The Coconut Bar – In Progress

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The Coconut: Passion Fruit Marshmallow, 70% Dark Chocolate Ganache with Shredded Coconut and Rum-Soaked Macadamia Nuts enrobed in Bittersweet Chocolate.

Earlier this month, I didn’t post for about 2 weeks, and it’s mostly because of this bar (oh, um, and two others that I’ll discuss in the future). Although it has almost the same flavors as its previous version, the challenge has been to get those flavors to take just the exact forms that I want and to maintain integrity of flavors. It’s driving me a little crazy.

Traditional coconut candy bars are made by suspending the coconut within a cooked sugar syrup, often lightened with frappe (which is like marshmallow fluff). I didn’t want to offer yet another sweet, chewy coconut bar to the world… to simply trot after Bounty, Almond Joy, and Mounds laden with an air of desperate conformity.

Instead, I take my cue from the creamy coconut cakes, cocktails, ice creams, and mousses that I’ve always enjoyed. I want a creamy bar that balances the flavor of coconut with passion fruit, macadamia nuts, and rum. I want some crunch, but not too much — that is, not much more than what is naturally in coconuts and macadamia nuts. Coconut desserts often have a deceptively light texture that belies just how nutritionally “heavy” they are, and I wanted to use that as a model.

So, the passion fruit marshmallow is a different sort marshmallow than the one in my S’More Bar. The s’more one suggests ooziness like a melted marshmallow, while this one suggests an airy lightness, more like a mousse. To adjust the consistency of marshmallows, I’ve found that you can change the amount of gelatin used, the temperature that you cook your sugar syrup to and the types/ratios of sugars that you use (liquid vs granular). The more liquid sugar you use, the longer your marshmallows will resist drying out and crystallization… but they might eventually weep syrup.

The ganache uses 70% chocolate and is mixed with coconut flakes and macadamia nuts soaked in rum. It’s lusciously soft and creamy, and that’s one of the benefits of using a mold; the ganache doesn’t have to be firm enough to roll or cut. The firmness of a ganache is most saliently affected by the ratio of chocolate (firm) to cream (soft), but sugars and butter added to it also affect the consistency and taste.

The bar isn’t quite done, mostly b/c I still want to perfect the flavor. In this version, the passion fruit flavor outmuscles the coconut a bit. My options seem to be to decrease the amount of passion fruit puree in the marshmallow and/or to mix coconut flakes into the marshmallow. I don’t think that the latter would interfere with the balance of textures — I think it should be fine to have coconut in both layers.

In the ganache layer, I’ll increase the amount of coconut flakes used. The function of the ganache is really just to bind the coconut flakes together. I’m also mulling over what kind of chocolate I want to use to let the coconut flavor come out more. If I ease off the chocolate flavor to let the coconut come through, I’d have to use a chocolate with more sugar… and I’m trying to not let this bar get too sweet. In all honesty, I’d love to mix the coconut into something other than chocolate ganache, but I don’t want to just mix it into a sugary solution, as I said before and because there is, after all, already a sweet marshmallow right above it. I also can’t use a cookie in this bar because fitting it into the mold presents too many problems with exact height and tapered circumference issues — having any air space inside the bar is bad for shelf life, among other things; I also don’t want the flavor of butter in this bar.

I also wonder if there’s anything that I could do to the coconut to make it a little softer. I’m using unsweetened dried coconut, because sweetened coconut is so sweet. I have soaked the coconut in warm water, squeezed it dry, and slightly toasted it, but the texture only marginally improves. I could add some form of sugar to the water before I toast it, and maybe that would help without being as sweet as regular sweetened coconut. On the other hand, maybe it’ll soften in the ganache, so I’ll monitor this batch.

As far as the rum goes, I’m happy with it. It gives just enough of a whisper of intrigue, but the bar by no means screams of rum.

And remember, a couple posts back, how I said that chocolate is pretty forgiving to work with? Originally, I had mixed the coconut and nuts into plain, tempered chocolate and pressed that into the mold with the marshmallow; so there had been a “crunch” layer instead of the ganache. Well, I didn’t like the texture of that — too twiggy to me — so I was able to crack away at it and scoop it out. I then decided on this ganache and put that in its place. So, that explains the rugged border between the two.

The only truly unforgiving thing about chocolate that I discovered in writing this post is that photographing molded chocolate hemispheres at home is practically impossible — its reflective powers are staggering!

14 Responses to “The Coconut Bar – In Progress”

  1. Sweet Napa » Blog Archive » A Passion Fruit Coconut Candy Bar Says:

    […] A Passion Fruit Coconut Candy Bar NOTE: This bar is being revamped. […]

  2. Amie Says:

    What a lovely bar, and nice combination of flavors. I love the little coconut circles on the outer shell. It looks delicious (and I don’t even like coconut, or marshmallows)!

  3. brian Says:

    Oooh, you’ve got me all jealous with your suite of chocolate molds. I just bought some the other day–couldn’t find ones like you had for the 5 part peanut butter bars. I love the coconut eyes on the molds! Too cute! The look super shiny, and it appears to be a beautiful day outside!

  4. Nina Says:

    Amie – Thank you! I have to admit that I’m pretty pleased with myself for the circles idea. 🙂 And I’ve witnessed passion fruit marshmallows winning over people who ordinarily don’t like marshmallows, so I hope the same would happen for you. My guess is that actual flavor in them beyond just sugar goes a long way.

    Brian – Haha Thanks! It was quite a nice day. 🙂 When my boyfriend looked at the picture, he noticed that the layout of the spheres is a lot like Mickey Mouse… so now I see the reflections a n d Mickey Mouse whenever I look at it.

    Good luck with the molds!

  5. Doug Cress Says:

    it looks beautiful. i want to take a bite of it, NOW

  6. Aaron Says:

    You said it, so I’m not worried, but passion fruit can be so irritating to me because it is usually never very well balanced and ends up totally dominating other ingredients. I think Pierre Herme (gasp) even struggles with that one.
    If you want to move away from the ganache, what about using macadamia nut butter, or perhaps a combo of the two? That’d be a true riff on fluffer-nutter.

  7. catherine Says:

    Nina, you’re killing me!!!! Yum!

  8. Nina Says:

    Doug – hehe Thank you 🙂

    Aaron – The macadamia nut butter is a great idea (as is the fluffernutter model — that didn’t even occur to me before) – I’m going to experiment with that, and the proportion and placement of the coconut… and hopefully that’ll help balance it all out.

    Catherine – Thanks!

  9. G Says:

    Would a glycerin solution help the coconut softness? Coconut oil?

    I love your experiments, and reading about CIA B&P has been great. I graduated from Greystone ACAP in March ’05. We only got three weeks on your side of the kitchen, so rochers and truffles were the extent of our candymaking.

  10. Nina Says:

    G – Thank you! I’m glad that you like my site. It’s always good to hear from fellow Greystone people — after moving down to LA, it brings back good memories of being up there! Though… hehe, I messed up my first batch of rochers so badly that I still classify them as tricky — I think my chocolate was too cool and I didn’t divide the chocolate well into three amounts for pouring onto the nuts… my last round had just about no chocolate. And of course, every one else’s rochers looked great.

    Hmm… I’ve never used coconut oil or glycerin. Do they taste good and have good texture? I’m kind of reluctant b/c they seem almost like additives… I’m trying to keep an open mind about what to put in my candy bars, but I want them to be made with fresh ingredients and to have pure flavors… but at the same time, I realize that a lot of ingredients that I use are almost arbitrarily common; for instance, if I weren’t familiar with cream of tartar or baking powder, I might see them as additives, but they’re harmless and useful.

  11. Aaron Says:

    JT’s jam/preserve classes are great. We worked with plums, but since then I’ve worked with a lot of fruit.
    I use a range of ratios 4.4:1 to 4.8:1, fruit:sugar, depending on the fruit, the time in the season, etc. I also add lemon juice to this, which really depends on how much acid I feel like the fruit has to begin with…no science there.
    This macerates overnight, which I do at room temp…I don’t want my fruit near the fridge. However, if it’s super hot out, I’ll put it in the fridge.
    I cook it hard, per JT’s suggestion. You want the water gone with the least amount of cooking time in order to keep the fruit “itself.” Cooking time hovers around 20 minutes from BP, sometimes 18 others 23. It’s done when you do the gel test and you like the consistency, but after you do it for a while, you can tell by tilting the pot and looking for a certain type of ripple.
    I don’t add any pectin. Fruit has enough naturally. Therefore, some fruits set up stiffer than others. My kiwi jam from this winter is nearly the consistency of membrillo (ok not quite, but you get the point). Skin and seeds have pectin (as a rule), so things like blueberries set up stiffly, things like peeled peaches, not so much.
    As for jarring…Put the clean glass jars in the oven at 225 before you start cooking fruit. Takes them out, and fill with jam that has just come off the stove. Place them on a rack before filling (use gloves). Fill very high, leaving very little head space. Wipe the rim with a “VERY” clean sponge or rag, cap them, slide them to one side and don’t disturb for at least one hour. They will seal because of all the heat in the jam and the jar…
    That process literally made the class worth every penny!
    No water bath, no tongs, no splashing…
    My latest endeavor was Lucero strawberries with vanilla bean and rosemary. Came out pretty well.

  12. Nina Says:

    Thanks so much, Aaron! I’ve made strawberry preserves twice in the past couple of weeks, and the next time I get strawberries — either Sunday or Wednesday — I’m going to try the way that you described.

    The first time, I used the LA Times way (which macerates overnight at room temp and prescribes 1:1 fruit to sugar and w/ lemon, but I used about 1.2:1), and then the Christine Ferber way from Mes Confitures (with a bit less sugar and also lemon, and which macerated chilled overnight, then was simmered the next day and chilled, and then was cooked off the third day, with the syrup reaching 221 before you add the fruit and boil 5 mins). Both are good texture-wise and are gorgeous shades of red, but are really just too sweet; and I’m not convinced that 3 days is necessary. I’d read that JT uses about 20% sugar in conserves, but I just couldn’t believe it compared to these other ratios! So glad to hear that it works without any further adjustments. Ferber uses homemade apple jelly to firm up some of her preserves, but I really dislike any fruit juices that are cut w/ apple juice, so I doubted I’d ever attempt those… and I couldn’t see JT doing that.

    I do like the Ferber book for the combinations that she uses in her conserves — like strawberry w/ passion fruit, chestnut w/ vanilla, and banana w/ bittersweet chocolate — but I’m just going to use the book for ideas and while cutting down the sugar. Once I get the hang of it, I probably won’t need the book anymore.

    I’ve only read about the legend of Lucero strawberries… and sounds great w/ vanilla and rosemary. Here in LA, at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, I’ve been seeing Chandler’s, Gaviotas, Camarosas, and a few poky baskets of frais des bois. Once I get confident w/ my method (and build up a store of plain strawberry preserves), I can’t wait to play w/ different combinations… I like to think that my recent habit of compulsive sorbet making will come in handy for that. 🙂

  13. Sweet Napa » Blog Archive » The Scotch Bar Says:

    […] Spiced Caramel Nut Bar S’More Bar The Coconut Peanut Butter Bar Coffee Bar Malt Bar Banana Bar Beer Bar Orange Bar […]

  14. The Coconut Bar May Have Just Gotten Even Cuter - Sweet Napa Says:

    […] It used to look like this inside, and was composed of Passion Fruit Marshmallow, 70% Dark Chocolate Ganache with Shredded Coconut and Rum-Soaked Macadamia Nuts enrobed in Bittersweet Chocolate: […]

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