Eating My Way Through Winter: Coconut Spice Bread


This is going to be a new series, if I can get my act together.


At the moment my act is very obviously not together, but more about that later.

I’ve decided that the best way to deal with an unwanted winter is to ignore it entirely, to stay in bed as much as possible, and to bake as if I was in a place full of trees, fresh air and lovely white blankets of snow, rather than in a huge city where the daily pollution readings declare it Unhealthy and where it doesn’t tend to snow but it sure loves to be cold and damp.

This obviously means I need to bake more. I need to make more warm and happy comfort foods. I need to totally regain all of the  8kg I lost doing that detox back in October. I’m nothing if not diligent.

This is what my life has been like for the past several weeks: I’ve been away every weekend for work, up in freezing Jinan in Shandong, then to Nanjing last weekend, where traffic meant I had to spend my non working hours crammed into their crowded subway cars, and I’ll be back there again this weekend for more fun. I’m pretty fried.

And then there’s my day job, where they’ve only just realized that when I say my office heater doesn’t work that it really doesn’t work. I wear coat, gloves, scarf indoors at all times. My back and neck ache from having cold muscles all the time.

And then when I finish my class on Monday nights, it’s nearly impossible to get a taxi way out there in the suburbs that can go into Shanghai, so I have to take a local taxi to the nearest metro station then travel for an hour and a half beyond that to get home (2 line changes and a 25 minute walk in the dark).

I’m tired and cold.

A few quick photos to illustrate, before we get to the warm and lovely spice bread.


Line 5, Shanghai metro, around 8:45pm. At least it isn’t crowded.


My seatmate on the train to Jinan got some rest at least.


How busy have I been? Here are my receipts for my travel expenses for work this season.



Coconut Spice Bread


I’ve been using coconut milk in my coffee for a few months, so I have a decent stash of it in the cupboard . This recipe calls for regular milk but the coconut adds a lovely flavour and aroma.  I added a bit of freshly ground cloves and a bit of dried ginger as well, which was lovely.  I also painted a light glaze of brown sugar and the last bit of the milk (cream, actually- it was the last thick bits) onto the baked crust after I took it out of the oven. Again, unnecessary but lovely.


This is the recipe I used.


I had to miss a few photographic steps of the procedure because my hands were too full or too doughy. Bear with me on this. The bread is lovely and worth making.



  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water, warm
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tbsp butter, soft
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 4 cups bread flour




  1. In large bowl, stir milk, water, and brown sugar.
  2. Add butter and salt.
  3. Add yeast. Stir until yeast is dissolved.
  4. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
  5. Mix in flour, 1 cup at a time, until you have a thick batter.
  6. Cover bowl with clean kitchen cloth and let dough rise in warm place for 45 minutes or until double in size.
  7. Stir down thick batter for 20 seconds and scrape into greased 1.5 quart casserole pan.Cover and let rise for 30 minutes or until doubled.
  8. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 1 hour or until bread is brown and sounds hollow when tapped on.
  9. Remove loaf from casserole and let cool.


Ignore my scrawls. This was the spice mix I used.
Ah, magically everything has come together! All the ingredients have been added, except the flour, which was only getting started. That was added cup by cup, stirring carefully, getting myself totally covered in dough.
Ignore the wine glasses. Focus on the rising bread. I let that go for just over an hour because the kitchen was most certainly not a warm place.
Um, yeah, again, ignore the wine. Hey, look at how much it rose in just an hour in an icy kitchen!
After stirring the risen dough a dozen or so times in the rice cooker insert, blorp it out into your baking pan. They called for a casserole dish. I don’t own one. This would have to do. Let it rise again. About 30 minutes.
I baked it at around 190 degrees for an hour. I’m not sure if that’s equivalent to 375F but it was close enough. Note: my oven is so small that the top of the loaf was so close to the top elements that it started overbrowning after only 30 minutes. I lightly balanced some tin foil over the top to prevent it from becoming Cajun blackened bread. I baked it for just under an hour. Like, 55 minutes.
spice bread
This is what it looked like after I took my Chinese calligraphy brush and painted the top with brown sugar sweetened coconut milk.
I ate a slice before it had even cooled. Beautiful with raspberry preserves.
Gerald T. Bear and Kevin the Panda get festive
And then I decorated the bears for Christmas.


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  1. TracyAnn0312 says:

    I think that these is really good these winter. I cannot imagine how well it was. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  2. Martin says:

    Sounds and looks like a nice bread for a dark winter morning… And your Xmas bears deco is just stunning… 🙂 Hope you’ll have some less exhausting time during the holidays. It’s maybe not overly healthy to work all days and weekends, you know… at least not, if they tend to freeze your bum at work and to stuff everything around you with too many small people.

    I wonder whether not to heat the offices of foreign labor’s is just one of those special Chinese ways to keep you sufficiently conditioned to their beloved mother country. And then again, maybe it’s just the time of the year when you should exchange your daily qubic metre of hot water with hot mullet wine or hot lumumba!?

    Anyway, baking your way through lousy winter days always worked quite fine for me, and even if some bread or cake experiments don’t go too well it always keeps the kitchen warm. Sadly, it doesn’t avoid winter depression but only helps to muffle them… And, if it’s of some comfort: Our air here may be less poisonous and we actually have some kind of snow here, but it’s also -4°C at 9:00am outside, windy, totally muddy and soggy with only some hours of slightly less dark during the day. Actually, I should start another car trip all over to France today, but it’s so hard to bring myself up, packing all the stuff and get myself on these icy streets full of hysteric (and depressed) Christmas shoppers for 8 hours or so… Not too much fun, and all very exhausting. Of course, it would be much better to get back under the duvets with a nice mug of coffee and a fresh bread…

    And you should maybe start thinking about how to get yourself some real vacations, in terms of recreation instead of additional stress due to another uncertain travel adventure. It’s not that doing so would be a kind of sacrilege or so, right?

    However, keep yourself warm over there, and I’ll eat some fresh Madeleines for you… 🙂

    1. MaryAnne says:

      Oooh, I’d like some Madeleines too!

  3. Susan says:

    I’ve been quietly waiting for this recipe. Sounds wonderful – I might make it my Christmas morning breakfast.
    Susan recently posted..A quiet Richmond Park 11/8/12My Profile

    1. MaryAnne says:

      You should! It’s so lovely when hot and covered in butter and jam!

  4. Forget the bread. Where do I get a wee piggy kitchen spoon?
    Camden Luxford recently posted..I’m on the Cuban regime’s shit list, but it was totally worth itMy Profile

    1. MaryAnne says:

      I got my piggie a few years ago in Canada when I went home. Just checked the website of the place where I got it but they don’t carry it anymore.

      I googled it and found this: and this

      When I did a google image search, a few of my own blog posts came up. I guess the pig is more prominent here than I thought.

  5. mjskit says:

    My days of being able to tolerate the cold are long gone! Good that you are young and healthy to be able to handle the weather as well as that crazy schedule of yours. Your bread looks perfect, but how on earth did you get it to rise like that in the cold? 🙂 I’d probably be making bread everyday just to stay warm. The smell of cooking bread sure is comforting. Great decision to use coconut milk in place of regular milk.
    mjskit recently posted..Coconut Rice with Pickled PeppersMy Profile

    1. MaryAnne says:

      Speaking of crazy schedules, my employers called me this morning to say they’re flying me out to Guilin for a conference, flying back tomorrow evening. The next morning after that I have to still go to Nanjing for 2 days of intense speaking tests (30 kids, 15 min each). At least I can say my life is interesting…

      PS Hopefully I’ll actually be able to see some of the area around Guilin– google ‘Yangshuo’ to see the landscape! We were there a few years ago and it was amazing. With my luck, I’ll be in a windowless, unheated conference hall listening to never ending speeches in Chinese…

      PPS I totally want to make your coconut rice recipe! I opened it at work the other day and was drooling (we had deep fried whole bony fish on the menu- not my thing)

    2. MaryAnne says:

      PPPS No idea how the bread rose. I guess my yeast is used to the climate? Also, I let it go a bit more than an hour, out of habit. It probably wasn’t doubled- in an ideal world, it’d be lighter and fluffier. As it was, it was quite tasty.

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