Dec. 22, 2002 - Christmas in the Virgin Islands just wouldn't be Christmas without coconut tarts. Local bakeries and industrious home bakers do a brisk trade in these pastries, but there's nothing like the lip-smacking satisfaction of making your own. Here's how.
If you really want to start at the beginning, buy a coconut with a tan color husk. The white part of green-husked coconuts is jelly-like inside and not suitable for grating to make the tart filling.
To open the coconut, first take the tan husk off until you get to the brown nut inside. Then, poke into the eyes with a screwdriver. One will seem easier to pierce since it is where a new seeding would eventually germinate. Hammer the end of the screwdriver to pierce out the eyes -- two will do. Drain the liquid into a glass. If the smell is sweet, the nut is good to eat. If it smells rancid, throw the nut away.
Next, find the natural fracture point of the nut. To do this, let the oven help: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. then place the drained coconut on a pie plate and set it in the oven. The shell should crack naturally in about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool the coconut briefly, then wrap it in a kitchen towel and tap it gently with a hammer. Pieces should come apart easily. The oven heat also will make it easier to pry the white flesh away from the shell using a butter knife. One medium-sized coconut will make 3 to 4 cups of grated coconut, perfect for making one or two tarts.
Making the tart crust, akin to a pie crust, can be challenging. But the amount of fat used in the recipe below, which gives it a scrumptious good taste, also makes the dough easy to handle.
Of course, with the holiday rush, you also can create your home-made coconut tart using short-cuts such as shredded, unsweetened coconut and a 9-inch pre-formed refrigerated pie crust.
As an alternative to making a large tart, you can make mini tarts in 6-inch pie tins or even muffin tins and use these as Christmas presents or stocking stuffers.
Whatever you choose, enjoy! Happy holidays!
Christmas Coconut Tart
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
8 oz. cold unsalted butter
1 whole egg
2 cups grated coconut
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
To make the crust: Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter using a knife and fork or pastry cutter. Add egg. Stir together until ingredients form a soft dough. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, flatten and let rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Unwrap from the plastic. Roll out to a 1/8-inch thickness. Place half the dough into the tart pan. Save the rest of the dough for decorating the top of the tart. Bake crust for 5 minutes in an oven preheated to 425 degrees F. Set aside.
To make coconut filling: Combine coconut, sugar and water in a saucepan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 45 minutes, until mixture turns from milky white to clear. Add essence.
To make the tart: Spoon filling into crust. Cut remaining crust in strips and crisscross top of filling lattice-style. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until bubbly and brown.
Makes 1 tart of 8 servings. Per serving: 328 calories, 16 gms fat (43 percent fat calories), 46 mg cholesterol, 132 mg sodium.
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