Pan de Coco

Welcome to another special birthday edition of Needs Baked! This week’s recipe comes all the way from Honduras. I made it for my friend and coworker’s birthday. He’s from Honduras, so I wanted to make something Honduran.

The yeast mixture and the coconut.

The yeast mixture and the coconut.

His birthday was actually a little while ago, but I didn’t know it was his birthday until it happened. And before I could make something for him, he was out of the office (and out-of-town) for a week, so it was delayed.

The dough!

The dough!

While I consider myself fairly worldly, I have to admit there are a lot of places in the world that I don’t know anything about. Honduras is one of them. So I had to do some research to find Honduran recipes. In the process, I did some research about Honduran history and culture, which was fun, too.

The dough after rising.

The dough after rising.

I came across this recipe, and it looked pretty cool. Pan de coco translates into English as “coconut bread”. Fun fact: it’s also popular in the Philippines. I found a few different versions of the recipe. I settled on this one because it looked pretty straightforward.

First batch, ready to rise.

First batch, ready to rise.

In some ways, it was similar to making the pretzels I recently made. That is to say, it was not complicated, but there were lots of steps, and lots of different things to do. First you mix up the yeast and some ingredients. Then you wait. Then you add the coconut. Then you wait. Then you add everything else in and mix it together. Then you wait some more. Then you split it up and form it into little balls. And then you wait once more. Then you finally bake it. There’s a lot of waiting, but that’s because you have to wait for the dough to rise. (Side note: I once wrote a play called “Waiting for the Dough”. There is a pizza delivery that is central to the play. Bonus points if you get the pun.)

Second batch, ready to rise.

Second batch, ready to rise.

I took a couple of shortcuts while making it. I melted the butter instead of just softening it. (This happened by accident, as I microwaved it too long.) I also kneaded the dough right in the bowl rather than make more of a mess.

First batch after it rose.

First batch after it rose.

I split the dough into two equal pieces by weight. (Thank you digital scale!) I split each of those two pieces into 8 balls, also by weight. I did that by dividing the total weight of each piece into 8. Then I weighed out each ball until it was close enough to that number (about 2 oz). It wasn’t exact, but it was much more accurate than guessing, and easy too. (Thank you again, Mr. Scale!) Measurement FTW!

Second batch after it rose.

Second batch after it rose.

I baked them on a baking sheet, but I used a Silpat instead of buttering it. Before baking, they looked a little bit like biscuits. They smelled really nice while baking.

First batch fresh from the oven!

First batch fresh from the oven!

I tried one warm. It was delicious! The coconut taste is mild. There’s the slightest hint of it in the dough, and there are bits of shredded coconut throughout. But it’s not too much. It’s kinda like a dinner roll, but with a little something extra.

Second batch fresh from the oven!

Second batch fresh from the oven!

I brought them into work to share with the birthday boy. I explained to him that it was in honor of his birthday, even though his birthday had passed. He enjoyed them very much. Everyone enjoyed them. They’re different from the baked goods I normally bring in, but people really liked them. Even my wife, who doesn’t like coconut, enjoyed them.

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There were a few left over, and I enjoyed those for the rest of the week. They were great for breakfast or a snack. They held up well for the few days they lasted. I would totally make these again.

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Thanks to my wife for helping with the cleanup as she usually does. Fortunately, there wasn’t too much this time. I also want to give her an extra special thanks. You already know that she helps out when I bake, but I don’t know if you know that she’s constantly helping other people. In fact, as I’m writing this she’s out and about helping others. I don’t know if she realizes how much she does for other people. So I just wanted to acknowledge that. Thank you for always giving of yourself, even when it’s not easy or comfortable. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

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So, if you like coconut, or even if you don’t, and you’re looking for a little something extra in the bread department, give this a shot. It’s really easy, and it’s completely worth it. And if you have a few extra moments, take some time to read about the history of this delicious food, and the history and culture of the people who make it. (Assuming you don’t know about it already.) Food for the belly and food for thought!

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Recipe courtesy of The Latin Kitchen.

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