Coconut never used to be a familiar word in my vocabulary nor did the fruit itself often find its way into my stomach. As landlocked as one could be, coconuts were as foreign of an idea as palm trees and tropical seas—the subject of many a daydream, but not of an everyday reality. I remember looking over the brown coconut shells in the supermarket, hard beneath my hands, and I was curious how long the coconuts had been sitting on the shelf (I had never witnessed a person purchase one before). A sign overhead asserted that the coconut could be opened best with an ice pick, pointed proof showing how far this little coconut was from home.
As I placed the coconut back on the shelf, I wondered if people in tropical climates carried around ice picks for this specific purpose. The thought struck me as silly, but I could not think of a tool better suited than the one for winter weather.
Eventually, my curiosity got the best of me and I bought a supermarket coconut of my own. I was skeptical of the coconut, as perhaps I should have been, but willing to keep an open mind. In the hot summer sun, I brought it back to my dorm room where my friends and I stared at it, wondering if we would be able to find an ice pick during this time of year. As we passed it between each other, pondering the usage of butcher knives and sharp rocks, my friend accidentally dropped it on the tile floor. Neatly splitting in two, the coconut water began to puddle around it.
A coconut, it seemed, hardly needed any motivation to open at all.
We stared at the coconut shell on the floor for a moment or two, in disbelief that the coconut was so fragile. My friend, who had lived in Hawaii the year before, took this as a bad omen. We scooped the supermarket coconut off the tile, trying to salvage as much as possible. The smell was musky and unpleasant. The taste, even worse. A bad coconut, my friend declared, as she cleanly tossed it in a nearby trash can.
Though my introduction to fresh coconut was less than ideal, it was the start of a coconut affair that would only grow and flourish. While fresh coconut may be out of the picture, dried coconut has become a pantry staple.
Homemade Almond Joy Candy Bars are much healthier and taste just as wonderful as the store-bought version. The coconut center is made with unsweetened shredded coconut, honey, and coconut oil to bind it together. With an almond on top and a chocolate coating, the candy bar is complete. While I placed almonds both inside and on top of the chocolate coating, I would suggest placing the almonds inside the chocolate coating. The almonds placed on top of the chocolate coating have a tendency to fall off during preparation. A no-bake treat, these candy bars can be ready in thirty minutes time.
Almond Joy Candy Bars
Yields 1 dozen candy bars
1 cup (90 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut, lightly packed
3 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons honey (or pure maple syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
12 (or more) whole almonds
4 ounces (110 grams) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
In a food processor, process the shredded coconut, coconut oil, honey, vanilla extract, and salt until it forms a thick paste, about 2-3 minutes. Test the coconut to see if it holds together by squeezing it in your palm. If the coconut is still too loose, continue to process for 1-2 more minutes.
Drop the coconut mixture by the tablespoon onto a non-stick baking mat or parchment paper. Form each ball into a small rectangle by pressing it into formation. Press an almond on top of the coconut rectangles. Freeze the coconut for 15-30 minutes, or until solid.
Melt the chopped chocolate in the microwave in 15 second increments, stirring between each increment until the chocolate is smooth. Skewer each frozen candy bar onto a toothpick and dip into the melted chocolate, tapping off any excess chocolate. Wait for the chocolate to dry before removing from the toothpick.
Serve immediately or store at room temperature for several days (if they last that long).