I received five litres of virgin coconut oil in an unassuming white container. Eagerly, I pried off the lid and a wonderful, rich aroma of coconut filled the room. Solid at room temperature, coconut oil appears as a chunky white mass which is easily cut by a butter knife or spoon. A quick taste test indicated a strong suggestion of coconut, and opened my mind to a myriad of interesting possibilities.
Before I get into the cooking, I'd like to discuss some of the numerous health benefits that have been ascribed to coconut oil. Coconut oil is high in lauric acid, which is believed to have anti-microbial properties. As well, studies have shown that coconut oil has the potential for aiding in weight loss, and that it has a slightly lower caloric load than most oils. And, although I didn't personally try it, coconut oil is supposed to be very good for cosmetic use and makes an excellent conditioner for hair and moisturizer for skin, with the added bonus of smelling nice and making you delicious. There is a veritable laundry list of benefits available online, and coconut oil is firmly entrenched as a part of many traditional remedies. On the personal side, I did notice that after consuming anything cooked in coconut oil I did feel more energetic and my mood improved.
The first thing I cooked with coconut oil was eggs, easy over. I am the queen of broken yolks, something always sticks to the pan, or I slip and create sad, broken piles of egg. However, the first time I attempted it with coconut oil; I created picture perfect eggs, a feat I was able to reproduce numerous other times with no other change in technique. The eggs tasted fine, none of the coconut flavour of the oil transferred to them.
My next step was to determine what the coconut flavour will transfer to. I roasted pumpkin seeds, and in the process discovered that a little coconut oil goes a long way. The seeds had a definite flavour of coconut, though it was not at all unpleasant, simply unconventional. I also tried the oil in some pre-made dry noodle mixes, and the flavour carried over as well. It seems that the flavour mostly carries over into foods with high starch content.
When frying vegetables, such as in a stir-fry or a curry, I've found that coconut oil leaves vegetables crispier and less soggy as compared to other oils. It's not greasy, so it leaves the texture of the food intact.
The grand finale was home-made pizza dough. My pizzas are deep dish with a light and fluffy crust. I substituted my usual unsalted butter for coconut oil. The crust turned out wonderfully, fluffy and moist. There was no coconut flavour to be detected.
To conclude, coconut oil is a great addition to any pantry. I'll leave you with my pizza crust recipe, which can be halved for a regular crust.
Place the following ingredients in order into a bread maker with a "Dough" setting:
2 ½ cups beer (blondes or reds work best, water can be used as well)
2 cloves of crushed garlic
2 tbsp. coconut oil
4 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
5 ½ cups white flour
2 ½ tsp. yeast
While dough is kneading, add 1 tsp. each of basil, oregano, thyme and parsley.
Bake at 425F for 15-25 minutes until edges of crust are golden and cheese is bubbly.
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