Thursday, November 20, 2008
STEAMED COCONUT LAYER CAKE
Ahhh.....I have been drooling over this recipe for years. Been looking at the pictures in the Taiwanese recipe book that I stumbled upon some years ago while in Taiwan and I have been pushing myself to Just Do It. Finally.... I did do it.
I suppose the only reason that I never brought myself to try out the recipe was because I knew that I could not get the perfect shredded coconut.
I believe for any sweet dessert that requires shredded coconut as an ingredient it is crucial that the shredded coconut kernel is coarse as in sweet, long, flaky and juicy strands that spell crunch and oozes a juicy sugary sweetness at very bite. That is my idea of a coconut filled dessert. I have no desire to work up the energy to bite into a sweet coconut filling that feels like a boring and flat sugary paste without interest, texture or life.
Then one day when I was at a bakery supply store which is constantly run by a staff of employees who practically scream "take it or leave it" into your face I stumbled upon a large packet of flaky coconut strands. With my hands wrapped tightly around the large dense packet I looked up into the heavens and thought that perhaps it was meant to be.
Coconut layer cakes here I come. I was ecstatic.
I thought it strange though that it was labeled Hawaiin Coconut Flakes. I sniggered and for a moment wondered quite naively why on earth did we have to import coconut all the way from Hawaii when the availability of nuts in Malaysia abound beyond needs and dimensions. Then I figured it out. We needed the word Hawaiin to make it mysterious and exotic and EXPENSIVE. Ten ringgit for a 500 gm packet of grated coconut! While thanking heaven though I meekly paid the amount to the horrible cashier and left.
The recipe called for candied papaya shreds too as a topping.
I forgo-ed that and used chopped glaced cherries instead. It was a mistake because the red of the cherries smeared the top and made the cake look quite messed up leaving stains of red where the pieces of cherries had fallen off. But the 'Hawaiin' Coconut Flakes more than made up for it and it was indeed heaven that I bit into.
Imagine squelching into a soft-puffy-pillow of steamed white bread layered with juicy-buttered-candied coconut flakes in your mouth.
The Dough :
6 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
13/4 warm water
1 Tbsp yeast
1 Tbsp baking powder
2 Tbsp shortening
In a bowl dissslove the sugar in warm water and then add the yeast. Let it stand until the yeast froths. I used instant yeast granules but followed the instructions anyway.
Sift flour into a bowl. Add the shortening and rub it in until it becomes the texture of fine braedcrumbs. Add the frothed yeast mixture and bring the dough together and knead with the heels of your hand.
If dry add water by wetting your hands or if too wet add flour. Knead until smooth and elastic. Place the dough into a large greased bowl and allow to rise unti it has trippled in bulk.
You can knead it again for 5 minutes and let it rise again or you can use it straight away. I let it rise a second time because Iwas watching something on tv.
11/2 cups shredded coconut
1 cup icing sugar
1/4 melted butter
I actually ended up doubling the filling recipe because I ran out of filling for the second batch or thought that it wasn't enough to make it really yummy and moist.
Melt the butter in a pan. Stir in the coconut flakes and icing sugar. YUM! Oh ..divide the filling into 8 portions.
Divide the dough into two. Roll out each half to a rectangle 16" by 6". I thought that 6 inches was a little narrow so I rolled it out a little broader. I suppose what should be the guide line is the thickness of the dough. The dough should be rolled out reasonably thin so that you do not get thick layers of bread and thin layers of coconut filling. The first batch I made was a little thick on the bread so I thinned out the second batch a little more.
Once you have a rectangle, mentally divide the rectangular dough into three parts and spread one portion of the filling on teh centre of the dough. Fold the left side over the midle portion and spread the filling. Fole the right side over.
Turn the folded dough to a horinzontal position and repeat teh rolling and folding process one more time. Then roll out the strip to an 8 inch square shape. Make the other half in the same manner. You can top it with the candied papaya/paw paw or with just some plain shredded coconut . I prefer the latter.
Prepare a bamboo steamer that has two tiers. On each tier lay a clean damp dish cloth and place the prepared square dough on each. It is obvious that one square will be ready before the next so you should place the first square first and let it rise for exactly 30 minutes. About ten minutes before the thirty minutes is up bring the water in the steamer pot to a rolling boil. Steam the bread for thirty minutes. Do not open the lid in between or the bread will fall.
Do the same for both halves. Remove the damp cloth from under the bread as soon as you can before it sticks to the bottom of the bread. Allow it to cool slightly. Slice and serve.
TIP : Do not let the prepared bread rise for more than 30 minutes or the dough will fall.
TIP :Always steam bread over boiling water, over high heat; otherwise the snack will be doughy.
TIP : When rolling out the dough do not knead it before rolling because it will cause the dough to be too elastic to roll out well or thinly. Just press down very lightly for a second or two and then roll out immediately while the dough is still soft and spongy.
TIP : I personally prefer to use ordinary bread flour even for pau or other pau like bread snack/cakes like this one because I do not like the fineness of a pau that uses those very refined special Hongkong flour to achieve a very very soft air-like pau. It is too fine and it just crumbles in my mouth before I can even begin to have a good chew or wonder what I had just eaten. The rustic quality of a pau that uses ordinary bread flour is much more to my taste and I enjoy biting into it and in this case sinking my teeth into the buttery coconut flakes in between each layer.
Drool......I'm going to make this again very soon.