Knowing the many health benefits of coconut oil is one thing but how to incorporate these benefits into your diet can be quite another. The simple answer is that any recipe can be easily adapted, substituting processed oils and butter for coconut oil. What’s great is it doesn’t make everything taste of coconut either, it only enhances the flavours.
Naturally cholesterol free and lactose free, our coconut oil is an ideal butter or margarine substitute and hasn’t been chemically altered in any way – we like ingredients that are as natural as possible. You’ll also find that you don’t need to use quite as much either - about three quarters is sufficient. Generally when baking with coconut oil it’s a good idea to melt it first to make it easier to blend in with the other ingredients. I tend to measure out the amount I need and add it to a pyrex dish which I put into the oven whilst it’s warming up. It melts quite quickly in this way.
It definitely seems to go further and manages to retain the creaminess associated with butter and works equally well in cakes, breads, scones and even crumble mixtures. How’s that for versatility!
An ideal option for this time of year is to use it in your Christmas cake recipe in place of butter. Every home seems to have their own version passed down from their Mum or Grandmother so you can simply swap the butter in that for Lucy Bee. If you’re stuck for a recipe though or fancy trying something different, I’ve included ours that we use and have adapted accordingly. It’s quick and simple and a definite winner!
Just saying the words ‘Christmas cakes’ fills you with nostalgia and you can instantly smell the aroma of the fruits soaked in alcohol – amazing even uncooked! What’s your favourite to soak the fruit in? Sherry perhaps in Mary Berry style, stout as Dan Lepard prefers or maybe rum like Nigella? My favourite is brandy (apricot is divine) and though there’s a whole other debate on how long you should soak the fruit for, you can get good results from as little as 48 hours. Who remembers watching their Grandmother ‘top-up’ the fruit mixture over a matter of weeks, lovingly adding yet more alcohol to this most precious of cakes?
Another consideration is dark or light? As in sugar.....my preference is for dark as it adds a richness in flavour and depth of colour which contrasts beautifully with the glimpse of orange and lemon peels. Additionally some recipes (such as Dan Lepard) also add treacle but by using Lucy Bee Coconut Oil and dark brown sugar, the sweetness is emphasised enough and so not needed.
Christmas cakes have been a celebration cake for what seems like forever and were originally eaten on the Twelfth Night (some debate as to whether this is 5th or 6th January) in celebration of the end of the Christmas festivities. This changed though mid 1800s with the decline of these celebrations and it became customary to eat this at Christmas. The Victorians thought it was unlucky to cut before Christmas Eve and before we added sixpences for good luck, it was traditional to add a dried bean – whoever found this was ‘King of Revels’ for the evening and in charge of activities!
What we conjure up as Christmas cake with alcohol soaked fruits and tastebud tantalising spices (originally representing the exotic spices of the East and the gifts from The Three Wise Men) is really an amalgamation of Plum Porridge and Plum Cake.
Plum Porridge was eaten on Christmas Eve to line the stomach after a day of fasting and Plum Cake included butter, eggs and wheat flour in place of porridge, all added to the dried fruits.
Other countries have their own version of Christmas cake, for example Germany has Stollen, Italy it’s Panettone, Japan is a sponge cake topped with cream, strawberries and chocolate and in the Philippines it’s a bright yellow pound cake that includes nuts and (similar to ours) soaked in brandy and a palm sugar and water syrup, with added orange flower water. Wonderful as these all sound, it takes a lot to beat the aroma of our traditional cake baking in the oven and that ‘can’t wait to eat it’ feeling as the lid is lifted off the tin.
Have a go at this recipe which is incredibly simple to make and keeps beautifully for Christmas. You’re still in time to let the alcohol work its magic on the fruit before ‘Stir Up Sunday’ which is the last Sunday before Advent. Start now and let’s make some memories together.
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Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and eating close to nature with additive free products for health.
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Petrina is a friend of Lucy Bee and advocates a healthy lifestyle. Having used coconut oil for over 10 years is a firm believer in its numerous benefits and uses.