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Notes from the Test Kitchen: Coconut coupe

September 17, 2008 |  7:02 pm

082608_17542 Ever open the fridge only to feel like you've stumbled upon a science experiment?

If you stopped by the Test Kitchen any time during the last two weeks, you'd find one of our refrigerators stocked with what looked like a bunch of culture samples nestled among the dairy and produce -- except these samples were in martini coupes and glasses, not Petri dishes.

This week's cover story, Soda fountain favorites go uptown by Betty Hallock, features a recipe for Brix@1601 coconut coupe. It's a visually spellbinding dessert: colorful layers of sweet-tart kalamansi (a Southeast Asian citrus) gelee, fresh raspberry marmalade, buttery coconut sables and a quenelle of lime-coconut sorbet are playfully topped with a crisp, delicate coconut meringue.

Maybe not surprisingly, our attempts to adapt this artistic restaurant creation for the home kitchen provided just a few -- albeit tasty -- challenges....

082608_17541_2We received the recipe from pastry chef Renee Ward and immediately set out sourcing the more unique ingredients. We then divided the original recipe into sub-recipes, converted the metric weight measurements to volume measurements, and downsized recipes to yield roughly 12 servings when possible.

We tested four batches of the gelee, testing first with true kalamansi juice for yield, texture, consistency and overall flavor. We then adapted the recipe to call for regular lime juice as kalamansi juice is not widely available.

091708_12031_3 The lime coconut sorbet was tested three times, first to check the accuracy of our conversions, then downsized for yield (the original test produced over a gallon of sorbet). We also tried substituting canned cream of coconut for the coconut puree called for in the recipe because the puree can be expensive and hard to find (we found two local sources, though it's widely available online) while the canned is readily available and more reasonably priced. Unfortunately, the sorbet made with canned cream of coconut was cloyingly sweet and had the texture of cold rubber cement when we tried to freeze it.

082608_17531 Maybe it was the weather (or just the general heat of a busy Test Kitchen), but our biggest challenge came with the meringues. The trick came down to determining the number of egg whites to volume of sugar (the original recipe called for egg whites by weight).  We initially tested the original recipe as it was, determining a number of egg whites to meet the weight given.  The measurements were accurate, as was the method, and the meringues were crisp, delicate and a vibrant white.  Only problem was, the recipe produced about 10 dozen more than we needed.

We went through several tests in our attempts to downsize the recipe, producing variously awful results: chewy meringues and meringues with soft centers, some that became sticky five minutes out of the oven and still others that were colored from overcooking (we tried adjusting the temperature one time).  It took a couple dozen eggs, but we finally found a ratio that produces those ultralight, crisp meringues using just 2 egg whites.

In all, it took three testers several days to deconstruct and adapt the recipe. We hope you enjoy the results as much as we did! The recipe(s)can be found here (Coconut coupe, Lime coconut sorbet, Coconut meringues, Coconut sable cookies). 

-- Noelle Carter

Photos by Noelle Carter / Los Angeles Times

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