Friday, July 20, 2012

coconut candy

Well, it is done. I am drained, but delirious. Mum's Not Cooking is on bookstore shelves islandwide and tomorrow, TOMORROW, how I have waited for you, tomorrow, is the day. 

I've prepped and pimped (keeping it real my peeps), fussed and fidgeted, cooked enough food for a small village, packed on 9 kilos, written miles of words and wringed my hands, and now all that remains is to present and throw myself into the proceedings with utter abandon and hopefully have many, many copies to happily sign for you, my lovely readers. 

It's just an hour long, from 2 - 3 pm, so, you'll deprive me of the pleasure of your company, if you're late. If you're unsure, Kinokuniya's Main Store is at Level 3 of  Takashimaya Shopping Centre at Orchard Road.  I do hope to meet you there, and if you do make it, don't hide in the woodwork, lovely though it may be. Come up and say hello so I can thank you for being one of the reasons I do what I do. Why would I even write my books or this blog, if not for your curiosity, your interest, your readership?

The last two weeks have been a roller coaster ride for me, with emotional highs and lows even more intense than those I experienced during the publication of my first cook book, three years ago, or the lurid hues of my coconut candy *grin*. Getting a book published is a whole lot of work, getting a cook book published is a labour of love best undertaken by masochists or the possibly deranged.

cook until coconut leaves sides of pot

You cannot imagine how much work it needs and how many people, to take an idea, turn it into a manuscript, and finally get it off the printing presses, a warm and inky testament to your efforts .  To the wonderful team at Epigram Books, thank you, thank you, thank you!

It has been a somewhat anxious time, as these things tend to be, and apart from a brief, albeit delicious flirtation with mindful healthy eating when I chose baked sweet potato doughnuts over ooey gooey brownies, I have been generally indulgent and eaten with near abandon.

Food has always been a source of comfort and I know will remain so, nice though it is to imagine an existence where we don't need a G&T now and then to take the edge off, or a week's supply of sugar in a single slice of cake to serve as salve for a tattered soul. To hell with the wise who advise exercise under duress (can you see eyes rolling involuntarily?) or warn against seeking solace in the seductive arms of mistress sugar for the only thing that follows a sugar high is the inevitable and almost crippling sugar crash. Nothing cuts it like candy; one bite and I am rendered deliciously numb by the rush of sugar and fat triggered endorphins flooding my veins. I'll deal with the crash later.

But, not just any candy will do. My mum's coconut candy is a blissful high banded with warm fuzzy memories of my childhood. She would make coconut candy with me on the rare Saturday afternoon that she did not have to work, because she knew how much I loved noisily plopping the sticky sugared coconut shreds into the round green enamel dish we always used , before squashing it down viciously with as much force as my tiny plastic shielded hands could muster.

Truth is, about a quarter of it would disappear into my mouth, before it got moulded in the enamel dish, but she always pretended not to know how the coconut mixture seemed to have shrunk while cooking. My grandmother though, would make no such pretence and bellowed at me to stop eating so much candy, or I would soon not have enough teeth left to chew any of it. Don't you just love grandmothers?

She felt no qualms about setting me straight as she shadowed me almost every hour of each day, while mum was more indulgent, probably out of sheer guilt for having to spend so much time working that I hardly got to see her during the week; an occupational hazard when you're a single mum. Oh well. How many of us have picture perfect childhoods or lives?

Mine was certainly not idyllic, but the best times of my life remain the years I lived in that house in Kampung Eunos, where my mum and I made candy whenever she didn't have to go to work on a Saturday; I've never felt more protected, more loved or more at peace with myself or with the world. Every bite still feels like a tight, warm hug or being wrapped in a soft warm cardigan, on a chilly day. It's no wonder my mind turns to coconut candy each time I feel harried or frazzled. Sugar crash and tight jeans be damned.....

Coconut Candy

Prep 15 mins          Cook  25 mins        Makes 25 small squares

Sufficient butter to grease tray or dish
225 g (1 1/2 cups) coarse granulated sugar                           
150 ml  (3/4 cup) evaporated milk
300 g (2 ½ cups) grated skinned coconut                              
A generous pinch salt
2 tsp vanilla extract                                                       
A few drops food colour of your choice                                

Grease a 16 cm by 16 cm shallow tray or cake tin with the butter.  Combine milk and sugar in a pot and boil over moderate heat until sugar completely dissolves and mixture thickens slightly.

Add coconut and salt and continue to cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens, pulls away from the sides of the pan and starts to clump together.  Ensure that mixture doesn’t burn and don’t cook until too dry or mixture won’t hold together once moulded and cut.

Turn off heat and add the vanilla extract and food colouring. Stir in thoroughly and spread the warm mixture in the greased tray or tin. Press down firmly with the back of a large spoon or with a gloved hand to get an even layer.

Cut into pieces with a buttered knife and leave to harden before removing from tray. Keep leftovers in an airtight container and consume within a week. If refrigerated, consume within 3 weeks.

If you prefer to have a mixture of colours, divide warm mixture amongst several containers and colour each differently according to your whim.  Proceed to mould mixture according to the recipe.


  1. Congratulations on your book launch! The day is finally here. Have fun and sign lots of books :D

    I love coconut candy though I have to admit I find it a little sweet these days. The last time I made some was about two and a half years back for a blog post when Roti was a new kid on the block. I thought of making it time and time again to update the pictures but somehow never got round to it. Looking at yours now make me crave for a piece. Maybe it is time to update those pictures...

    1. Thanks Biren, hopefully I will have many many books to sign, and that everyone will have a good time :) It's a little embarrassing how much I still love coconut candy :P but I just can't resist it!

  2. Congratulations Denise - I am sure it will be an amazing day tommorrow. I love coconut candy and this is exactly how we make them except into little balls and without the food coloring.

    We could devour a bucket load of these!

    chow :) Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

    1. Thank you Devaki :) I made an Indian style coconut candy once, flavoured with cardamom and the crushed cardamom seeds added a lovely spicy note that tamed the sweetness very nicely! I know what you mean about the bucket :P

  3. Congratulations on your book launch, Denise! Hope you had a stampede of crowd hoarding for your signature. I hope to get one of your books very soon ;-) Love the way you pile the coconut candy. Reminds me of my son's lego's!!

  4. Ooooh yum!! I love these during school days, buying them in the canteen, might give this recipe a try, looks like fun and yummy !

  5. Congrats on the book launch too ;)

  6. The coconut candy is really interesting to me. So different than the sweets we have in Germany!

    - Annika

  7. What lovely food memories, and such a delightful treat these are!
    Congratulations again on your book launch, wish I could have been there :)


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