Belizean Coconut Crusts – A How-To Guide

Imagine a flaky crust enveloping a cinnamon-sugar coconut mixture made from freshly grated coconut.  I’ll bet you can’t imagine it, and that’s why I’m sharing the secret recipe! I’ve heard them called coconut turnovers and coconut tarts, but the real name of my favorite Belizean treat is the coconut crust.  The recipe is really not so much a secret as it is a bit of a trial-and-error process.  The only measuring cup I’ve seen is Belize belongs to Jill, who spent part of her life in the US, so I’m thinking that measuring in general is not done so much with traditional tools as with handfuls and pinches and occasionally weight.  So bear with me–and with yourself–if your first coconut crust attempt doesn’t produce the best thing you ever ate.  You’ll be able to detect what needs fixing and do better next time.  With ingredients like cinnamon, sugar, coconut, and vanilla, you really can only go so wrong.  🙂

So.  Here we go.

Step one–get yourselves a big ‘ol coconut.  Heck, get yourselves two.  If you want to be a cheater face, I suppose you could buy the sweetened, flaked stuff in the bag…but real coconuts are fun, and they make the reward so much sweeter!  So coconuts.  Two.  Check.

If you’re trying to stock up your kitchen before you get any further, you need, in addition to your coconut, some brown sugar (the raw, turbinado stuff if you have it), flour, vegetable oil, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, some white sugar, and that should do it.

Now get out those coconuts!  Since I imagine that most of you don’t have machetes lying around your houses, I will turn to the esteemed Bon Appetit magazine website for your coconut cracking instructions.  Be forewarned that the process of cracking and grating a coconut is somewhat time-consuming.  Hopefully this fact will not deter because, as we all know, many of the world’s most beautiful and wonderful things cannot be done without time and dedication.  Plus, the process is active, and therefore far awesomer than the horrid task of idly waiting for bread to raise or cookie dough to chill.

Once you’re secured yourself two coconuts worth of meat, grate those babies up!  If you grate some of the brown exterior, worry not–it’s edible AND good for you.  WhaBAM.

Okay, the hardest part is done.  Give yourself a pat on the back and then throw that grated coconut into a big pan.  Add to it a handful of raw, brown sugar (I’d guess maybe 3/4 cup?), a nice bit of cinnamon–maybe 2 tablespoons–and a little bit of vanilla.  Turn on the heat and start stirring!  You’ve got to stir pretty consistently because the coconut will burn otherwise, but you’ve got to also be patient, and go until the coconut is soft and a light brown color all over.  This took us about 20 minutes, but it started to smell amazing about two minutes in.  Don’t be fooled into taking it off the heat early because it smells so good!  Slow and steady wins the race!

Once the coconut is properly prepared, turn off the heat and make your way over to your dough-making area.  Get yourself a pound of flour (1/5 of a standard bag for you US readers), a handful of white sugar (1/3 cup?), a pinch of salt, and a little vegetable oil–not much, just enough to keep the dough together.  Use your hands to mix the ingredients.  It won’t look like a huge quantity, but a little seems to go a long way.  Once the dough is all mixed, break it up into little rounds a little bigger than ping pong balls.  Hopefully you’ll end up with something like 16 balls by the time you’re through.  Good?  Good.

Next, throw a little bit of oil or some Pam or some such thing onto your work counter.  Take a dough ball and use your fingers to press it into a flat, tortilla-like circle.  It should be pretty thin–like a crepe.  Grab your coconut mixture and spoon a little onto the dough circle, then fold the dough over it so you have a semi-circle of dough filled with the coconut.  Then take a fork and crimp the edges of the dough to seal in the filling.  Throw that baby onto a baking sheet and repeat.  You’ll have to be pretty careful about the proportion of dough to the proportion of coconut so that you don’t end up with an excess of either at the end, although really it’s not a huge deal.  Extra coconut mixture is easily fixed by a hungry bystander, and pie crust is pretty much all-purpose awesomeness.

Bake your crusts at whatever temperature you want…ha.  Actually, I’d take a gander and say 350 degrees Fahrenheit, but that is an entirely uneducated suggestion, so do what your baking experience tells you or just turn on the oven and say a prayer!  I also have no clue how long the crusts bake for, but you want to keep a close watch on them and take them out when they are just golden on the outside.  I’d imagine it’s something like 10 or 12 minutes, but my best baking happens when I am super, super watchful of what’s going on in my oven, so constant vigilance is my best recommendation.

Once you’ve enjoyed the amazingness that you’ve made, please write me a thank you note and/or deliver me a crust to enjoy.  It’s only fair, yah?  I hope that some of you will try this amazing snack!  For the laziest among you, if I really like you, I could possibly be begged to make them for you myself…  And for those of you who choose to ignore this awesome recipe, all I can say is that you’re COCONUTS.  Muahahaha.

Enjoy!  And sorry for the lack of photos…the uploader is giving me difficulty today…argh.

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