breakfast, brunch

monday bites: toasted coconut + pecan bread.

toasted coconut + pecan bread.

It’s official: my annual brunch obsession has started. I experience this every year, and I think it’s because I begin thinking about Easter. I host it every year (party alert!) and it gets very brunchy around these parts. I know some people eschew the idea of brunch as ridiculous, but I have always been a big fan of the breakfast/lunch combo, especially when it’s well thought out and gives a nod to both meals equally. Don’t give me a bunch of lunch stuff and some eggs; alternatively, keep your full breakfast spread with some salad thrown in for good measure away from me. A good brunch should blend the best of both meals together; it’s not always to do, and that’s why my planning for Easter begins early. 

My first thought: a quick bread. Pick the right one, and it pairs nicely with both breakfast and lunch options. I wanted something out of the box, so I headed for one of my first-ever cookbooks: Tyler Florence’s Real Kitchen.

Ever heard of it? It’s celebrating it’s 10-year anniversary this year. I re-found this one recently in a box of cookbooks which won’t fit on my shelves (a never-ending crisis around here) and it was a nice reminder of when I couldn’t cook anything. I purchased this in 2006, around the time when his Tyler’s Ultimate show was airing. I was just engaged and downright determined to learn how to cook.

This wasn’t the book to learn with. Everything seemed intimidating, I wanted to improvise without really knowing how yet, and I had no idea what I was doing. It was frustrating, because they were such beautiful recipes; I just wasn’t ready for them yet. Looking at the book now is like seeing it for the first time; it’s not difficult at all! His recipes are elegant and uncomplicated, and lest you dismiss Mr. Florence as some Food Network creation, he’s not; it’s easy to forget he was the executive chef at a super-buzzed-about NYC restaurant in his early twenties. He’s smart, and he likes honest food, and I love him for that. Others may snub him, but he is not to be snubbed. I’m guilty of tossing him into my “not often used” pile, but I won’t be making that mistake again; this time, I am ready.

I’ll be adding this to the cookbook library (along with my Christmas newbies) very soon. For now, I give you my version of his toasted coconut bread. It’s different, it’s inspired, and it’s lovely in that it’s a quick bread that isn’t heavy on the sweet. The flavor is less coconut daiquiri and more coconut cake; toasting the coconut gives it a deep, warm flavor and seems to take away some of the sweetness. There’s a good amount of brown sugar in here to give it a little caramel flair, and I’ve added pecans, because I think pecans and coconut are an oft-overlooked pairing. There’s pineapple juice in here, but a small amount, and mostly to level out the flavor; you may not taste it, but it provides a mellow sweetness I didn’t want to get by using additional sugar.

toasted coconut + pecan bread.

I like this best after a waiting period; I think too often we take quick breads and muffins out of the oven, hover over them until they’re cool enough, and then wolf them down. I do it frequently, which is shameful because most of them taste so much better after a cool-down to room temperature and a few hours to let their flavors settle into each other. If you make this one, try letting it rest post-bake for 12 hours; make it the evening before and warm it a little the next morning, and you’ll be rewarded with the best flavor this bread has to give. It’s a great way to manage brunch, too; making it the night before just leaves your oven free and clear for anything else you may be making.

Adapted liberally from Tyler Florence’s Real Kitchen: An Indispensible Guide for Anybody Who Likes to Cook by Tyler Florence. Watch out for cookbooks like this: I’ve noticed that for whatever reason, male chefs love brunch food, and more often than not they’ll include an entire brunch section in their cookbooks. Bobby Flay, Andrew Carmellini, the list goes on. Don’t judge a book by its lunch/dinner/savory meatfest cover.

Toasted Coconut + Pecan Bread

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed (light or dark, whichever you prefer)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon, finely grated
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk*
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted (directions below)
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

*coconut milk and cream of coconut are not the same thing. Cream of coconut, most typically used in things like daiquiris, is sweetened and has an entirely different flavor when you use it for baking. Coconut milk, on the other hand, is unsweetened, which is what you want for this particular recipe. Typically, coconut milk can be found in any grocery store in the Asian/Thai section; I used the full-fat variety for this. Remember that coconut milk separates as it sits on a shelf: you’ll have a think creamy section and a watery section, so be sure to stir the contents in a bowl before adding to other ingredients. 

Toast your coconut:

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Spread out your coconut evenly over the parchment. Place in the oven for a total of around 15 minutes, but set your timer according to your ability to remember things. Why? You need to pay attention to this before your 15 minutes are up.

Beginning at around the 7-8 minute mark, check your coconut. When you see the edges begin to brown, remove the pan from the oven. Using a serving spoon (my favorite for this), flip the coconut outsides inward and spread out again. Place back in the oven, and do this every 2 minutes or so until your coconut is a variegated peach/golden brown mix. Remember: coconut burns fast, so remove it as soon as you feel like it’s toasted but not yet crispy. So I don’t forget about it, I set my oven timer first for 8 minutes, then for 2-minute increments until it’s done.

Make your bread:

Preheat your oven (or turn it up after your coconut has toasted) to 375˚F. Grease the bottom and sides of either a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan or, for mini-loaves like I made, grease the bottom and sides of 4 3 x 6-inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

In another large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the melted butter and whisk gently to incorporate, then add the coconut milk and pineapple juice and stir until everything is homogenous.

Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and fold everything together with a spatula until your batter is just combined. Gently fold in the toasted coconut and the chopped pecans and continue to stir until everything looks evenly distributed. Go slowly here and work from the bottom of the bowl up: there’s no need to rush the folding, just make every spatula motion count so you don’t overwork the batter.

Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan(s) and set on top of a cookie sheet (just in case; mine didn’t spill over, but you never know. What I do know is that cleaning out an oven is the worst thing ever.) For a full-size loaf pan, bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, checking at the 50-minute mark for doneness. For mini-loaves like mine, bake for 35-45 minutes, checking at the 30-minute mark for doneness.

Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. When the bread is cool enough to handle, remove the loaves and let cool completely (!) before slicing. If it were me and if you want the best flavor from this, once your bread has cooled completely, place in an airtight container for around 12 hours to let the flavors mesh. Serve at room temperature or lightly warmed, butter or no butter.

Keeps well in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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  • Reply Ashley February 18, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    I heart coconut! It’s been an obsession for the past year, meaning cans of coconut milk are almost equal to the number of cans of pumpkin puree in my pantry (it’s out of control). Your addition of pineapple juice for subtle sweetness is inspired and sounds like an excellent way to use up the remnants of giant can. Yes!
    And you’re right, male chefs do seem to have a serious thing for brunch. I wish I could enjoy Bobby Flay’s version of brunch every day…it looks so thoroughly delicious and enchanting as he cooks it in his rooftop city garden patio paradise… Plus he’s always got drinks. Love that.

    • Reply shannon February 20, 2013 at 3:25 pm

      that just made me want to put coconut and pumpkin together (because i’ve seen recipes that play off of a curried coconut/pumpkin thing, and i’ve never tried it, but i want to). and now i can’t stop thinking about putting pineapple in there too….stop it, brain! 🙂
      OOH girl, the Bobby Flay brunch section in Bar Americain is phenomenal. he can rock a brunch, for sure. AND he’s always got drinks, you’re right. I haven’t tried any of his recently, but they look perfect. His drinks always seem well-thought out and not like, “hey let’s throw a bunch of crazy stuff in here and see what happens” like some people do. I like that about him.

  • Reply Emma February 18, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    I know absolutely nothing about Food Network, it looms like a giant question mark over my head. So I guess I have no clue who Tyler Florence is – – is that his real name? Male chefs seem to have very fake-sounding names, would you agree? Like they’re ready to become DJ’s or something:)

    This looks so yummers. Love quick breads so so much!

    • Reply shannon February 20, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      reason # 294 why i love you: you know nothing about Food Network. how many people can even SAY that nowadays? To be honest, i don’t know much about current Food Network stars, but 5-6 years ago I used to watch it all the time. Tyler Florence is, in fact, his real name (or close: his REAL real name is Kevin Tyler Florence) and yes, i would agree that many male chefs have glamorous sounding names that are too good to be true. Bobby Flay springs to mind, although i think that’s his real name. Or the Voltaggio bros, although there’s a good chance they are DJ’s. And oddly enough, i swear i just saw a photo of Hubert Keller DJ’ing…sooo…connection?

  • Reply Sue/the view from great island February 18, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    I need to make this, and I will slice it thin and make little cream cheese sandwiches out of it. The texture is awesome!

    • Reply shannon February 20, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      oh that would be a great pairing, sue! Yum…cream cheese is just sort of good with anything, but it would be great with this. maybe even whip up a little pineapple cream cheese; lovely.

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog February 19, 2013 at 7:33 am

    I fell in love with Tyler Florence when his show Tyler’s Ultimate was on. I miss that show terribly. This bread looks so good. I love that you used toasted coconut. And, brunch is totally a good thing.

    • Reply shannon February 20, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      He had some great food on there, right? I loved that show and i found him very easy to watch on it. Probably if i thought about it, that’s one of the shows that made me want to get into cooking…everything just seemed like, manageable or something. and yay for brunch, right? Magical when you can laze about in the morning/afternoon eating both meals at once. 🙂

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats February 19, 2013 at 9:22 am

    You know, I’ve never cooked something from Tyler Florence’s recipes. He’s always seemed to me like a bit of a pompous prick…but maybe I pegged him wrong. Plus, i guess even pompous pricks might make good food. This bread sounds so so good. Since Nate doesn’t eat coconut (or nuts in baked goods as you know!), I might have to bake this up while he’s still out of town. I’m jealous you do a whole Easter brunch…I wish I celebrated Easter just so I could cook up a feast 🙂

    • Reply shannon February 20, 2013 at 3:41 pm

      This is the most interesting cross-section of comments ever; so far some have never heard of him, love him, or think maybe he’s a jerk, which is precisely why I said something in the post about it. Because i can completely get where people would feel like he comes off as a prick. Certainly he’s been successful, and he may just be arrogant, but i like to think maybe that’s just him being nervous or shy or something. I could be over-relating (as i’ve certainly had people think i’m cold or snobbish when it’s just be being terrified of talking and sounding dumb). 🙂 Trust me, arse or not, his food is very good; i actually just finished something else from the book today and i loved it. His food reminds me of Gordon Ramsay (ironic, since most people think he’s a prick, too) in the way that it’s just very fresh and straightforward, and i like that.

      make it! and if you make the mini-loaves like i did, you’ll have 3 to give to friends (which almost certainly means i’ll make something, since i can act like i’m being gracious). Easter brunch is pretty fun. Do you celebrate Passover? I may be needing your intermittent help with a project if you do. 🙂 *secrets*

      • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats February 26, 2013 at 3:18 pm

        That’s so funny. Now I have to go out and buy one of his cookbooks!…since I totally value your culinary opinion 🙂

        I do celebrate Passover and would love to help you out!!! What’s the project?? 🙂

        • Reply shannon March 4, 2013 at 10:14 pm

          Aw! I feel a special little kinship with you through your blog food; you and a select few others somehow hit the mark and make every single thing i would make for myself if i had more time to focus on savory dishes, so ditto: i value yours as well.

          Well, so you saw the hamantaschen “intro” where i am planning to use this year to really delve into Jewish food traditions; something i have done a little research on and will do more on in the coming weeks. I’ve made a beginner’s list of food items i’d love to make, so if you don’t mind, i’d love your help to both inspire me with some ideas for food i may not think to include (because i do think the internets tend to provide ‘greatest hits’ but i know there’s so much more to know about) and also to assist me a little with knowing what holidays are really key. There seems to be lots of holidays/days of note that you don’t hear about so much, so i’m interested to know if there’s food associated with those as well. For example, evidently there was a whole big new year for trees in January, and i think that ROCKS, but i had no idea that existed. Mostly, i’m probably asking for your patience at my current ignorance but childlike excitement about learning. 🙂

          • Amy @ Elephant Eats March 5, 2013 at 9:01 pm

            Ok, well i’m totally up for helping you with this. We’ll have a little convo about traditional foods for the major holidays. The major holidays are really the only ones that have traditional foods and that the majority of jews celebrate: Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur, Chanukkah, Passover. Then there are also other “Jewish” foods that aren’t holiday specific that are pretty tasty 🙂 The reason I put jewish in quotes is because the foods are mainly eastern european as that’s where most jews are originally from. Email me what’s on your current list!

          • shannon March 6, 2013 at 2:04 pm

            It’s an email date! Whomever puts their thoughts/ideas together first, email the other one. Those are the holidays that i know the most about, and i think in my notes are probably some “Jewish” food that isn’t holiday-centered. Half of my family is eastern european (Romania) so i think i have some family recipes which have originated from there as well that are on my list of things to make this year. This should be fun!

  • Reply Brianne February 19, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    T-Flo (ever since Joy the Baker and Shutterbean called him that on their podcast, I can’t help myself) was one of the guys that got me into food when I was a kid! Food 911 was where it was at.

    This bread sounds so great. It’s like a tropical vacation in the middle of winter! I love your advice on waiting to dig in; we get a bit eager around here when there’s freshly baked things present. The worst is pie, especially looser fillings like blueberry. Kevin wants to dig in ASAP, I have to keep him away from the pie so it can set at least a little bit, you know?! But building flavor is a reward well worth a bit of patience.

    • Reply shannon February 20, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      T-Flo! I’m never getting that out of my brain now; i may relabel my cookbook to “T-Flo’s Real Kitchen.” Gangsta! Food 911, that’s right! I completely forgot about that one, and i think that was his first show, right? I loved that too.

      I was really happy with it, and i think because it was way less sweet than i imagined it could turn out to be. Some of that may be in my alterations, but it had a nice earthy coconut flavor as opposed to that fake-coconut taste some things have. Isn’t it so hard to keep your distance from fresh baked goods? they tempt you with the smell…it’s cruel. Obviously they’re so good when still hot, but if you can just wait, it’s SO worth it. I feel like if you went to all that trouble to make something, you deserve the best that thing has to offer.

  • Reply Katherine {eggton} February 20, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    I am so glad you gave us a nutty loaf that is actually taste tested by A Periodic Table!! So glad. Because can I tell you what I can’t stand? Recipes that might as well read “fold $25 of pecans into batter and bake until loaf looks mediocre. Eat or spit into sink, don’t even give the other loaf to your neighbor or she will think less of you.”

    I’m excited to try this.

    I went to college (and law school, eventually) in the same town that I grew up in (and where my parents still live.) Easter break was too short a vacation for most kids to go home, so we invited them all to my parents’ house every year. It was always a hodge podge of personalities. One year, when I was in law school, it was entirely foreign people because I was assigned to advise the foreign lawyers who were studying in the U.S. for a year. That Easter, my mom and I cooked for 35 people from all over the world. It was entirely worth it to see my mom almost faint when an attractive South American friend of mine recited a Pablo Neruda poem, in Spanish, to her while she made a fritatta. Oh, Easter brunch! It holds a special place in my pagan heart.

    • Reply shannon February 25, 2013 at 4:27 pm

      Heartily agree! I hate wasting nuts: too expensive! There’s a recipe in one of my new cookbooks that looks GORGEOUS but i still haven’t pulled the trigger on it because why? PINE NUTS and almonds. SO EXPENSIVE! So if it’s not good, or if I do something wrong…lots of cash down the drain. HATE that. The beauty of this loaf also is that honestly, leaving out the pecans is acceptable too; still delicious, although I miss the crunch of them.

      Pressure = on! I hope you like it. (eek!) 🙂

      Your easter story made me so happy just then. SO happy that i may begin reciting Pablo Neruda poems this year at our own brunch. 🙂

  • Reply movita beaucoup February 22, 2013 at 3:32 am

    1. Brunch is the most awesome sort of meal.
    2. I seriously think you should consider becoming a professional cookbook reviewer. I’d totally read every review, and buy accordingly.
    3. Did you know that there are optimal temperatures for tasting food? Yup. I learned that at school.
    4. I ADORE toasted coconut, and this loaf looks wicked awesome.

    Sincerely yours,

    • Reply shannon February 25, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      1. agree.
      2. *dream* now if only people would actually pay me to review their cookbooks…wait: i have THIS BLOG and i can do it for FREE. Does that count as professional?
      3. INTERESTING! Everyone should have to attend some sort of abbreviated baking school before tasting food. Or tasting food when you’re old enough to care how things taste. It makes such a difference, right? Yes.
      4. Same, same. 🙂

      xox back,
      shannon *make the loaf* <-subliminal.

      • Reply Ashley February 26, 2013 at 12:10 pm

        Um, there might be something to this professional cookbook reviewer idea. There is a book that solely reviews perfumes (by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez) and it’s obviously sold enough copies to be updated and republished. So…if perfumes can do it, cookbooks totally should. People need wise guidance here! There are too many crappy cookbooks out there to waste your money and time on them. Maybe start as an ebook for purchase to test the waters? (I hope this isn’t a totally bonkers idea and that it doesn’t add more to your plate)

        • Reply shannon March 4, 2013 at 10:19 pm

          i’ve added that book to my “master notes” (i.e the 15 pages of to do notes i’ve made that are all over the place that i need to consolidate into one big list or i’ll lose my mind) to look into. I had no idea perfumes needed a book of reviews! Although you always see perfumes listed out similarly to wine, with “notes of such and such” and a background of whatever the heck, so it makes sense.
          Ebook! I’ll tell you a secret/inner thought: i really, at some point, would love to put together a cookbook ebook for everyone to download, just because i think it would be fun. A cookbook reviews one sounds like it would be even more fun to put together, and maybe a better resource, because i could expand on the cookbooks way more than i can on my cookbook library. Just brainstorming, but i could include the basic info a la cookbook library and then do a full, post-style review similar to the Dahlia one i just did. i LOVE that idea, Ashley. I’m seriously going to add it to my master list and really put some big thought into it. Probably there’s going to be a dedication with your name on it if i can complete it, and i can see this being a fun annual thing to do.

          • Carla September 15, 2013 at 10:26 am

            Nice idea! Hope you find the time to do it. Especially since cookbooks are so expensive here!

          • shannon September 18, 2013 at 3:45 pm

            cookbooks are an investment, for sure. I go through phases where i don’t buy any (like right now) and then i really think about what i want. It’s terrible to purchase something and then never use it, for sure.

  • Reply sara February 24, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Gorgeous bread! This is making me pretty hungry….. 😉 Love the combo of pecans and toasted coconut, so good! With the pineapple juice I bet this is a perfect tropical treat. 🙂

    • Reply shannon February 25, 2013 at 4:23 pm

      Thanks, Sara! I liked it…not too sweet for breakfast, so you don’t feel like you’re eating cake, you know? One of my favorite combos, for sure.

  • Reply HeatherN February 26, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Brunch is AWESOME! Going to have to try the bread out on my group of willing tasters (My kids and a group of singles that come to my home once a month) I just don’t want to know how many calories are in a slice. ( I am guessing 30 calories) Love the blog and keep on cooking!

    • Reply shannon March 4, 2013 at 10:22 pm

      Brunch IS awesome! and no…i don’t necessarily want to know how many calories are in a slice either, and thankfully i don’t have the patience to ever calculate things like that. I’ll say that it’s unfortunate that coconut, although delicious and certainly healthy on some level, always adds a big chunk of unexpected calories along with it. There’s a granola i make using coconut, and i love it, but i know it’s not as healthy as i pretend it is, at least in terms of that.

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