101 uses for coconut oil
Coconut oil has recently enjoyed a meteoritic rise in popularity, proving popular with A-list Celebrities including Jennifer Anniston, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow. So before we get to the recipe, I thought that it was worth seeing what all the fuss was about.
Coconut oil is highly versatile and has many uses. In addition to the yummy flapjack recipe below, coconut oil can be added to smoothies and shakes to impart a subtle, delicious coconutty flavour. It is also an essential ingredient for Thai and Malaysian cookery, being an important ingredient in stir fries, curries and soups. Due to it’s solid consistency, coconut oil is useful for replacing lard in home baking, including pastries, cakes and pies.
Coconut oil should not be confined to the kitchen! It easily absorbs into the skin, making a great non-greasy moisturiser. Given that the oil is rich in antioxidants, it makes an ideal anti-aging cream, according to DailyGlow.com. The Anti-bacterial properties of coconut oil also make it ideal for treating some types of acne. Other uses include a hot oil treatment for hair; oil can also be added to handmade soaps and body scrubs or used as a massage oil to gently re-hydrate the skin.
Ok, so it’s not quite 101 uses, but hopefully you agree that Coconut oil will make a great addition to your store cupboard.
You should Coco – the health benefits of coconut oil
Coconut oil is rich in medium chain fatty acids, including lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid which help to lower HDL “bad” cholesterol levels in the body. Lauric acid is also a powerful anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-microbial agent and so may help to boost the immune system and fight common infections like candida. Better still, Lauric acid is thought to play a role in increasing metabolism and regulating healthy blood sugar levels. For an excellent review of scientific literature discussing the health benefits of coconut oil, please see CoconutOil.com
Bursting with antioxidants, coconut oil helps to fight free radicals and to aid cell renewal and tissue repair in the human body. Coconut oil contains two principal antioxidants, ferulic acid and coumaric acid.
Ferulic acid has anti inflammatory properties and helps to lower blood glucose levels Zulet (1999) . It is also thought to help lower blood pressure, by causing the blood vessels to dilate Suzuki et al (2002). Coumaric acid is thought to assist with lowering LDL “bad” cholesterol and helps to prevent plaque buildup in blood vessel artery walls.
Shoppers Guide: Buying and Selecting Coconut oil
With so many different types of coconut oil on the shop shelves, I thought I’d provide a brief guide to help you select the best type of oil for you. There are three types of coconut oil — organic (grown using organic farming methods), virgin (extracted from fresh coconuts without using high temperatures or chemicals) and refined (made from dried coconut which has been bleached and deodorized). For this recipe, I recommend using virgin organic coconut oil. The virgin oil has a faint coconut taste and has the benefit of retaining all the trace nutrients present in the fresh coconut. If you prefer a flavourless oil, then you could opt to use the refined oil instead, however valuable nutrients are lost during the refining process. Refined coconut oil has one of the highest smoke points of any oil and so is ideal for deep fat frying as it can be heated to very high temperatures without breaking down into harmful trans-fats.
Chocolate Coconut Flapjack Bars Recipe
So….drum roll…. here is the recipe – I hope you enjoy it!
These decadent, chocolate coconut flapjack bars are a favourite holiday treat in our home. The rich, chocolatey fudge topping is the perfect partner to the moist, slightly chewy coconutty flapjack base.
The flapjack is a quintessentially English sweet, softer and stickier and more comforting than it’s American cousin, the granola bar. Flapjacks are enormously popular, being stocked in almost every grocery store, newspaper kiosk and cafe across the country. The desiccated coconut adds an extra dimension- a lovely marshmallowy texture, rather reminiscent of macaroons.
Chocolate + coconut really is a winning combination! These coconut flapjacks prove popular with children and adults alike. They are quick and easy to make so kids can help in the kitchen too!
Coconut flapjacks make the ideal accompaniment to a morning cup of coffee, for an afternoon picnic or are perfect as a lunchbox snack.
Makes 16-20 flapjack bars
For the flapjack bars:
- 11oz (275g) jumbo rolled oats
- 7oz (175g) desiccated coconut
- 4oz (100g) brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons of corn syrup or golden syrup
- 5oz (125g) coconut oil
- 6oz (150g) of your choice of vegan margarine
- pinch of salt
For the chocolate fudge topping:
- 200g plain dark chocolate
- 50g coconut oil
To decorate, dried coconut pieces, lightly toasted in a dry saucepan over a medium heat for 2 minutes.
If you wish, you may replace the vegan margarine in this recipe with an additional 5oz (125g) of coconut oil.
1. Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Line a 12″ x 8″ baking tin with parchment, cutting slits in the corners so that that parchment fits the tin snugly.
2. Meanwhile, melt the margarine, sugar and syrup in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat, stirring continuously until the margarine is completely melted. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the oats, salt and desiccated coconut.
3. Press the flapjack mixture evenly into the baking tin and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until the flapjack is golden and slightly darker brown round the edges.
4. While the flapjack is cooking, you can prepare the fudge topping. Break the chocolate into chunks and place in a heat-proof glass bowl (e.g. pyrex) and add the coconut oil to the bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water and stir continuously until all the chocolate is melted and forms a smooth, glossy texture. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside.
5. Remove the flapjacks from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Spread the fudge topping evenly over the flapjacks and allow to cool for a further 5 minutes before cutting the flapjacks into squares.
6. Allow the flapjacks to cool for a further 20-25 minutes before removing from the tin. The flapjacks are now ready to eat.
There are so many variations on the flapjack from maple and pecan to rum and raisin. What’s favourite? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.
CoconutOil.com (2013) Coconut Oil and Heart Disease http://coconutoil.com/coconut_oil_heart_disease/ <accessed on 20/03/13>
DailyGlow.com (2013) Ten Coconut Oil Benefits for your Skin http://www.dailyglow.com/ten-coconut-oil-benefits-for-your-skin.html <accessed on 20/03/13>
Wikipedia (2013) Smoke Point of Cooking Oils http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_point <accessed on 24/06/13>
Suzuki et al (2002) Short and long-term effects of ferulic acid on blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats Am J Hypertension 15 (4 Pt1) p.351-7
Zulet et al (1999) Alterations in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism induced by a diet rich in coconut oil and cholesterol in a rat model J Am Coll Nutrition 1999 Feb 18(1) 36-42