June 16, 2011
In preparation for a recent article in ELLE à table, the French cooking magazine in which I write a column, I did some research on the range of ingredients that are derived from the coconut palm.
Beyond the pulp of the fruit (the white flesh that is consumed fresh or dried), its water (the clear liquid inside) and its milk (the liquid you get from pressing or steeping the pulp), I was especially interested in coconut oil, which is widely used in Asian cuisines but hardly ever in French cooking; coconut flour, a cream white powder made from the dried and ground remnants of the pulp after the oil has been extracted; and coconut sugar, an auburn sweetener that is obtained from the sap of coconut flowers.
Various virtues are associated with these products, including the fact that coconut flour is gluten-free, and that coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than most sweeteners. But in truth, I was much more interested in playing with these new-to-me ingredients.
As a little challenge to myself, I decided to try and create a recipe that would use all three -- coconut flour, coconut sugar, coconut oil* -- and came up with these rather stupendous chocolate muffins, which happen to be dairy-free and gluten-free.
I was particularly pleased with the texture: they are slightly crusty on the outside, with a smooth and satisfyingly dense center, a mouthfeel I would situate somewhere between a cake and a truffle.
The coconut flavor is present, but not overwhelmingly so: the coconut oil I got is not deodorized, which I prefer, so it does flavor the muffins, but the effect is quite different from the one you get when you use grated coconut. As for the coconut sugar, it tastes nothing like coconut -- it tastes rather like faintly burnt caramel, and who can resist that -- and coconut flour is only subtly coconutty.
The batter is very quick to whip up, and I have found that the muffins freeze particularly well (though in these situations what we should say is that they thaw particularly well, since that's the only part we really care about, no?), making them a worthy option for your emergency treat kit.
I'll also point out that I've been using silicone muffin liners (such as these, though I got mine from Habitat) for a few years, and I am very happy with them. I like the reusability, and the fact that the muffins or cupcakes pop right out of the liner, as opposed to paper liners that always peel off a layer of crumbs from the base of the cakes, kind of like band-aids and body hair.
* All three ingredients can be found at natural food stores or online; I ordered mine from this French site. I recommend you seek out an extra virgin coconut oil, preferably organic, that is neither hydrogenated nor deodorized.
Coconut Chocolate Muffins
- 125 grams (4.5 ounces) bittersweet chocolate
- 60 grams (2 ounces, about 1/2 cup) coconut flour
- 100 grams (3.5 ounces, about 1/2 cup) unrefined coconut sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- a pinch of salt
- 80 ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin coconut oil
- 2 large eggs
Makes 6 muffins.
Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and line a 6-muffin baking tray with paper or silicone cups.
Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler (or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water).
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, and set aside.
Add the coconut oil to the melted chocolate, then add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition. Fold in the dry ingredients.
Pour the batter into the muffin molds and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean.
Let cool completely before serving.
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