June lies precisely at the midpoint of the year between Hanukkahs (Hanukkim?) This fact, paired with the realization that the first publication rights to a few of my recipes has expired, got me thinking about oil. Coconut oil, to be specific.
Coconut oil figured into all of my baking experimentation for my “Cupcakes for Hanukkah” article on My Jewish Learning last December. (Including the recipe that served as a base for deep-fried cupcakes. Yum!)
More about coconut oil and a recipe after the jump.
The ingredient continued to emerge in my kitchen for some months after, thanks to a new obsession with the vegan chocolate cupcakes. They’re just so moist and delicious, and so cheap and easy to make with ingredients I always have around.
I also liked using the stuff in curries and stir-fries for added flavor. In addition to the taste, the potential for health benefits also drew me to it. The health claims are controversial, but also supported by significant research. I’m confident the oil’s good for you, but can’t vouch for its healthfulness when used in deep-fried sugary foods!
My favorite use for the oil, aside from adding it to those addictive confections, was frying tempeh. I don’t find those slabs of fermented soy exactly overflowing with character on their own, so I like to cube and fry or broil them. Used in the skillet or baking pan, the coconut oil infuses the tempeh with a sweet hint of tropical air as it crisps the cubes and adds richness.
The kind I used was organic virgin coconut oil from Tropical Traditions. The company offers 32-ounce samples of their fragrant cooking companion to food bloggers. Another reason for this post is to finally publish something about their generous gesture (hey, they could have gotten similar exposure with 8-ounce samples). TT doesn’t require a follow-up post, but I figure it’s only fair!
Like in that famous Hanukkah miracle, my jar has lasted an unprecedented amount of time. It sat in my cupboard through the winter, a cloudy white mass that stood fast even though I felt like I constantly spooned it out or set it on my stove to melt with the heat of the pilot lights. And now it has remained through the heat of D.C. in late spring. The air long ago hit the oil’s melting point of 76 degrees F and has been waiting, clear and patient, for my next experiment.
To relive Hanukkah times and revel in a tropical ingredient as summer approaches, check out the recipe below, and/or the full MJL article with all three recipes.
Basic (Vegan) Chocolate Cupcakes
This recipe is from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, reprinted with permission of Isa Chandra Moskowitz, who co-authored the book with Terry Hope Romero. Makes 12 regular cupcakes or 24 mini cupcakes.
1 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup canola oil [here's where you can use the coconut oil!]
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, chocolate extract, or more vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-processed or regular
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 F. Outfit a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil, and extracts to the soy milk mixture and beat until foamy.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to the wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are okay).
Pour into liners, filling 3/4 of the way. Bake 15 to 20 minutes (on the lower end if making mini cupcakes), until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.