Coconut ice with its pink and white layers is the sort of kiddie sweet treats that regularly appeared at the hospital fete and school fundraisers when I was young. It couldn’t be anything other than toothachingly sweet but I did like it best when slightly soft rather than brittle.
Last month I visited my family on the weekend of my nieces’ birthday. As Grace is celiac and her sister Ella loves to eat Grace’s gluten free goodies, I sought a simple GF treat to take down. Browsing through my sweet recipe notebook I found a coconut ice recipe which just seemed a matter of mixing together condensed milk, coconut and icing sugar. What could be simpler?
When I made it, I found that the list of ingredients was straightforward but the muscle-power required to mix them was huge. The recipe I had was a tin of condensed milk, 750g icing sugar (confectionary sugar) and 250g coconut. Pressing the white layer into the tin was so difficult, I was tempted to get Zinc to sleep on it a while. Mixing the pink food dye through the second half was so hard with a spoon I gave up and used my fingers to rub it in (a bit like you rub butter into flour). The layers were so dry that many pieces did not hold together.
I wasn’t happy with this heap of crumbly sweet slice (see photo top right), but nevertheless took it to Geelong where I knew there would be some willing testers. My GF niece loved it but I hadn’t realised it had been one of my mum’s favourite sweets. Everyone said it was great. But by then I had started to search the internet for variations and had found one with half the icing sugar that I wanted to try.
So last weekend I made some on Saturday for our pre-Christmas / Summer Solstice dinner (photo at left) and to take to my family when I went down to help decorate my parents’ Christmas tree. It still took a lot of elbow grease to stir it but the mixture spread like a paste and I could stir in the pink food dye.
It was still quite a chore to cut it up and I took my family as much as I had the energy to cut up before we left (about two thirds of the tray). When we went to clear out the biscuit tin to take it home, I was surprise at just how much had disappeared. E had been a bit worried about taking it in one of his biscuit tins but was very pleased when we brought home a tin full of baked goods: mince tarts, almond biscuits, brandy snaps. In fact I think he might try taking the tin down to my parents’ place more often.
After my experiments I am recommending the second coconut ice recipe which is far more forgiving on the teeth and your stirring arm. It makes a great gift, makes a cheerful addition to a sweet platter and will bring a smile to those with fond childhood memories but beware of taking it into backyards with gargoyles as I hear they are quite partial to a piece of coconut ice!
Now, given Christmas Eve is flying by, I am off to bake my Christmas nut roast, wrap some presents and enjoy a mince tart. I hope you have a Merry Christmas and happy holidays.
(from Scottish Recipes)
400g tin of condensed milk
340g icing sugar (or confectionary sugar)
340g desiccated coconut
1 tsp vanilla essence
Pink food dye
Stir together the condensed milk, icing sugar, coconut and vanilla essence in a large bowl till well combined. This will take quite some stirring as the mixture gets quite stiff.
Line a swiss roll tin (about 28 x 18cm) with baking paper. Spread about half the mixture into the tin and use the back of a spoon or your hands to smooth it down (I found this easier with my hands). Update: I have remade it twice in 2012 and found it hard to spread into a swiss roll tin and I have even struggled to get it all into a slice tin which is smaller.
Add drops of pink food dye to the remaining half of the mixture and stir in. Again it is tough stirring the stiff mixture. I found I needed about 8-10 drops or ½ - 1 tsp of food dye – more than my inclination but you want a nice pink colour to contrast with the white layer. Spoon over the white layer and spread out and smooth down as before.
Place tray in the fridge to set – overnight is best but you can get away with a few hours. Cut into small squares or bars as desired. I find it very sweet and cut into small squares of about 2cm x 2cm. It will keep in or out of the fridge for at least a week. (Update: Best to keep it in the fridge, especially in hot weather, but good to bring to room temperature to serve.)
On the stereo:The Original Christmas Album: 20 Party Christmas Crackers: Various Artists