Simpler recipe yields better coconut candy


POSTED: Wednesday, April 01, 2009

One of the perils of this job is that sometimes you have to make things you have no interest in eating. Last weekend, for instance, was devoted to coconut candy, which is not high on my list of ways to ingest calories. But it was a challenge.

Besides, that's what they pay me for.

The adventure began with Janet Y. Ung's request for a recipe for Hawaiian coconut candy—the red, sugar-covered balls that you can buy in crack-seed stores.

I found a recipe in a cookbook published in 1983 by the Kamehameha Schools, “;Oldies But Goodies,”; credited to Tamar Luke Panee, class of 1953. All you do is mix coconut flakes with corn syrup, roll it into balls and then cover the balls in colored sugar. It seemed too simple, and me of little faith—I thought it wouldn't work.

So I tried a more complicated recipe that involved real candy-making—cooking a sugar syrup to the soft-ball stage, adding coconut and endangering my fingers trying to roll this hot stuff into balls. The result wasn't worth the effort or the mess, so it was back to the Kamehameha recipe.

Very simple, and close, but not quite right.

So I went to a crack-seed store and picked up a small bag of the real stuff, and there was the clue in the ingredient list: unsweetened dessicated coconut. The usual bakers' coconut found in supermarkets is sweetened and shredded, with the pieces fairly large. To find unsweetened dried coconut, sometimes called macaroon coconut, try a health-food store, where it's often sold among the bulk goods. I got some at Down to Earth.

These smaller, drier flakes produce a candy very much like the commercial version, although it needs to be refrigerated. Like many homemade candies, it's not an exact match for the original, but in some ways it's better—softer and not as sugary.

A word about the coloring: I ran out of red food coloring at Christmastime, so my candies are bright green. But this led to an inspiration. Easter is near; imagine little balls of sugary coconut candy in springtime pastels. There's no rule they have to be red.


Coconut Candy


        2 cups unsweetened macaroon coconut (see note)
        3/4 cup light corn syrup
        1/4 cup sugar
        Red food coloring (or your choice of another color)

Combine coconut with 1/2 cup corn syrup and mix thoroughly, adding a little more syrup if needed to evenly coat the flakes. Roll into 1/2-inch balls, squeezing the mixture to compress.

Color sugar by adding 1 or 2 drops of coloring and mixing well.

Roll balls in sugar. Chill at least 1 hour. Makes about 48 balls.

Nutritional information unavailable.

Note: Find unsweetened dried coconut in health-food stores, generally sold in bulk. If you have a choice, buy the finest flakes available.