It's everywhere. The internet has exploded with recipes using coconut oil.
Could it be the paleo obsession or the viral (mis)information that it is so super healthy?... I struggle with this.
See - I like coconut oil. It's delicious. Every time I open the jar I think I'm on the beach in Mexico, or Thailand, or somewhere in the Caribbean. It's gorgeous stuff. I need a margarita. Stat!
Here are the things I do with coconut oil:
1. Rub it on my skin - moisturizer.
2. Rub it in my hair - again, moisturizer.
3. Cook Sri Lankan curries, Indian curries and Malaysian satays - it makes them taste so rich and very authentic.
4. Mix it with melted chocolate for a hard crackle topping on ice cream.
5. Use it in place of butter in a classic Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe for a super tropical cookie flavour.
When I use coconut oil, it's not for health. It's for flavour and functionality.
Coconut oil tastes like coconut and I LOVE COCONUT. Period.
In other words, it will be solid for a while and then all at once turn completely to liquid oil once it reaches a certain temperature. There's no real "soft" stage like butter. It gives a new meaning to "melt in your mouth", turning from solid to luscious liquid at just over 24 degrees C.
Coconut oil is very stable because of its high saturation. Saturated fatty acids, unlike unsaturated fatty acids, are less prone to oxidation and this gives coconut oil a greater shelf life so that you can keep it for a long time before it turns rancid.
Be critical when determining how good for you it really is though.
The facts are that it is composed of about 90% saturated fat which has been shown to contributes to a whole pile of heart diseases through clinical studies. The specific types of fatty acids may act differently in our bodies compared to other saturates, but not all of this is known for sure yet. We need to wait for science to do its thing and get back to us.
Let's not forget that coconut fat is still very high in calories.
Putting it in already calorie-laden cookies is totally rational, but spooning it over your vegetables doesn't make sense. Let's be sensible people.
The health benefits of coconut oil are more testimonial than clinical to me right now.
Bottom line, it is delicious. And it makes one heck of a chocolate chip cookie.
The functional benefit of coconut oil's high saturation is that it is quite solid at normal room temperature, letting us cream it up with sugar and build the bases of a nice thick cookie dough.
For this recipe you'll need it to be between 15 and 20 degrees C. So, if you keep it in your fridge, take it out for about 30 minutes before using it.
Since butter is about 82% fat and coconut oil is 100% fat, we need to replace that remaining 18% (most of which is water). In this case, we'll use a tablespoon of milk. It also helps to make the creamed fat and sugar move better for more thorough aeration when the mixer (or your arm) is doing what it does best.
To add to the tropical flavour that the coconut brings, I've used a few tablespoons of finely chopped coconut palm sugar (Gula Melaka - amazing stuff!), but you can use all brown sugar without a problem.
Like all good cookie doughs, we need to chill it. Since coconut oil is super solid and brittle at fridge temperature, just 30 minutes will do. If you forget about it and leave it in for too long, it will be quite hard to roll, so just leave it out for several minutes to soften a bit.
Don't forget the salt! It's the showstopper. Salty, coconutty, caramelized cookies with dark chocolate chunks. No words.
Chewy Coconut Oil Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes 16 cookies
½ cup (100g) coconut oil, softened (not melted)
¾ cup (165g) packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp (20g) finely chopped coconut sugar (Gula Melaka)
1 tbsp milk
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups plus 1 tbsp (200g) all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
200g (7 oz) dark chocolate chunks
Place softened coconut oil and sugar in a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed about 2 minutes or until evenly creamed. Gradually beat in milk and then continue to beat for 1 minute until whipped. Beat in egg and vanilla for 1 minute until creamy.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture and fold. Fold in chocolate chips.
Cover dough in plastic and refrigerate for just 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two large baking trays with parchment paper.
Divide dough into 16 portions and roll into balls. Place 3 inches apart on prepared baking trays, flatten slightly and bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden. Cool cookies on baking tray for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.