Coconut butter was news to me, until it appeared in one of the highly resourceful and beautifully photographed I Quit Sugar cookbooks by the talented Sarah Wilson (now at sarahwilson.com). It forms the base for a vegan gluten-free candy that stores well, lends itself to all kinds of flavors and shapes, and has plenty of fiber and healthy fat.
A snowy-day craft for patient people
Note: This is not coconut oil (also called coconut fat), the clear or white smooth oil in a glass jar that forms a solid in a cool room, and which also makes a good rub for dry skin. It’s not coconut cream, a white smooth solid in a can with a sliceable texture like fudge or Crisco vegetable shortening.
Instead, coconut butter is the end product of taking dried grated coconut, and then pulverizing it down for a long time, until it forms an oily dough which in the fridge has the hard crunch of a whole-wheat breadstick, or in the freezer turns hard as a rock.
For one batch of halvah, go to the following fuss and bother.
5-6 cups dried grated unsweetened coconut (this will render down to a smaller volume)
1 or 2 Medjool date(s) with the pit cut out, chopped fine
1 tablespoon 72% cacao dark chocolate chips (optional)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon or your choice of sweet spices
I use a VitaMix blender to puree one cup of coconut at a time, very carefully.
(Caution: Using the regular wet-blend jar for this is not really appropriate, so one has to be very gentle so as not to burn out the motor. I need to buy a dry-grind blender jar from the company, suitable for tasks such as grinding grain into flour.)
Spin the coconut in the blender for all of two seconds. Shake blender jar hard, and spin for another two seconds.
The coconut will quickly form a packed wall that rises up the sides. When that happens, make sure the blades don’t start spinning; that isn’t good for the blender.
Pick up blender jar off the base, scrape any hard-packed coconut residue out from under the blades with a spoon, and stir the contents.
Over and over.
When the coconut feels moist and you can start to squeeze and pack it a bit in your fingertips, pour it into a separate bowl. Start on the next cupful of coconut. Again, be super careful to not spin the blades. That will put a strain on the blender.
Once the 5-6 cups are done, and this takes quite a bit of tedious effort, I place it all in my Cuisinart food processor with the chopped pitted date and the chocolate chips.
Spin in the Cuisinart until the machine rumbles.
Stop, and scrape the coconut down the sides. If it is starting to stick together, break up the lumps.
Over and over.
(Why not just use the Cuisinart all along? Because it will take forever.)
When the coconut butter forms a dough ball that lumps right up as soon as it spins in the Cuisinart, it’s ready.
On a cutting board, spread out waxed paper.
Place 1/2 cup or so of dough on the waxed paper.
Form into a thin round patty, tamping it down and pressing in on the sides to make a burger shape, firm and compact.
Wrap the patty in waxed paper.
Repeat, forming the rest of the dough into thin patties.
Stack up the wrapped patties. Wrap the stack thoroughly, and place in fridge to harden. After the patties are just firm enough to slice, cut them into thin sticks or small bite-sized pieces. These freeze well, but don’t eat them directly out of the freezer; they are too hard and could hurt your teeth.
They keep well in the fridge though; then they develop a good crunchy texture.
These are so rich that they don’t need much added sweetness at all.
However, the coconut has a very faint naturally salty quality to it, so next time I’ll try adding the juice of one fresh-squeezed orange as well.
The appearance and texture are pleasantly similar to a very rustic solid whole-grain peasant bread. Quite a nice filling treat.
I look forward to setting up with the correct equipment for rendering the coconut, and making this often.