It's not exactly bright outside. Rain is streaming down past my window; the sky is growing gloomier by the minute.
A string of warm days has melted most of the snow in the city, leaving the sidewalks wet and icy. Stepping off the curb means dunking your foot into a rivulet of cold, dirty slush.
It's not a pretty picture, is it? I'm counting down the days until I hop on a plane and fly to a warm beach, filled with coconut-scented sunscreen and fish tacos and lots (and lots) of margaritas. I've packed this, so I think I basically have all the essentials covered, don't you?
I'm sorry to tell you about the trip. I'm sorry that you're not coming too. I'd bring you in my suitcase if I could, I really would. But here's the thing: I made you this tropical, luscious coconut loaf. That's almost as good.
I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, and it is a real stunner. As it bakes, it rises loftily above the pan. The deep golden crust splits open into craggy fissures, exposing the moist, sugary crumb within.
I dialed down the cinnamon in the original recipe and added cardamom, because cardamom and coconut are perfect together. Cardamom and coconut are the new PB&J -- you heard it here first!
If you like cardamom, you can skip the cinnamon altogether and bump the cardamom up to 1 or 1 1/2 teaspoons.
This loaf has reminded me of a few important lessons: First, baking with coconut perfumes your kitchen in the best way. Second, brown butter makes everything better. Everything.
Toast a slice of this loaf for dessert and spread it liberally with lime curd. Or, freeze it and eat it standing up, straight from the freezer; don't even worry about the crumbs falling to the floor or your roommate wondering "where did all the g-d cake go?".
I am going to have a warm slice right now. And I will slather it with butter, and that is what I call the bathing-suit-in-four-days-beach-diet. Join me.
Coconut Brown Butter Loaf
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup sugar
6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9x5" loaf pan.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Keep cooking over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until the butter begins to brown and smell nutty. You'll see brown flecks gathering on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat as soon as it smells fragrant, and set aside.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and cardamom. Whisk in the sugar and coconut.
Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
Add the browned butter and stir to combine. Be gentle: You don't want to overwork the batter but you want to make sure the butter is fully incorporated which takes a bit of folding.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour (it might take up to 1 hour and 20 minutes, just keep inserting a tester into the middle and take the loaf out when it comes out clean).
Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edges of the pan. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to finish cooling.