13 October 2009

Coconut Muffins

This is not, I swear, another 'thing I cooked this weekend' post.

This is a Google penance post.

Back in August, after vacation, I mentioned that I'd spent some time thinking about the coconut muffins served at Harpoon Hanna's. Shortly thereafter, the traffic coming from Google searches for "Harpoon Hanna's coconut muffin recipe" surged.

Harpoon Hanna's is sort of overwhelming, as dining experiences go. It is huge. During the season, it is invariably crowded. Inside, it is composed of several gigantic connecting rooms, reminiscent of tastefully furnished airline hangars -- and as acoustically pleasant as airline hangars as well. Outside, a multileveled deck runs most of the side of the building, crowded with umbrella tables, and crowned by an absurdly large tiki bar at one end. If a quiet, intimate setting is your thing, Harpoon Hanna's is not the place for you.

The menu unfolds like a tripartite Wall Street Journal, effectively blocking access to your dining companions and your drinks. Even after you realise that your attention is best directed to the centre section, there are still enough choices to induce a cognitive seize-up. Salmon, mahi mahi, or swordfish? Tilapia or tuna? Grilled, broiled, or blackened? Stuffed with crab imperial or is that so far too much as to become ridiculous?

I ordered the scallops, because they were thing my eyes fell upon when the waitress asked. The scallops are not the star of this story, though they, sea-sweet and awash in basil-flecked butter, were heavenly. They had no right to be so good.

Orders taken and access to drinks restored, the bread arrived. The bread delivery system at Harpoon Hanna's is a member of the waitstaff with a large basket of bread who daintily places your selected roll on your bread plate with tongs. The choices are more or less what one would expect in restaurant bread, with the exception of the coconut muffins.

Obviously I had to try one. The first (experimental) nibble was good, so I continued nibbling, contemplatively. They were not especially sweet. The crumb was tender and creamy. The flaked coconut was clearly present but the muffins weren't overloaded with it. Intuition suggested to me that the recipe involved coconut milk.

Once we were home from vacation, I went hunting. There are, for the record, about a million variations on the "coconut muffin recipe" theme out there. Most of them looked awful, and most did not call for coconut milk. Then I found the coconut muffin recipe on the A Taste of Thai website, which did include coconut milk and, happily, did not look awful.

Then things got busy and I didn't have time to do anything more about it until this past weekend. I have no idea if Harpoon Hanna's uses the recipe from A Taste of Thai, but the recipe makes something very close to the muffins at the restaurant. The texture of my muffins was a little chewier than I remember from the restaurant, but that may have been my fault in overbeating the batter a little. It might also be worthwhile to substitute cake flour for half the weight (not the volume) of the flour in the recipe and use all-purpose flour for the other half.

I used A Taste of Thai brand coconut milk, because my local grocery happens to carry it. I have no particular loyalty to that brand, however, and I suspect other brands would work equally well, though the Thai brands of tinned coconut milk do have a better reputation for quality. I also used unsweetened flaked coconut. If you want a sweeter muffin using sweetened coconut would probably work fine, but the original muffin was not very sweet and I was trying to get as close as I could to it.

Requisite photo, a bit overexposed:

Coconut Muffins

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