Who among you has fallen prey to the dreaded Toasted Coconut Gone Awry syndrome?
Me, me, me!
You're toasting coconut to garnish your coconut cake. Or coconut cream pie. Or some homemade chocolate truffles.
You carefully spread it in a layer on a baking sheet, stick it in a moderate oven, and wait. And wait. And wait some more.
Stir. Stir. Stir some more.
Ah, finally... it's getting brown. Not quite ready yet, though. A few more minutes...
And all of a sudden, one "hot spot" has turned black. Meanwhile, some of the edges are still pale gold.
What's a busy baker to do?
Take a tip from our friends at Saveur magazine, who clued me in to this method in a recent issue –
Toast coconut in your microwave.
Why is a microwave better than your oven?
Because you don't need to wait for it to preheat. And you can avoid the guilt of turning on the oven for just those couple of tablespoons of coconut you need for a garnish.
The microwave toasts coconut much more evenly than a metal baking sheet – at least in my experience.
And, since it only takes a few minutes, there's no way you're going to forget about it and let it burn: you'll be standing right there, checking it out through the microwave's window.
Start by spreading coconut on a microwave-safe plate. I'm using 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut, and it's cold from the fridge; this probably adds a bit of time to the process.
Microwave the coconut in 30-second bursts, until it shows signs of starting to brown (top right picture, above). This took 4 minutes in my microwave (set on high power).
Continue to microwave in 30-second bursts, gently stirring to redistribute each time. When the coconut is as brown as you like – stop. It's done. It took me 7 1/2 minutes to get to this point; again, my coconut was cold, so it might take you less time.
See how evenly the coconut's toasted? Sure, there are a few lighter shreds, but absolutely nothing burned. And overall, the color is very even, wouldn't you say?
Mississippi Mud Cake, here I come!
Or, on the savory side – West African Peanut Soup, anyone? My favorite recipe comes from Moosewood Restaurant Favorites.
This same process works very well for toasting nuts. Interested in other neat microwave tips? Check out our microwave lemon curd, and microwave jam – both ready in just 10 minutes. Plus, use the microwave to dry fresh herbs, and you'll be done in less than 5 minutes – AND preserve the herbs' bright green color.