March 3, 2010

Humpastry Day and coconut oil

Cranberry Orange Scones

My husband and I love scones and we are always on the hunt for the perfect scone.  There is a little bakery in North Denver called Adagios that takes us about 20 minutes to get to.  Sometimes on the weekends we'll drive there because they make really good blueberry scones.  But, I know that they're filled with white flour and butter - far from perfect.  So, I've been trying to create the "perfect" scone.  You know, the ones that are light and flaky with the perfect amount of mix-ins (blueberries, cranberries, or whatever) and made with healthy ingredients.  Well, these scones aren't "perfect," but I think they're pretty darn good!  They are super easy to make and are great for breakfast or snacks.

Before I get into the recipe, I want to tell you a little about one of the ingredients: coconut oil.

I have been trying to figure out what I can use instead of butter in some of my baking recipes and while doing research I came across a lot of articles and research studies about the health benefits of coconut oil.  As you can see from the picture, it is not in an "oil" form like olive oil, but rather a solid.  It actually stays in its solid form at temperatures below 80 degrees.  And, although it is "coconut" oil, there is no hint of coconut flavor when you cook or bake with it.  

The first I heard about coconut oil was actually in the book, "Thrive" by Brendan Brazier.  For those of you unfamiliar with the book, it is a Vegan nutrition guide to optimal performance in sports and life written by a professional Ironman triathlete.  It is a good book and has been a great resource for me as I venture into the world of vegan nutrition.  Anyways, in his book, coconut oil is the only fat that he uses in his recipes.  I figure if a professional Ironman triathlete uses this stuff there must be something to it.  As I did more research, here is some information that I gathered:

·        Over many decades coconut oil received bad publicity due to its saturated fat content, and there is a misconception that it is not good for the heart.  But, the saturated fats present in coconut oil are not harmful as is the case of other vegetables oils. It does not lead to increase in LDL levels.  In fact, research shows that replacing other cooking oils with virgin coconut oil generally creates a more favorable HDL/LDL ratio.   
·        Coconut oil has a unique make-up.  It is not only the highest source of saturated fats (92%) but included in this is the highest source of saturated medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) (62%) of any naturally occurring vegan food source.  The body utilizes these MCTs differently from other fats that do not contain MCTs in that their digestion is near effortless and they are utilized in the liver, not stored in the cells.  The MCTs are actually converted by the liver to energy within moments of being consumed.  
·        Furthermore, around 50% of these MCTs are made up of lauric acid, the most important essential fatty acid in building and maintaining the body’s immune system.  Not only does lauric acid support healthy metabolism, but it also helps in preventing various heart problems including high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.  It is actually being studied for its anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial health-protecting properties. Some researchers predict that lauric acid will one day become as well known in health circles as Omega-3 is today.
·        Apart from coconut oil, the only other source of lauric acid found in such high concentrations is in mother’s milk.  Tropical oils and mother’s milk are by far the richest food source of medium-chain fatty acids available. The closest other source of these vital building blocks for our immune system would be milk fat and butter, comprising around 3% of its content. Any other vegetable oil is completely deficient in these medium chain fatty acids. 
·        Coconut oil also helps in absorption of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
·        The short and medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are also very useful in reducing weight. It is also easy to digest and helps in healthy functioning of the thyroid and enzymes systems. Further, it increases the body metabolism by removing stress on the pancreas; thereby burning out more energy and helping obese and overweight people reduce their weight. 
·        So, coconut oil is often preferred by athletes and body builders and by those who are dieting. The reason behind this being that coconut oil contains lesser calories than other oils, its fat content is easily converted into energy and it does not lead to accumulation of fat in the heart and arteries. Coconut oil helps in boosting energy and endurance, and enhances the performance of athletes.
·        Overall, coconut oil contains 92% saturated fats, and only 1% Omega-6, the fat Americans get way too much of.  And, as studies reveal the downsides of consuming too many Omega-6 vegetable oils with their saturated fatty acids, coconut oil is making a comeback.
And, here's a link to a YouTube video that talks about it too!

Phew!  Sorry that was so long, but I wanted to give you as much information about it as I could!  Now, back to the scones. :) 

Makes 8 scones

*  2C whole wheat pastry flour
*  1/3C raw sugar
*  1tsp. baking powder
*  1/4tsp. baking soda
*  1/2tsp. salt
*  1/2C coconut oil (or butter)
*  1/2C plain soy yogurt (or sour cream)
*  1 flax egg (1Tbl. flax w/ 3Tbl. water) (or 1 egg)
*  1/2C cranberries (or more if you'd like)
*  zest of one orange
*  juice of 1/2 an orange

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees and put oven rack on the lower-middle position
2.  In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3.  With fingers "cut" in coconut oil until you have pea-sized bits.

4.  Fold in cranberries and grated orange peel
5.  In a small bowl, whisk yogurt and flax "egg" until smooth.
6.  Using a fork, stir in yogurt mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form.  Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball.  The dough may be sticky and somewhat dry, but it will come together.
7.  Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7-8" circle.

8.  Squeeze some orange juice onto the circle, then sprinkle with some sugar.  (I used about a tsp, but you could definitely use more if you wanted)
9.  Cut the circle into 8 wedges and put on a baking stone or cookie sheet.  (Note: if you use a cookie sheet you should probably line it with parchment paper)
10.  Bake for 15-17 minutes or until golden
11.  Transfer to a cooling rack for 5 minutes.  Serve warm.  Enjoy!


Julie said...

Hi Aimee,
Mmmm, they look so good!! I love the scones that they sell at Caribou Coffee:) I am writing this recipe down!! Thanks for the pictures of the steps and of the ingredients!! It looks like everything that goes into them is pretty healthy:) I love coconut and I bet that the oil adds a wonderful flavor to them:) Thank you!!

Missy said...

My massage therapist uses the coconut oil to shave her legs. Says it leaves them killer silky smooth and you smell like an almond joy!

Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) said...

Missy - I have heard of people using it as a massage oil and for their hair, but not for shaving legs. But, if it makes me smell like an almond joy, then I'll definitely have to try it...ha ha!

Teresa said...

GREAT POST! I have never heard of coconut oil as a butter substitute and I am very interested in giving it a go! Thanks for the heads up. The scones look delicious and I will certainly be adding that recipe to my books! Thanks again!

Anne Marie said...

Wow. thanks for all the information. I'm glad to see you have a recipe link on your blog as all this info should def. be saved for future use. i plan to come back to your recipes when i want to remember the scones and pita chips you talked about- oh, and the flax seed info too (which btw, i did buy some ground flax seeds at tj's for shakes etc;-0)
nice post!

Jon said...

Thanks for sharing! Those look yummy!

Big Daddy Diesel said...

I am trying this one over the weekend.

misszippy said...

Very cool. Looks like a great recipe. BTW--where do you find coconut oil? I'm guessing a health-food store?

Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) said...

misszippy - I actually found mine at Whole Foods in the oil section. I'm not sure if a regular grocery store would have it or not. Walmart might have it. They always surprise me with things they carry in their store.

Regina said...

Oh man! You are a kitchen godess! I am definitely going to make these. thanks for the info on coconut oil. I've been wanting to give it a go and this will be the prefect opportunity! Thank you!

Sherri said...

I do all my cooking with coconut oil..and I feel like I have seen lots of improvement in health!
I love scones!!!!
Can't wait to try these!

Velma said...

This is awesome. Thanks for sharing. I will get some oil when i go to whole foods.