Yesterday, in a roundabout way, I was reminded of love. The kind of love that puts your heart on pause, makes you ache, sick with the thought of your life absent of this love. What if the object of your affection vanished, faded into the ether? What of your heart then? Would it continue to beat, or would it slouch onward, frightened that it will never know of this love again.
In a waiting room, a man carries his dog into a small white room, followed by his mother. Fifteen minutes later, the mother exits and leans her full weight against the door, as if it would buoy her up, cradle her. Her lower lip quivers. Her son follows, and he gently shoulders her and she pulls away. Slouches past. A nurse says, you gave him a good life. A good life, to which the son responds, A good life. His voice, a sad pantomime.
I clutch my cat, Sophie, tight, and enter the same white room that a dog wrapped in a blanket just exited.
I tend to hold my heart close. Rarely do I cry in public; I’m not one to sob through old movies. From a young age I was taught to swallow voice, to smother any sort of emotion — these are the rules! — and although I’ve undone many of these rules, old habits die hard. However, when it comes to Sophie, all bets are off. I’m irrational, emotional, an exhibitor of high dramatics on the level of circus and pageantry. And when Sophie started exhibiting symptoms of hyper-thyroid disease (note to self: don’t read PetMD), I took her to the vet and hence this two-day ordeal.
As I type this in a cafe in Williamsburg, Sophie is getting anesthesia so they can run tests on her blood, stool and urine. And while I know she’ll be fine, just fine, there will come a day when I will be without her and this makes me sick. I’ll be the one leaning against doors, inconsolable.
Last night, after our first vet visit, I came home and did what I knew to do — bake. Baking calms me, it quiets the room. And I was thrilled to dive into the new Sprouted Kitchen cookbook, as I’ve been a long-time admirer of Sara Forte’s work. Her recipes are decidedly simple, delicious and wholesome. Reading her cookbook is akin to taking a long, leisurely bath, and I felt whole when my delicious loaf came out of the oven.
I looked at one love and then glanced at another. Here’s hoping my little SOPH is okay.
INGREDIENTS (Recipe courtesy of Sprouted Kitchen, with minor alterations)
1/4 cup extra-virgin coconut oil, melted plus more for the pan
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 (13.5-ounce can coconut milk)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease an 9 inch loaf pan with a bit of coconut oil. I also use coconut spray instead of vegetable spray, but whatever strikes your fancy.
Spread the shredded coconut on a rimmed backing sheet and toast in the oven until just golden brown, about 4 minutes. Watch it carefully, it can burn quickly. Set aside 1/2 cup for topping the loaf. Alternatively, you can toast the coconut in a cast iron skillet on the stove. This way, you can eye it carefully, however, make sure to stir the coconut intermittently so that all flakes get cooked evenly.
Before I get into the recipe, note that I swapped out cane sugar for coconut palm. Perhaps it’s my ubiquitous obsession with all things Thai, however, I find that coconut palm sugar, while less sweeter, delivers an extraordinary depth of flavor. The loaf wasn’t saccharine sweet, rather it was rich, nearly luscious on the palate. You’ll find coconut sugar in most Asian food stores, and you’ll find it in health food stores/markets (Whole Foods), as well.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1.5 cups of the toasted coconut and the coconut palm sugar. Sift in the flours, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and stir to combine. In another bowl, whisk the eggs together, then whisk in the coconut milk, coconut oil, and the vanilla. While the original recipe asked to reserve 1/4 cup of the milk for the glaze, I LOATHE glaze, and I found that the extra liquid gave me the moistest cake, EVER. This is why you’ll need a bigger pan as the batter is very liquid-y, and you’ll get coconut loaf overflow. Think yummy volcano, etc.
Gently stir the wet mixture in to the dry ingredients until just combined. Pour the mixture into the loaf pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. 45-50 minutes for a full sized loaf pan, but check after 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
When the loaf has completely cooled, sprinkle the remainder toasted coconut on top. Serve with blackberries on the side, or seasonal fruit of your choice.