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Using Coconut Oil for Making Desserts

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Coconut (halved) by SingChan on FlickrCoconut oil has become an increasingly popular addition to a variety of foods, including baked desserts. More and more home cooks are using it in everything from cookies to cakes, but deciding where to use it can be fairly difficult. Here are some ideas on where you can include it in your next baking experience.

Understanding Coconut Oil

Just the term “coconut oil” tends to create quite a bit of controversy. More than a decade ago, a study was released suggesting coconut oil’s high saturated fat content made it a bad choice for human consumption in any amount. More recent studies, though, suggest otherwise. In small quantities, coconut oil shouldn’t cause any problems, so don’t worry about using it when you’re baking or when you’re cooking in general.

How to Use Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has some unique properties that not only make it perfect when you’re baking almost anything, but those same properties make it perfect in vegan or gluten free baking. It has a very high saturated fat content, so it actually works a lot like butter. What’s more, though, is that it comes in solid form, so it’s perfect instead of shortening or butter in almost any recipe.

The key with coconut oil is that you want to use 25% less than you might if you were using actual butter. While butter has a high fat content, coconut oil has a much higher fat content. In fact, it’s almost completely fat, so you’ll want to use less. Additionally, you may want to use a little more moisture when you’re baking with coconut oil instead of other choices because butter and shortening both tend to offer a bit more moisture as they bake up. You also want to make certain that all of your other ingredients are at room temperature when you get ready to use coconut oil. Colder ingredients can cause it to clump up, creating a real issue with baked goods.

There are two main ways you can use coconut oil – as a solid or as a liquid. In its solid form, it works just like butter might. You can literally cut it into dry ingredients, which means it’s ideal for scones, pie crusts, or even biscuits. It will only remain in a solid state, though, when the temperature is below 76 degrees. You can also use it to grease the pan in this state or add some honey or sugar, depending on what your recipe calls for.

You can also use it in its liquid form. To get it into this form, you just melt the solid form of the oil. Typically the best way to melt it is to simply put the entire container of it into a pan of hot water. Once it’s melted, it should pour fairly easily into a measuring cup.

In almost every recipe, coconut oil will work as a solid substitute for butter, shortening, or even other oil choices like vegetable oil. The only place where you may notice a big difference is with pastry, as it’s a bit finicky, and substitutions don’t tend to work well.

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Betty Sherman is a writer who enjoys baking delicious dishes, and sharing recipes. You can find more of her work on the Gourmet Cookie Bouquets blog, put on by http://www.gourmet-cookie-bouquets.com.

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