An Ode to the Coconut: the Coconut Turnover

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Oh, coconut! What love and affection we Caribbean people have for you. Coconut trees adorn the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago like a carefully jeweled dress. Drives consist of the relaxing swaying of their long trunks and slivered leaves in the wind, reminding us of the paradise we call home. For generations we have used it in its entirety, such as the hydrating water and jelly for cooking, as a hair and body moisturizer, the shells for bowls and decorative pieces, the husks to start fires and hold the heat very much like a coal would, the milk for all sorts of homemade yummies and the grated flesh for numerous desserts.

As you can well imagine passing up on coconut is just not an option. This particular dessert, the coconut turnover, is found in every bakery but I am quite specific when it comes to select the right turnover. I was first introduced to the turnover by my grandfather. He loved them! It is traditionally in a sweet bread dough with a grated coconut filling, that is aromatized with an assortment of essences (essences are essential to any baked goods!).

You can only grow to love these. The very smell of it will trigger a feeling of nostalgia. In fact, the turnover has quite an interesting story. The treat is believed to be a fusion of pastries brought here through colonization by the European, who were fond of their pastries. It is also believed to be a descendant of the ‘coconut pie’, a dish that originates from our African slave heritage. Not only is it close to the heart of the people in Trinidad and Tobago, but it is also very much so in the hearts of many across the Caribbean. It can be found freshly baked throughout bakeries in St.Lucia, Barbados, St.Vincent, Belize (fondly known as coconut crusts), Guyana (with a red colored coconut filling), and surprisingly in Asia as well as in Hawaii.

But what does a perfect turnover consist of? Well, it must have a pink colored coconut filling that is flavored with a little almond essence, wrapped in a sweet yellow bread dough, heavy in lemon essence, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Boy, is it a punch of Caribbean goodness!

Enough chatter for now, and check out the recipe below. Your family and friends will not be disappointed!


For the dough

1 tbsp yeast
1 tsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1 cup warm milk
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
4 tbsp margarine or butter
4 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp sultanas
2 tbsp currants
2 eggs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground turmeric or saffron powder

For the coconut filling

16oz shredded coconut
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 tsp nutmeg
½ tsp almond essence
1 tablespoon red food coloring

For the glaze

2 tbsp coconut sugar
1 tbsp hot water


  1. Combine first 4 ingredients
  2. Stand aside in a warm place for about 10-15 minutes
  3. Sift flour, turmeric or saffron, and salt in a large bowl and fold in the margarine or butter
  4. Add sugar, vanilla essence, cinnamon to yeast mixture
  5. Add the eggs to the yeast mixture, beating well after each addition
  6. Add sultanas and currants to yeast mixture
  7. Pour yeast mixture into flour mixture
  8. Combine to create a soft dough
  9. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes
  10. Place in a greased bowl and turn over to grease the top
  1. Let rise under a kitchen towel for 30 minutes.
  2. Turn out and roll into tennis size balls
  3. With a rolling pin stretch each tennis size dough ball into sheets as large as you like
  4. Fill with coconut mixture and roll into logs
  5. For the glaze, dissolve the coconut sugar with the hot water
  6. Brush with glaze and sprinkle with coconut sugar
  7. Bake till golden and enjoy!


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