I know a sweet recipe is good when my little sister, who is usually collected, healthy and wholesome about her diet, loses her control and eats two or three pieces in one fell swoop. When I was thinking about an Easter gift for Jess I knew that chocolate eggs wouldn’t be her style, and then I remembered her delight over the presence of coconut ice at a wedding we attended recently – I knew what I needed to make immediately.
Coconut Ice has been a tradition in our family for a long time. Every Christmas as part of our huge Christmas dessert spread there is a crystal plate filled with little pastel squares. The same at Easter, and most other family gatherings. I must admit that we usually purchase our coconut ice, but after making this batch for Jessica’s Easter present I don’t think we will be buying it any more. Coconut ice is easy to make, no pots, pans or oven required. Perfect for making with little kids, especially since they can get their hands dirty while kneading the mixture together (this appeals to big kids too). This colourful offering is an old-fashioned sort of treat, but whenever you bring a dish people can’t help but smile.
The hardest part about making coconut ice is waiting for it to set, and I am not ashamed to admit that I did nibble at a few stray crumbs after I had pressed the majority into the baking tin. (I did go for a run beforehand, balance people). The addition of sprinkles here is entirely extraneous to the flavour, but it certainly adds a festive element. You can leave them out, but when given the opportunity to use sprinkles I think one should always seize upon it. Also, I just happen to be in a sprinkle mood: Exhibit A, my cookies from last week. Jess’s eyes lit up with delight and the jar was soon opened and shared. The sprinkles weren’t extraneous at all, not when I saw Jess’s smile.
Sprinkled Coconut Ice
Gluten Free – Check that your icing sugar and sprinkles are gluten free. I use Dollar Sweets Bright Sprinkles because they are certified gluten free.
Makes about 64 pieces (2.5cm square)
2 cups icing sugar
3 1/2 cups dessicated coconut
1 x 390 gram can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 teaspoon coconut essence
2 tablespoons milk (may be required)
1/3 cup multicoloured sprinkles (see head note)
Pink food colouring
Line an 8-inch square cake tin or baking dish with baking paper.
Sift icing sugar into a large bowl. Gently whisk in dessicated coconut.
Add condensed milk, vanilla and coconut essence. Mix well until all dry ingredients are included. If your mixture is too dry and you can’t get everything to incorporate you may need milk. You may need to wet your hands and knead the coconut ice by hand.
Divide coconut mixture in half. Knead sprinkles into one half. Colour the other half with pink food colouring to desired tint.
Press sprinkled half into prepared tin/dish. I roll a flat sided glass across the top to banish my finger dents. Then press pink portion on top and roll glass across to flatten.
Cover dish with cling wrap and place in refrigerator for three hours, or until set.
When set remove from fridge and cut into small slices to serve. I cut mine into 2.5cm x 2.5cm.
Coconut Ice will keep in fridge for up to three weeks.
This would make a lovely gift for Mother’s Day! Simply place in a jar and wrap with a big pink ribbon. This would definitely be welcomed by my Mum and Mormor.
Let’s talk about hidden talents and honey caramels today. These are the things that make life interesting, they keep us from a truly linear progression and they are the spice in the curiousity cabinet of life. Firstly, hidden talents. I love when you think you know someone and then they turn around and completely surprise you. My little sister does an excellent Beyonce/Sasha Fierce impersonation – she unleashes her inner Amazon with amazing power for such a small person. Her Z-snap is almost as impressive as Chris’s (sorry for outing you honey…). My darling Casey can sing the American national anthem in cat (basically her ‘meowing’ to the tune of Star Spangled Banner) – it’s a sight to behold for sure. Then comes my friend Ricky – who knew that this man was a budding apiarist? (That’s a person who tends for bees by the way.) Ricky’s honey has become a huge hit in our house, and we are putting it on/into everything! Now that’s a hidden talent to admire.
My hidden talents? Well there was a party trick that involved my tongue and musk sticks, but we don’t talk about my early twenties any more…let’s really just not go there. Now that I am a sophisticated (ahem) professional (ahem) lady (AHEM!) my hidden talent has become misreading recipes and rescuing them at the last minute to achieve something different and usually as pleasing as the original. These Honey Caramels were born of that hidden talent. Because messing up, when worded correctly, can be a hidden talent. It’s all in the marketing you see.
The caramels start off with a smooth nutty flavour and then right at the end the honey shines through. They are welcomed eagerly with a cup of coffee after dinner and just as equally at place wrapped up in some pretty tissue paper and put into a tin as a Christmas present. Just remember to save a few for yourself…(my other hidden talent is hiding things, but you didn’t hear that from me).
This recipe was accidentally adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Australia, December 2013. Gluten free. Definitely NOT diabetic friendly.
1 cup packed brown sugar
395 gram can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons glucose syrup (ensure this is made from corn)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
200 grams white chocolate, chopped
Icing sugar, to dust, about 1/2 cup
Line an 8-inch square baking tin with baking paper and make a space in your fridge of the same size.
Put sugar, sweetened condensed milk, honey, and glucose syrup into a heavy based saucepan. Place over a medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil. Keep stirring or your caramel will burn on the bottom. That is not good.
When the mixture comes to the boil, lower the heat and continue stirring for about 15 minutes or until the caramel deepens in colour and thickens.
Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla bean paste and the white chocolate. Beat until melted and smooth. The mixture will start to thicken so work quickly!
Spread caramel into the prepared baking tin and smooth the top. Allow to come to room temperature on the bench before placing in your pre-prepared space in the fridge. Cool until set. About 2-3 hours.
Remove caramel slab from the fridge and cut into small squares. Dust with icing sugar so that the pieces don’t stick together too much.
Serve, or store in the fridge until you gift them (or gobble them).
The scent of cocoa and boiling sugar wafting from my stove summons memories from my childhood so vivid that I can almost feel myself shrinking back to six-year-old size with long brown pigtails and a Minnie Mouse printed t-shirt sticking to my back in the summer heat. My Mum is standing at the stove stirring a batch of sweet, sugary fudge that will become a Christmas present for my teacher. She talks me carefully through the process, telling me that I am too small to make the fudge at the moment but one day I can do this for myself. I wait for her to pour the batch into the lined loaf tin, and then she hands me the spoon to lick. A sticky film of fudge clings to the curves of our special spoon. Mum waits for the saucepan to cool a little before she scrapes off the fudge that didn’t make it to the setting pan and we pick at the shards of sugar crystals while the larger batch cools and sets.
This tradition was repeated at many Christmas times, and other moments in between. This fudge to me has always summoned a feeling of comfort from my Mum, an echo from childhood, and also a feeling of competition with Dad – his sweet tooth knows no bounds and you have to be quick to secure your piece before all the rest ‘mysteriously disappears’.
One of my favourite memories of this fudge is when I had my wisdom teeth out. Apart from the aesthetic suffering of looking like a chipmunk who had been in a bar fight (oh, this pasty white face bruises really easily apparently), I was unable to eat as I couldn’t open my mouth very far and chewing sounded like an instrument of torture. Mum had made a batch of this fudge, and in my desperate state, I found that I could slice it very thinly and push pieces into my mouth where they could melt and pool in cocoa and sugar goodness. Not that I told my orthodontist that I was living on fudge for two weeks when I went back to have my stitches pulled out….
So we came to this Friday evening, our inaugural winter M*A*S*H* marathon, and what better sweet treat to have by our sides than a batch of this fudge. Make it now, or save the recipe for the night when only the sweetest of treats will do.
Sugary Chocolate Fudge
Gluten Free | Makes 24-36 pieces
2 cups white sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Line a 9 x 5 inch loaf tin with baking paper and set aside.
Combine sugar, cocoa powder and milk in a saucepan and set over medium heat.
Bring mixture to the boil for 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add butter. Beat until sugary, which should take about 4 -5 minutes.
Add vanilla essence and stir, then pour mixture into prepared tin and allow to cool.
Once fudge has set cut into small squares.
Sadly, there was no fudge left in our house after morning tea on Saturday. Only sticky sweet memories remain…