My first memory of Yemayá is forever linked to the sticky sweet flavor of Coconut Candy. I can’t remember exactly how young I was, but it must have been before my parent’s divorce and I was 6 then, when I attended a party offered to Yemayá by the ocean. It was at night, it was dark like molasses and I remember this santera coming to me and placing a piece of coconut candy in my mouth. “Eat this child, it is full with ashé and blessings and you will like it.” I will never forget the flavor and its nice crunchy consistency. I have been a fool for coconut candy ever since. Since I have no prohibitions about eating coconut, I can satisfy my craving for this treat occasionally.
There are many ways to do a good batch of coconut candy. Some prefer to make it almost like a brittle, some like to do it a bit moister; I am an equal opportunity appreciator of coconut candy.
Here is my version of it prepared on small and easy to distribute portions for those who do orisha bembés and like to share treats. Dealing with sugary treats is an exact science, but I recommend allowing yourself the space to experiment and have fun. In my book, flavor wins always, even if the consistency of your candy does not turn out perfect.
4 dry coconuts
2 to 3 cups of sugar
¼ cup of molasses
2 teaspoons freshly ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon Mystery ingredient (choose one of the following to add character to your candy depending on your mood: Vanilla extract, Almond extract, cardamom seeds grounded, lime zest, cayenne pepper, nutmeg)
It is so much better to show you some of the steps than to talk about them, so look at the photos included for reference.
1. Crack your coconuts, pull out the meat, peel the dark rind off the meat and finally grate on fine grind the flesh.
This is a process that can take quite a bit, however, for me it is a crucial part of the work. Usually I have music to Yemayá blasting on my stereo and I am deep into singing and happy as a clam when I do this part. Guess what? It is a magical process to prepare sweets for my Yeye of the Deep Oceans. I pray for my godparents as my hands work, I send them blessings for their love and dedication, I pray for my family, for those who are to partake of this bit of sweetness I am making. There is not one single time when I do not get touched by the orisha as I work be it with ideas or inspiration for projects. Open yourself to enjoy every bit of this and you will see what I mean.
2. Set 2 cups of water to boil with the seasonings listed and slowly start dissolving the sugar. Then add the coconut a handful at a time. Do not add the molasses just yet…
3. Cook uncovered over medium heat for about half an hour. You should have plenty of liquid as it will take some time for it to evaporate.
4. Keep an eye on the candy and stir frequently. When you see that it starts to dry up, include the molasses and stir.
5. Once your candy is pretty much dry, decide if you want it to be sticky or if you want it a bit more like a brittle. If you want it sticky, start shaping it with a spoon and place on wax paper to dry or on wax paper cup cake cups like I did here.
Consistency with coconut candy is a matter of taste. For a stickier candy, add more sugar and cook further.
I like to put my candy in the oven for a good 15 minutes at 350°F because I like the nutty flavor the coconut develops when it toasts a bit in the oven.
I hope your experiment turns out to be a success! By the way, the mystery ingredient is the most fun part, this way you always have a candy with a certain touch that folks have to wonder about. Careful with the cayenne, I don´t serve that version to Yemayá but my guests have found it very intriguing and with a wicked kick.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá