In many of my recipes I use coconut oil or coconut butter. This is the healthiest type of oil (particular if organic, cold pressed and raw). Coconut butter is rich with lauric acid; a medium-chain fatty acid. Medium chain-fatty acids differ from long chain fatty acids, found in animal fats. They are small, absorbed directly by the liver and convert quickly into energy; unlike long-chain fatty acids that are deposited in fat cells and convert much more slowly. The white meat of the coconut is also packed with fiber, protein, vitamins B1, B6, C and E, folic acid, calcium and iron.
For more info on the health benefits of coconut oil see here, where there are various links for reference.
The only downside to coconut oil is that it tends to be so expensive at around £10 (or more) for a 450g tub. Coconut butter on the other hand can be very cost effective due to the fact that it is very simple to make your own as long as you have a high powered blender.
Coconut oil and butter are not the same thing and they are not always directly interchangeable. Coconut oil is the pure ‘oil’ with no flesh, whereas coconut butter is the oil and the flesh combined (approx. 70% oil and 30% flesh) so the resulting product when melted in its usable form is much thicker- think yoghurt or thick cream consistency- and opaque compared with the clear very runny oil.
When it comes to baking I have tried countless combinations and substitutions using coconut butter and often it does the trick, however there are times when the butter just won’t do and a very runny oil is needed, see this cookie recipe to get a better understanding in context. Coconut butter works best when used in place of ‘softened butter’ or ‘shortening’ i.e when you are not relying on the runniness of oil to combine ingredients into a dough, and other liquid ingredients are also used. To get a really ‘crisp’ cookie where oil is the primary liquid then don’t skimp on using pure oil!
So, to make your own coconut butter, it is really so simple it barely needs a recipe but I’ve added one for completeness!
Recipe: Coconut butter
200g-500g Organic dessicated coconut (unsweetened and not defatted- just the usual stuff bagged up in health food stores/supermarkets. Use an amount appropriate to the size of blender- don’t use too little as the volume reduces a lot when it liquefies and I find in my Thermomix that it is more difficult to work with a small amount as it just flings itself to the side of the jug.
That’s it!! You just need coconut!
The key here is to keep blending beyond the point you think it’s finished- I made this mistake the first time I tried as even though it looked ‘ready’ it still had a fairly grainy consistency. In my Thermomix I use 500g of desiccated coconut and blend this at high speed for 3 ½ minutes- stopping a couple of times to scrape down the sides of the bowl. My machine also has an independent temperature setting which I set at 37 degrees to help release the oils a little better. The temperature is by no means a necessity but it may simply take a little longer to blend. Taste test after 3 ½ minutes and keep going until you have the consistency of thick cream and no graininess.
Once ready it should pour smoothly and effortlessly in a jar where it can be stored in the cupboard for use. I’d advise against storing this in the fridge as it will go very hard and will be more difficult to use. At room temperature coconut butter is typically solid but on a hot day it will liquefy, this is absolutely fine and in no way degrades the butter, it will solidify again when the temperature drops.