Coconut oil in cooking

 

Edible coconut oil for cooking

To be honest I never used coconut oil in my cooking before. The fact that my youngest son has an allergy towards dairy products made me realise that I need to learn using it.

Searching for coconut oil in my localities is quite difficult at first. I didn’t know where to start searching. I even went to the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia to find the best coconut oil for my cooking. 

However, to my surprise, I found it in Pasar Selayang Baru, a wet market that is located four  kilometres away from my home. 

Since then, coconut oil has become one of my baking ingredients. 

The various benefits  of coconut 

In Malay cooking, we use coconut milk in daily side dish meals such as curry and masak lemak. While making Malay cakes or in our local  language we call it kuih, coconut milk is always the best in ingredients to be used. It makes the cakes tasty.

The coconut stories always come side by side with our culture from early generation till now. 

Life in the early days in the 30’s to 50’s, the tree trunk can make a bridge to cross the small drainage among neighbourhoods.

From the leaves can make ketupat casing. Ketupat is our traditional rice wrap in coconut leaves.

The stick from the coconut leaves can make a rattan basket or heat pot stand. My late mother used to make a heat pot stand at home after using the leaves to make ketupat casing.

Coconut shells and husks can be made as fire for cooking dishes and baking cakes. The food becomes tasty if using organic fire made from coconut shells and husks.

The coconut memory during my childhood

I want to share my late mum’s stories when I  was learning to make ketupat. 

It is really complicated way to make a cover of rice from coconut leaves.

 She taught me every year when we prepared meals for Eid Fitr celebration but still I could not make one.  

She told me that she learned how to make ketupat by herself.

Her father owns a  coconut plantation . One day she escape herself from the angry father by climbing the coconut tree.

While up there and waiting for her father’s temperature to cool down, she plucks the young leaves of coconut and plays with it until she succeeds to make ketupat.

Unfortunately,  I learn to make ketupat casing after learning from my friend at high school. 

The coconut oil 

Coconut oil is a plant-based oil. This can be consumed directly,  however, I don’t advise to do it. If given a chance to give a piece of advice, better to use it as part of cooking ingredients.  

The coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel of coconuts. As for my knowledge,  there are two types of coconut oil which is the natural coconut oil (NCO)  and there another one is virgin coconut oil (VCO). 

In Malaysia where we speak Malay, virgin coconut oil is known as minyak kelapa dara. Minyak kelapa dara is commonly used for applying on the skin to treat dry skin, nappy rash and other skin conditions.

The oil can come very costly compared to the refined coconut oil.

The major difference between these oils is based on origin.

Virgin coconut oil or pure coconut oil is extracted from the fresh kernel of the coconut. While the natural coconut oil or refined coconut oil is extracted from dried coconut kernels or mature coconut [1,4].

Making Coconut Oil at Home

There are two ways which are using heat and without heat. 

The coconut oil actually comes from the coconut milk itself. To prepare the coconut milk can be used through simple steps. 

First step: Making coconut milk

  1. Soaked the grated coconut with plain water for 1 minute. 
  2. Meanwhile, prepare a  filter and a bowl to place the coconut milk.
  3. Squeeze the soaked grated coconut with hand or cloth.
  4. And the coconut milk is ready. 

The steps above can be simplified by buying the fresh coconut milk from the wet market itself. 

In our country and another tropical country, we can purchase fresh coconut milk from the market. Usually, the seller will use a machine to press the grated coconut to produce a large amount of milk in a few minutes. 

To make coconut oil it has to be from the fresh coconut milk. The one that is kept in the box or pre-pack by the factory is not suitable. This is because it has added preservatives.

As I mentioned earlier, there are two ways of making coconut oil at home. The first one will be without cooking or using heat. 

Making coconut oil without heat 

  1. Put the coconut milk in a plastic bag and allow it to rest for 1-2 hours until it forms 2 layers, namely the coconut milk on top and water on the bottom.
  2. Then, take the thick coconut milk and separate it. 
  3. Pour the thick coconut milk into a plastic container, cover tightly. 
  4. Store it at room temperature that is not exposed to sunlight for 24 hours
  5. After 24 hours, three layers will be formed, namely coconut oil (top), coconut oil (middle), water (bottom)
  6. Spoon oil to pour into a container that has been lined with a clean cloth to separate the oil and coconut milk.

For me the steps are simple and it is a natural process thus you have to wait to see the result. However, the one that has been commonly used by the homemade owner is through cooking. 

The seller of coconut products in my locality told me about how to prepare coconut oil using heat. 

Prepare the coconut oil using heat

  1. The coconut milk needs to be cooked for about 1 ½ hour with low heat. 
  2. After 1 ½ hour of cooking, two layers of oil and water will form. 
  3. The first layer is usually the oil which will be taken and the water layer will be discarded.
  4. They will wait for the oil to cool before keeping it in a bottle. 

The smoke point of coconut oil 

Smoke point refers to the temperature at which an oil starts to burn and smoke. 

The nutrient of the oil will be destroyed when it is heated above the ideal temperature. 

This is important to know especially in finding suitable oil for different types of cooking. 

The smoke point for virgin coconut oil is 350 degree  Farenheit which makes it suitable for quick sauteing or baking. While the refined coconut oil having 400-450 degree Farenheit   is suitable for deep frying [4]. 

Shelf-life for coconut oil 

The shelf life of the coconut oil could  be varied between 18 months to 2 years.    

Coconut oil for baking 

Coconut oil is generally recognised as safe (GRAS). It can be used as baked goods, ice cream,  health and beauty products[3].

I used 250ml  of coconut oil in my baking. The 250 ml of coconut oil is equivalent to  250g of butter in cooking.

Citing the source from Bakerpedia the coconut oil may be used at a substitution of 1:1 in fats for baked goods [3]. 

Baking with coconut oil instead of butter

Based on my observations, there are two different main  ingredients that can be used for baking, either butter or coconut oil.

The coconut oil can be substituted to the butter especially for those who have an allergy towards dairy products. Other vegetable oils aren’t suitable for baking as they are sensitive to high temperature. 

How to store coconut oil 

  1. Store the oil in a dark container. If you buy coconut oil packaged in a clear jar or bottle, pour it into a dark container to protect it from light. Avoid exposing it to sunlight by storing it in a dark place in your kitchen or pantry.
  2. Do not store in containers made of reactive metal, as these containers will change the taste and give an unwanted taste.
  3. Store coconut oil in a cool, dry place. Place in your pantry, storage cabinet or in a dry, cool place in your kitchen.
  4.  Store in a place with a temperature below 25 ° C to prevent melting. Oil often melts because it has a low melting point. If that happens, do not worry, as it will not hurt.
  5. For example, avoid storing it in your bathroom even if you use it as a beauty product regularly. Bathroom temperature is not constant. It fluctuates frequently, which will lead to excess moisture in the oil. Also avoid storing it in the attic or box.

Benefits of  coconut oil 

Benefit of coconut oil on skin 

A study in the past has found out that coconut oil is effective for wound healing. Wound healing is a process whereby the skin repairs itself after injury. 

By applying the virgin coconut oil or minyak kelapa dara as a topical application, it was reported that the skin of the tested animal heals within 10 days of treatment [1]. 

Besides that, it is an effective mosturiser for different type of skin including the dry skin. 

Coconut oil is used to prevent dryness and flaking of skin. In addition, it helps in delaying the appearance of wrinkles and sagging which normally accompany ageing [2]. 

Coconut oil also helps in treating various skin problems such as psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other skin infections. For that reason, it form an a base to various skin care products such as lotion, soap and cream [2]. 

Benefit of coconut oil on hair 

In the subcontinent of India, it is widely used for hair care as it is an excellent conditioner that helps the process of regrowth of damaged hairs. Majority of people in the country apply coconut oil on their hair after a bath. According to a study, coconut oil helps in healthy growth of hair [2]. 

Lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease

I have read some of the articles on coconut oil benefits linked to heart disease. 

However, in my own opinion whatever the outcome of consuming coconut  oil back to the person’s own self. 

Why?

This is because lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease  is difficult to understand.  It varied between the country, population, dietary habits of individuals and the preparation of coconut oil. 

In-country such as India, Philippines, New Zealand and Samoa, the coconut oil that has been used by them is made up of organically produced [4]. 

They eat coconut flesh and milk accompanied by fresh fruits, vegetables and fish. 

Which is different from the Western. These groups do not eat processed foods, which may explain that they are at low risk of having cardiovascular diseases [4]

Baking with coconut oil has been an exciting experience for me. It offers me to vary my cooking and enhance the flavours. There are tremendous benefits and one of them is tasty and palatable. Even most of my customers are kids and they love my cupcakes.

Conclusion

To conclude, coconut oil is suitable for those who have an allergy towards dairy products and still want to eat confectionery. 

References
  1. Kappally, S., Shirwaikar, A., & Shirwaikar, A. (2015). Coconut oil–a review of potential applications. Hygeia Journal of Drugs and Medicine, 7(2), 34-41.
  2. Vala, G. S., & Kapadiya, P. K. (2014). Medicinal benefits of coconut oil. International Journal of Life Sciences Research, ISSN, 2348-3148.
  3. Coconut oil. Retrieved from Bakerpedia.com on 13th September 2020. 
  4. Coconut oil. The Nutrition Source. Retrieved from Harvard T.H Chan School on 14th September 2020. 

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