Here is a different kind of Valentine's Day dessert. No chocolate, no strawberries, and nothing heart shaped. Not to worry: it's seriously rich, and laborious enough that making it for someone shows you really care.
It's a cross between baklava, one of my husband's favorite desserts, and my beloved pecan pie. The crunchy layers of phyllo and toasted coconut are smoothed out by cool, dense whipped coconut cream. (Who knew you could whip coconut cream? This discovery has changed my life.)
Don't be intimidated by phyllo; it was easier than I anticipated. Here are some useful guidelines. Phyllo dries out quickly, so have a damp cloth or paper towel handy to cover the sheets you're not working with at the moment. If you do get small rips and holes in a sheet of dough, it won't matter. All the overlapping makes this pocket method nearly klutz-proof. You fold the phyllo like a flag. Here's a diagram. All these triangles: I'm like a geometrist!
Pecan Coconut Phyllo Pockets
2 sheets phyllo dough
2 tablespoons vegan margarine (Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
4 tablespoons chopped pecans
6 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 can coconut milk, chilled overnight (not the low-fat kind)
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350F.
If you chilled your coconut milk overnight, when you open the can the dense, fatty cream will have risen to the top. Scoop it into a mixing bowl and put it back in the fridge. You will use it later to make whipped cream. Keep the opaque liquid in the bottom of the can nearby.
Make a simple syrup: combine the granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the coconut liquid and whisk until smooth. Return to a boil and cook for ten minutes, until the syrup is slightly thickened. Remove the syrup from the heat and whisk in the vanilla and no more salt than you can pinch between your index finger and thumb. The syrup will thicken as it sits.
Toast the chopped pecans on a baking tray for 3-4 minutes, until they become fragrant, but not blackened. Meanwhile, melt the margarine in a small saucepan or bowl.
Lay out the first sheet of phyllo dough on a clean cutting board. With a pastry brush (or your fingers, if you like to get messy), spread melted margarine from the middle of the sheet outward to the edges. Once it is thinly coated, fold the sheet in half so you have a long narrow rectangle. Now brush with margarine the side of the rectangle that is facing up.
Place 1 tablespoon of pecans and 1 tablespoon of shredded coconut on one corner of the dough. Pour a tablespoon of coconut syrup over the pecans and coconut. Fold the corner over to the opposite edge of the dough, making a triangle. Put another tablespoon each of pecans, coconut, and syrup on the strip of dough, and fold the triangle over it. Now you have two layers of filling, with phyllo in between. Without adding any more pecans, coconut, or syrup, keep folding the triangle side to side up the strip of dough until you get to the end. You should make five folds. If you're having a hard time with this spacially, as I did, refer to the diagram I linked to above, or look at these pictures of me using the same method to fold spanakopita.
When your pocket is made, brush the top with melted butter and set it on a baking sheet. Make another pocket with the other sheet of phyllo. Spoon any remaining syrup over the pockets and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the edges of the pockets and the coconut are nicely toasted.
Remove the coconut cream from the refrigerator. Add the powdered sugar to the bowl. Beat, on high speed, for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scoop on top of phyllo pockets.
Serves 2, how romantic.