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My On-Again, Off-Again, On-Again Love Affair with Coconut

Coconut banana macadamia nut — a taste of Hawaii in your own home.


As a teen, I fell for coconut.


I’d bake sticky coconut macaroons, shower vanilla frosted cakes liberally with the snowy shards, and stir in as much shredded coconut as humanly possible into the batter for my favorite Morning Glory muffins.

But in my 20s, all of that stopped. I turned my back on coconut.

Maybe it was my young adult self trying to assert a more grown-up palate. Or the reaction to way too many Mound’s bars or supermarket German chocolate cakes early on, both of which had the nasty habit of rendering coconut nearly sickly sweet.

In any event, coconut and I parted ways. For a long, long time. I went out of my way to avoid the stuff, picking around the lone coconut bonbon in the See’s candy box or turning up my nose at any dessert that dared include it.

But a few years ago, ever so slowly, that flame for coconut was rekindled.

Koloa Coconut Rum mini bottles — a souvenir from my recent trip to Kauai.

Maybe it started when I succumbed to a sublime wedge of coconut cake at the cute-as-a-button Hominy Grill in Charleston. Because if you’re in Charleston, how can you not eat coconut cake?

Or all my recent trips to Hawaii, where coconut something or another can be found on every menu around.

Yes, my passion for coconut has returned. And it’s better this time around.

I’m older and wiser. Plus, the coconut I’m  spending time with now isn’t doused in sugar and excess. It’s the real-deal that lets its true personality shine through.

It’s the way every love affair should be.

A coconut lover’s delight.

Coconut Macadamia Banana Bread

(Makes 1 loaf)

This riff on standard banana bread came about after my recent visit to Koloa Rum on Kauai, where I tasted its best-selling Coconut Rum. Its pure, nutty, tropical taste put me into baking mode. If you can’t find Coconut Rum, you can substitute regular rum. This island-influenced banana bread was inspired by my favorite Flo Braker banana bread recipe. For more indulgence, you can glaze the baked cake with more Coconut Rum mixed with a little honey and warm water; or stirred into confectioner’s sugar and thinned with a little milk or cream. Whether you choose to do that or enjoy it as is, you’ll end up with a tender, moist loaf worthy of any coconut courtship.

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup roasted macadamia nuts, chopped

1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 medium)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 tablespoons Koloa Coconut Rum

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/3 cup unsweetened grated coconut (for the top of the cake)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack positioned in the lower one-third of the oven.

Grease and flour a 10-inch-by-5-inch (1.5-pound) loaf pan.

In a large bowl, sift flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir in macadamia nuts.

In a medium bowl,, stir together mashed bananas, eggs, yogurt, oil, vanilla and rum. Add this wet mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir just until combined. Add shredded coconut and stir gently.

Pour batter into the baking pan. Smooth the top. Sprinkle the grated coconut evenly over the top. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before removing the cake from the pan. Let cool completely before slicing and enjoying.

— Carolyn Jung

Another Coconut Treat: Buttermilk Coconut Blondies

Plus: My Visit to Koloa Rum