HomePostsJan 05, 2015

Make Coconut Chips at Home, Then Give Up and Buy Dang

Earlier this month, I went on a cycling trip to Hood River, Oregon with a few friends of mine who, thankfully, make it their mission to make sure I don’t fall too behind and die a miserable death on the side of the road (we’ll ignore the fact that they also encourage me to end up on said road). As usual, we found ourselves talking about consumables and all the wonderful things that were out there. In the space of 24 hours, I had recommended:

See a trend here? I like coconut, I guess.

Coconut is the flavor/base/source du jour these days for both edibles and non-edibles alike. Coconut oil is nectar of the gods for cooking and skin care, coconut water helps exercise and hangover recovery, and a coconut-flavored something can be found on almost every menu. I remember coconut being a very polarizing flavor a decade or two ago: some people loved it, some people hated it. It appears the haters of this now-commonplace drupe have all disappeared.

Good riddance.

Up until the aforementioned bike trip, I wouldn’t have classified myself as a coconut fanatic. Yes, I love coconut and yes, I seem to seek it out everywhere I go. But the subtle obsession I seem to have been germinating over the last few years has remained mostly subconscious. I picked up Coconut La Croix because it sounded interesting (this stuff is now a 4x daily habit). Same with the CoCoNut Porter, it wasn’t a flavor that I had ever seen in a beer before so I tried it (if it’s on a tap list, it’s in a glass in front of me). Coconut water just tastes good and is quite refreshing (it’s my wife that has the problem with this one).

But, writing this out and reflecting on the past, I see that I have a problem. I have let my coconut fascination turn into compulsion and it’s harming the people around me by coloring the usually-measured food recommendations I give. I want to publically apologize to my friends, family, and readers for the pain and suffering this neurosis of mine has caused.

I mean, I’m not going to do anything about it but I’m sorry if you’re sick of hearing about coconut.

Before my preference bloomed into the full-blown mania it is today, I was experimenting with a reduced-carb diet to lose a few pounds I had put on over the last 2 years (totally unrelated: my daughter turned 2 last month). I was looking for something a little sweet with a great texture that wasn’t made out of flour. These little guys caught my eye and, despite a pretty high cost/volume ratio, I decided to give them a try.

And my coconut fixation progressed yet again.

Everything about these chips are just right. The texture has to be one of the most perfect snap/crunch combinations I’ve ever experienced. Each chip gives a tiny little bit, then cracks, over and over for each bite. Dang’s roasting method is impeccable, each chip coming out the color of a perfectly toasted marshmallow.

Then there’s the taste. It’s the perfect amount of sweetness, just enough to be decadent when combined with the fatty coconut meat. You don’t feel like you’re eating candy but your sweet tooth is satiated. And that’s just the plain ones. There’s an almost musical umami going on with the salted caramel chips that can only be truly understood by experiencing them.

So good.

But I kept coming back to the price. These are about $1.34/ounce, depending on where you buy them ($1.89/ounce at the grocery store we use). Even as delicious and nicely filling as these are, that’s a premium price for a snack. So, being the frugal and resourceful gentlemen that I am, I decided to follow my wife’s lead with everything and just make my own. I should have saved the recipe I came up with but it went something like this:

  1. Take raw coconut chips and toss them with homemade simple syrup
  2. Stick them in the toaster oven on broil
  3. Realize about 5 minutes in that broil is way too hot for coconut and switch over to convection at around 350°
  4. Toss the tray of sticky, sweet coconut chips every couple of minutes
  5. Do this for close to an hour
  6. Realize how much time you’ve sunk into this process long after it is too late to start
  7. Ignore your hungry toddler for this time to make sure you don’t ruin all your hard work

Again, that’s just a rough overview.

The outcome? Not bad, honestly. They were a little too sweet because I overdid the simple syrup a bit in an effort to coat them all equally. I think letting them sit and soak it in for a while would have helped. The roast was good but not perfection like Dang’s. It was tough to get them evenly toasty all over when you’re just baking them in a pan. After sitting for while to cool and harden, they were definitely passable, could have worked as a garnish for a desert.

Problem is, I spent about 1.5 hours making them (excluding time to make the simple syrup) and only saved a dollar or two on raw materials. In the end, this was definitely not a good time-for-money trade.

If you dig coconut and want a very satisfying treat, definitely give Dang’s a try. If you have 2 hours free to make an inferior product, by all means, follow my lead.

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