Monday, February 15, 2010

Coconut Almond Bread with Dark Chocolate Chips and Almond Streusel . . .

There's an old but enduring health food store not far from the house where I grew up, and I stopped there last Friday on the way home from visiting my father. He still lives in that same house, along with one of my older siblings, and once a week I come to spend time with him and take him out. We breakfast together at a local restaurant he's been frequenting for decades. No longer able to drive, and now without my mom to accompany him, he's told me half-jokingly that his sanity depends upon these little outings, so I try not to let anything derail them.

As we trek slowly from his silver Buick to the restaurant's entrance, he grips the hand-me-down walker that still bears my mother's name on a little paper sticker. Three or four of the waitresses smile as we enter, and fuss over him. They, too, have been there for decades. One of them, a tiny woman in her late fifties, even kisses his cheek now and then, or pats his shiny bald head with familiar affection. The morning regulars are more and more like my dad--elderly widowers who come to enjoy a predictable, but hot and decently prepared, meal. Predictability is a virtue he finds comforting.

We always pass by the health food store at least once while we're on our weekly outings, and my father rarely fails to comment on its longevity. Somehow, the fact that it's managed to abide and endure for over fifty years, despite fierce economic odds, is comforting to both us. After all, so little stays the same. I like to think that it will be there for a long time, so I stop in now and then to roam through the aisles, never failing to find some arcane item worth buying.

Though it's been renovated and expanded, it's still something of a time capsule with an aura that my husband would likely describe as "old hippy." All in all, it's a nice place. And that's where I bought the unsweetened coconut, as well as the canned coconut milk, that I used for today's coconut almond bread.

This is a recipe that I newly re-adapted from a recipe that I'd already adapted once for a coconut bread post last July. I made several small changes to it, and I think it now evokes all the flavors of an Almond Joy candy bar. (Don't you love Almond Joys? I do, and so does my dad.)

Coconut Almond Bread with Dark Chocolate Chips and Almond Streusel
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; grease and flour one 9" x 5" loaf pan.

Prepare the almond-streusel topping first:

1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup All Purpose flour
1/3 cup of coarse/sanding sugar
1 very small pinch of salt

3 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter, slightly cooled

Stir the four dry ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside. (You'll wait to mix the melted butter into the dry ingredients until just before you're ready to put the streusel on top of the unbaked loaf.)

For the coconut almond bread:

2 and 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup and 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 and 1/2 cups unsweetened, dried, finely flaked coconut
3 eggs, large
2/3 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/2 tsp. coconut flavoring, or about 3 drops of coconut flavored oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup dark chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and coconut together well with a fork or a hand whisk.

In a medium bowl, still working by hand, whisk together the eggs, coconut milk, regular milk, melted butter, coconut extract/oil, almond extract, and vanilla extract.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in all of the liquid mixture. Stir just until combined; it's okay if a few streaks of flour remain.

Pour in the chocolate chunks and again stir just until the chocolate is more or less evenly distributed. Be careful not to overmix the batter.

Pour all of the batter into the greased and floured loaf pan.

For the streusel:
Just before you're ready to bake the loaf, mix the 3 Tbsp. of melted and slightly cooled butter into the dry streusel ingredients using a fork. (You can use your fingers to help mix it all up quickly if that helps.)

Sprinkle all of the mixed streusel evenly over the top of the unbaked loaf.

Bake the loaf for about 60 minutes or until the top crust is golden and a toothpick inserted deeply into the center of the loaf comes out clean. (Definitely check the loaf after about 35 minutes, and cover it loosely with foil if it seems to be browning too quickly. The top of the finished loaf should be nicely golden, but not too brown. I covered mine with foil after 30 minutes, and at about 40 minutes I moved the oven rack it was on from the middle of the oven to the upper rung. My oven always runs pretty hot so I have to take precautions!)

Cool the finished loaf in the pan, on a rack, for about ten to fifteen minutes. Run a thin knife down the sides to loosen it, and then turn it turn carefully out of pan to let it finish cooling completely on the rack. (If you slice it before it's completely cool, the slices might fall apart, so try to be patient.)

Recipe full disclosure! The almond streusel portion this of recipe was adapted from one at this link:

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