It’s almost that time of the year again. December’s holiday season is right around the corner, with lots of delicious, festive foods, special dishes and baking in the spotlight.
It might not be the healthiest of times, but hey, life should be enjoyed! Plus with a few smart adjustments, you can make your recipes a lot healthier.
In this article I share my best tips for baking with coconut products. I explain how to replace traditionally used products such as refined sugar, dairy and white flower with healthier, plant-based options.
Coconut oil: baking with coconut products
Many traditional recipes for cookies, pies, cakes and other baked goods include butter.
You can easily replace it with coconut oil. It does the same thing as butter, but is a healthier, dairy-free, vegan option.
If a subtle coconut hint adds to your recipe, use virgin coconut oil. It has the typical coconut flavor and smell, but when you bake with it it’s not dominant.
If you want a neutral flavor, use a good quality, organic refined coconut oil.
This type of coconut oil doesn’t have the typical coconut flavor and smell.
Make sure to follow the recipe: if it requires melted butter, use melted coconut oil.
If requires solid or soft butter, use coconut oil in the same consistency.
My pick: I love buying coconut oil from small local companies when I am travelling in the tropics.
But if you want to buy your coconut oil online, this one ships worldwide.
Baking tray greaser
Greasing the baking tray prevents the food from sticking to it.
Instead of butter or vegetable oil, use some coconut oil.
Make the perfect frosting for your gingerbread cookies with this easy and healthy coconut frosting.
Put everything in a medium sized bowl and mix with an electric mixer.
Use a decorating bag or a small ziplock bag and cut out a tiny corner. Put some frosting in the bag and gently push it down while drawing. Time to get creative!
Chocolate magic shell
Who doesn’t like a layer of sweet, crunchy chocolate?
Coconut oil makes a great base for homemade chocolate dips and sauces.
It easily mixes with other ingredients while it’s liquid and when you cool it, it solidifies very quickly.
For this simple and delicious chocolate magic shell you only need 3 ingredients: melted coconut oil, cacao powder and a sweetener of choice such as maple syrup.
Use the following ratio or adjust the sweetener according to the desired sweetness:
Mix well until equally mixed.
Tip: use a sieve for the cacao powder to avoid lumps.
Dip or decorate your baked goods with the chocolate sauce and allow the magic shell to harden in the fridge.
Vegetable oil substitute
Fried (sweet) treats are best prepared in an oil that is suitable for high temperatures.
Instead of using vegetable oils that are very sensitive to oxidation, use coconut oil which is the most heat-stable fat.
Use virgin coconut oil for a coconutty taste. If you need a neutral taste opt for a high quality organic refined coconut oil.
Coconut oil acts like a natural stabilizer which makes it perfect to make candy and all sorts of sweets with.
Use melted coconut oil as a base and add what you like: cacao, nuts, seeds, nut butter, dried fruit etc.
Mix it with a sweetener and some vanilla extract, pour it in a mold and let it do its magic in the fridge.
Coconut milk: baking with coconut products
You can easily replace regular dairy milk with coconut milk in baking recipes. It’s a healthy plant-based alternative with a delicious sweet taste and creamy consistency.
This is one of my personal favorites. Coconut milk makes amazing condensed milk and it’s so easy!
I used to love condensed milk when I was a kid and while I don’t eat it anymore, there are some recipes that require this specific ingredient.
When I discovered that you can make your own healthy, plant-based condensed milk at home I was thrilled. It tastes so good, I prefer it much over the regular one.
All you need is 1 can of full fat coconut milk and 1/2 cup of coconut sugar.
Use a saucepan and heat the coconut milk and coconut sugar in it over medium heat. Once the coconut sugar has fully dissolved, let it simmer for about 40 minutes over low heat. Stir regularly.
The coconut milk will thicken and will become darker.
When it’s ready, remove from the heat and pour the sweetened condensed coconut milk in a glass jar to cool off.
Store what you’re not using in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Prefer to buy ready-made? Nature’s Charm has the good stuff.
More recipes with coconut milk.
Coconut cream: baking with coconut products
Whipped coconut cream
Another favorite: whipped coconut cream. It has exactly the same consistency, is healthier and tastes much better than regular whipped cream.
For the creamiest whipped coconut cream I put a can with coconut cream in the fridge for 8+ hours.
This separates the creamy part from the liquid and the creamier, the better.
You don’t need the liquid, so just scoop out the cream and use the liquid for a smoothie.
Mix the coconut cream with an electric mixer or food processor until you’ve reached the desired consistency.
Serve on pies, cakes or any other dessert you like.
Native Forest has a good, organic coconut cream.
Coconut sugar: baking with coconut products
Healthier sugar option
Coconut sugar has a low glycemic index of 35 and contains minerals, amino acids and vitamins.
This natural sweetener is healthier than regular white sugar and has a rich flavor with a hint of caramel.
My pick: Big Tree Farms from Indonesia sell 3 organic flavors: Brown coconut sugar with a rich, warm caramel-y taste, Golden coconut sugar, with a light and soft taste and Vanilla coconut sugar made with real organic vanilla bean.
Coconut flour: baking with coconut products
If you’re looking for a healthy, gluten-free flour, chances are you will love coconut flour.
Coconut flour is a low-carb flour with a fiber content of 48% – the highest of all flours.
Its slightly sweet flavor is not too dominant and can also be used in savory recipes.
It does work a bit differently than regular flour, so you can’t just replace it 1:1 and will need to use another ratio.
Try to use about 1/4 cup of coconut flour to replace 1 cup of regular flour and experiment with it to see what works best for you.
Bob’s Red Mill sells organic coconut flour.
Shredded coconut: baking with coconut products
Sweet treats topping
Decorate your homemade sweets with a layer of shredded coconut. It gives them a hint of tropical sweetness and a nice color contrast. This works especially well on a dark chocolate background!
Powdered sugar alternative
Often times baked treats are sweet enough by themselves, but they are dipped in powdered sugar because it makes them look tastier.
If you don’t need the sweetness but appreciate the aesthetics, grind some shredded coconut and use it instead of sugar.
My pick: Let’s Do Organic.
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I love baking with coconut products because I feel like I’m not only choosing healthier, more sustainable ingredients, but they make things taste so good.
Happy holidays to you and your loved ones!