I must admit that I have a weakness for all things coconut. The fact that I live in the Caribbean and coconuts are synonymous with island life, may have something to do with that. I always have a stock of coconut products on hand for cooking and baking. Essentials are coconut water and coconut milk. I also grate dry coconuts and freeze the packs to reconstitute for making fresh coconut milk for use at anytime or for baking pies, cakes or buns. In Guyana, coconuts are used in many typical dishes such as cook-up rice and curries. In Haiti, coconuts are also used for various recipes both savory and sweet.
One of my all time sweet favorites is Salara. I think that this is considered a Guyanese sweet bread as I have never had it anywhere else. As a child, an after school treat was hot fresh salara rolls from Yong’s or Naraine’s Bakeries. The thick soft bread encased a lovely sweetened grated coconut filling. It was dyed in a trademark deep pink color and was simple and scrumptious. We always tried to time our visits just as it was just as the fresh breads were coming out of the oven. Sometimes we would have to wait a short while for the batch to finish the baking cycle. It was always worth the wait. The warm bread would be moist and tender and as the filling was still hot, it oozed some of the pink syrup from the hot coconut filling. In short, it was sheer perfection!
As I sometimes crave these old time Guyanese treats, I have to make them myself. When I do, I share with friends and family. Now they too have learned about this lovely sweet bread of Guyanese origins and can share the joy and memories.
Coconut swirl bread / Salara
Sweet bread dough
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar + a bit for sprinkling on bread before baking
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup warm water (105- 115 degrees)
2 packs active dry yeast
2 large eggs, beaten
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour ( may need a little more for kneading
Some additional butter for greasing bowls+ 2 tbsp melted butter for brushing on the dough.
2 cups finely shredded coconut
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp water
5 drops red food coloring
(1) Heat milk just to boiling point and then remove immediately from heat. Stir in sugar, salt and butter. Set aside and allow to cool to lukewarm. In a large bowl mix warm water and yeast, stir well ensuring that yeast melts completely. Add the lukewarm milk mixture, beaten eggs and half of the flour. Mix together well until smooth. Gradually add remaining flour, mixing well after each addition. You may need a bit more or less than the 4 1/2 cups of flour, depending on the humidity of your area. Your dough should elastic, slightly stiff but not dry.
(2) Flour a wooden board or clean countertop and turn the dough out. Knead the mixture until the dough is smooth, shiny and elastic. This may take about 8 -10 minutes. Prepare a large bowl by completely buttering the inside. Turn the dough over to ensure that all sides are well greased. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in a warm place to double in size, about an hour. When the dough has doubled in size, punch down and turn out on a floured surface. Divide into two portions. Roll each into a rectangle 8 x 12 x 1/4″. Brush melted butter onto dough.
(3) In a medium bowl, combine all of the coconut filling ingredients together and mix well ensuring that the red food coloring is evenly distributed. If you prefer a light pink color, reduce to 3 drops of red coloring. Divide the filling into 2 portions. Spread evenly onto the buttered rectangle of dough as described in (2). Repeat the same process with the second dough round. Roll jelly roll style starting from the longer side, rolling tightly. Pinch edges closed and place both rolls on a prepared baking sheet; sealed side down. I use a silpat but you can also use parchment paper. Leave to rise for about 20 minutes.
(4) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat an egg and baste the salara rolls completely. Sprinkle some granulated sugar over the surface and place in the oven. Bake until golden brown about 20 – 25 minutes.
Salara at teatime
This roll freezes well. You can wrap in wax paper and aluminum foil and freeze up to a month. When needed, defrost at room temperature and then reheat slices as needed.