Coconut and Raisin Loaves

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Here is another treasure from Dee Dee Dailey’s baking contest. Dee Dee’s not-too-sweet tea loaf has admirable characteristics that you just can’t get with sweetened coconut flakes. The rose water adds a charming “remembrance of times past” dimension. The recipe makes two loaves, so you may want to freeze one or to offer it as a Kwanzaa gift.

NotesHow to make friends with a coconut

Dealing with a coconut in an American kitchen can be quite a frustrating experience—especially in an apartment kitchen, where most of the old-fashioned instructions just don’t work (“To crack the coconut, throw it repeatedly onto a hard surface, such as concrete”). Here is our method for establishing a better working relationship with your coconut:

When cracking the coconut, work over a medium bowl, so that when the coconut opens you can collect the coconut liquid (this clear liquid is not coconut milk). Cradle the coconut in the palm of one hand, and grasp a hammer with the other hand. Rotating the coconut in your hand as if it were a ball, knock firmly with the hammer around the coconut’s equator. (We learned this method from a Brazilian lady who tapped the coconut in a jaunty conga rhythm, rolling it in her hand like a star baseball player.) Eventually, depending on the age of the coconut and your aggressiveness with the hammer, the coconut will crack, and its liquid will be caught in the bowl.

An alternative method, one that skeptics or the weak-hearted may prefer, is to first pierce the soft “eyes” of the coconut with an ice pick or a hammer and nail. Then place the coconut on a baking sheet in a preheated 3500 oven and bake it for 20 to 30 minutes, which shrinks the flesh slightly from the shell, making it easier to crack. Working over the bowl, hold the coconut in one hand and knock it a few times with the hammer to crack it. But learning to open the coconut dexterously, without the trip to the oven, saves you plenty of time.

To peel the coconut, pry the coconut flesh out of the shell with a small sharp knife. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the dark skin from the flesh. The peeling is an optional step, as the skin will not affect the flavor, but it is normally done for visual effect.

To shred or grate the coconut, the quickest, most efficient tool is a heavy-duty food processor fitted with the finest shredding blade available. If you are making desserts or candies, where a delicate, fluffy texture is desired, it’s best to finely shred the coconut on a hand grater’s small holes (but not the tiny ones for grating nutmeg and the like). Coarsely grated coconut will not hold together well, and its rough texture is unpleasant.

To make about 3 cups of fresh unsweetened coconut milk, break or chop the coconut flesh into 1-inch pieces. In batches in a blender or food processor (the blender works best), process the coconut pieces with the reserved clear coconut liquid and 3 cups boiling water until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl, and let it stand for 30 minutes. Then take a large piece of cheesecloth (about 16 inches square), rinse it, and squeeze it dry. Set a sieve over a medium bowl, and line it with the cheesecloth. Pour the coconut mixture into the lined sieve, gather up the ends of the cloth, and squeeze every last bit of the liquid into the bowl. This is the coconut milk.

Makes2 loaves

Cooking Methodbaking


Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionFamily Get-together

Recipe Coursedessert, snack

Mealbrunch, dinner, snack, tea

Taste and Texturebuttery, fruity, nutty, spiced, sweet

Type of Dishcake


  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups grated unsweetened fresh coconut (from 1 coconut, see Notes)
  • ¾ cup dark raisins
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup milk, plus additional if necessary
  • 2 large eggs, well beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon rose water (available at specialty markets and some pharmacies)


  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 350°. Lightly butter two 8- by 4-inch loaf pans. Dust the pans with flour, and knock out the excess.

  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Stir in the coconut and raisins. In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, milk, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts, and rose water. Stir the liquid into the dry ingredients to make a soft biscuit-like dough. (The exact amount of milk depends on the moistness of the coconut. Stir in additional milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary.) Divide the dough evenly between the two prepared loaf pans, smoothing the tops.

  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool the loaves for 10 minutes on a wire cake rack. Then invert them onto the rack, unmold, and allow to cool completely.


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