut milk and see if you can taste it. Just for funsies)
3 Tbsp of sugar (sugar #2)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Sugar (yep, that’s what it says. Just sugar)
One thing I love, love, love about this book is it always lists the temperature you need to preheat the oven to as the very first step. Because if you put the temperature at the bottom of a recipe, guess when I’ll remember to turn the oven on?
So, preheat your oven to 425 and grease a baking sheet. I use put aluminium foil over my baking sheets and then grease that because we are dealing with sugar here and do you know what sugar does when it heats up? It makes a dang mess, that’s what. Aluminium foil is easier to pry off the cookies if needed and makes for faster clean up.
Melt your butter/margarine/vegan butter substitute/whatevs and set aside. The recipe says to sift flour and while I agree it does make a difference, it doesn’t make enough of a difference for me to ever do it. So mix the flour, 2 Tbsp sugar, baking powder, and salt. Then stir in the milk and 3 Tbsp of the melted butter. You might have to add a touch more flour until a dough forms. You don’t want your dough to be sticky.
Flour a flat surface. I use one of those bendy plastic cutting boards because, again, easier clean up. And that’s the way my momma taught me! I love this part of the recipe: Knead 10 times.
Ten shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be ten. Eleven shalt thou not count, neither count thou nine, excepting that thou then proceed to ten. Twelve is right out.
The recipe says to roll out with a rolling pin or pat the dough flat into a 9×5 rectangle. Don’t bother dirtying your rolling pin, it’s easy enough to pat down flat. Brush the dough with the remaining margarine/butter/etc using a pastry brush. Then mix together the 3 Tbsp of sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon before sprinkling that evenly over the dough. Starting with one of the shorter ends, tightly roll the dough. Cut into four pieces with a knife, put on the greased baking sheet and press into a six inch circle. It calls for sprinkling the top with yet more sugar, but really. I didn’t do it, it would just make a huge mess anyway. Bake until golden brown, 8-10 minutes, and then immediately remove from the baking sheet and onto a wire rack, lest they get sticky. Spend twenty minutes convincing yourself and your spouse that you cannot eat all four tonight and make more in the morning, because you are out of milk. Curse that bowl of Cheerios yet again.
To be continued for Turtle Bread because this post is already too long as it is.