Many ingredients such as nuts, flour and coconut can take advantage of toasting which usually contributes a noticeably complex nutty flavor. This is because toasting creates a myriad of flavor compounds in what is known as the Maillard reaction. One of the difficulties in baking with coconut is that its subtle flavor sometimes doesn't come through as much as we'd like. Toasting coconut can be a great way to add more complexity and depth of flavor to all sorts of coconut based recipes.
It's important to toast unsweetened coconut only. If you attempt to toast sweetened coconut the sugars will caramelize first and the coconut might not get a chance to toast completely. There are a two ways to toast coconut. One method is to place the coconut on a large skillet over medium heat while stirring almost constantly but I prefer the oven method due to it's consistent, even toasting which barely requires any effort.
To Toast Nuts or Coconut
Preheat your oven to 300F (149C). Sprinkle ½ cup nuts or shredded coconut on a baking sheet that is about 17 x 14 inches. Make sure its spread as evenly as possible. If there are clumps of nuts or coconut, the pieces underneath the clumps might not get fully toasted. Place the baking sheet on the middle oven rack and bake for 20 minutes. Cool, and use in your recipe.
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