Triple Chocolate Brownies (Gluten-Free) and Coconut Oil 101

Triple Chocolate Brownies

Is is just me or does coconut oil seem to be everywhere these days? In my never-ending search for a Passover-friendly dessert, coconut oil was popping up left and right.  I was curious about this mysterious ingredient.  As a plant-based oil, it comes up a lot in vegan and vegetarian recipes. What is all of the hype about?  I definitely do not claim to be an expert, but here are some basics that I discovered in my research:

~ Coconut oil contains no trans fats, unlike shortening.

~ It contains a very high amount of saturated fat ~ 12 grams per tablespoon, compared to butter which has 7 grams per tablespoon.   However, some experts assert that coconut oil is better for your heart than butter because it contains no cholesterol and may have certain overall benefits to your health because it contains antioxidants.

~ Coconut oil is less beneficial to your heart than other plant oils, such as olive oil and canola oil, which are much higher in unsaturated fat. (See this side by side comparison of olive oil versus coconut oil from the Cleveland Clinic).

~ Even though coconut oil is high in saturated fat, there is evidence that coconut oil gives “good” HDL cholesterol a bump.

~ The saturated fat in coconut oil is partially made up of “medium chain fatty acids” (as opposed to “long chain fatty acids” which are in most fats we eat), which studies suggest may be easier to digest for those with gastrointestinal ailments and may be good for athletes because the body burns them quickly.

~ Early studies suggest that coconut oil may protect the brain from the impact of Alzheimer’s disease.

~ Because coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it is a great substitute in baking for butter and shortening, especially for crusts and other goods you would like to use a solid fat for.

~ While you may prefer the taste of virgin coconut oil because it has more of the coconut flavor, there is no evidence that virgin coconut oil is better for you than refined coconut oil.

The Verdict?  There are some potential health benefits of coconut oil, but you want to use it sparingly as you would any other saturated fat.  We’ll have to stay tuned to see how the research evolves. I’m interested to experiment with it and I plan to try more coconut oil recipes in the near future.

Sources and Further Reading: 

Unlikely Source of Healthy Fats:  Coconuts” ~ via the Wall Street Journal at wsj.com

Coconut Oil:  What is it all about?” ~ via the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at eatright.com

Ask the Doctor:  Coconut Oil” via Harvard Health Publications

Triple Chocolate Brownies

Triple Chocolate Brownies

And now, to the recipe!! This recipe for triple chocolate brownie squares by The Kosher Cave Girl really intrigued me because I was looking for something easy, but also chocolatey and decadent. The only change I made was that I used dark chocolate chips in the batter and milk chocolate chips for the glaze. After I let the brownies cool and glazed them, I put them in the refrigerator for several hours.

When I took the brownies out and let them come to room temperature, I was really pleased with the result. They were moist, airy and not too sweet. If you need a gluten-free recipe, this is great one to bookmark. And if you are looking for more coconut oil recipes to try, check out these links via the Kitchn. I’m certainly intrigued by using it as an ingredient and plan to try some of these, in moderation of course 🙂

Triple Chocolate Brownies

To complete my Passover spread, I also tried these chocolate chip cookies from Shiksa in the Kitchen. These turned out awesome! I don’t even think you could tell that they were “special” Passover cookies (not gluten-free though). I am definitely making these next year. And with that, I think my Passover baking extravaganza is over. I’m ready to return to the land of flour and baking soda!

Triple Chocolate Brownies

Triple Chocolate Brownies

Triple Chocolate Brownies

Oh and thank you for the lovely birthday wishes so far ~ I am having a great day!!

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