Coconut slices: addictive even to those resistant to a Bounty bar
Served as slices or cut into squares, these are irresistible any time of day
I have an irrational fear of biting into a Bounty bar. It is not the flavour of coconut but the gritty-mouth feel that divides the masses into distinct love-hate camps. If you fall into the latter, coconut slices might not be top of your baking list.
I met a lovely lady at a 50th wedding anniversary who enthused about her delicious coconut slices. They were her own speciality back in the day when a signature bake was a calling card to multiple social invitations; bygone days when bakes jostled for pride of place at village stalls.
It reminded me that a generation of accomplished bakers still possess beautifully curated notebooks filled with recipe treasures. Many guard their recipes, even from close family, so I didn’t have the nerve to ask her to share hers.
Instead, I embarked on a test kitchen adventure to discover a coconut slice to entice those with a coconut-shy predisposition, who enjoy the subtle presence of coconut in a Mikado biscuit but nothing more.
This recipe differs from classic versions of coconut slices consisting of shortbread, topped with jam and smothered in desiccated coconut (a little too much coconut for my camp). Instead of jam, the vibrant cerise-coloured middle layer is enriched with antioxidant-packed berries, adding a pleasant tartness that contrasts with the sweet buttery shortbread.
Magical crispy crust
Medleys of frozen berries that include blackcurrants are the best for a really rich colour (but they are not always easy to come by as 10 per cent of blackcurrants harvested are sold to make blackcurrant cordial).
While the berry filling is moist, it is still important to drain the juice away from the berries once they defrost (you can collect and save it for smoothies). The upper layer is not a layer at all, but the magical crispy crust that develops during baking. It is one of those happy occurrences that bakers delight in. This moist slice is sweet and gooey, utterly irresistible and totally addictive. Simply cutting them into squares will transform them from a mid-morning pick-me-up to a perfectly delightful dessert, so keep this in mind before you start dividing them. What better use for the reserved berry juice than to mix it with some icing sugar to make a simple coulis that you can drizzle over a pretty dessert plate.
Cocount and fruit slices
Makes 8 slices
Shortbread 125g plain flour 25g cornflour 125g cold butter, diced small pinch salt 75g icing sugar, sieved
2 eggs, room temperature 125g caster sugar ½ tsp vanilla extract zest of 1 lemon 40g plain flour ½ tsp baking powder 225g frozen mixed berries, defrosted and drained 40g desiccated coconut
1. Ensure the frozen berries are defrosted at least 1 hour in advance, and set aside in a strainer to drain the juices from the berries.
2. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 20cm x 20cm square baking tin with parchment paper.
3. In a large wide mixing bowl rub the shortbread ingredients together using your fingertips until they resemble breadcrumbs (or mix together in a food processor).
4. Press the dough into the lined tin using your fingertips, then use the back of a spoon to give a smooth, level surface. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 mins or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.
5. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric whisk to beat the eggs and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.
6. Sieve together the flour and baking powder and fold into the batter. Gently fold the drained berries and coconut through the mixture until just combined.
7. Pour the fruit mixture over the prebaked shortbread. Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour until golden on top. Allow to cool fully in the tin, dust with a little extra icing sugar or coconut before cutting into slices.
You can also use punnets of fresh berries (soft berries such as blackberries and raspberries). Mash half the berries so the colour melts through the mixture.