Fat and cooking go hand in hand. I believe that most natural fats have a place in the kitchen. I never skimp on quality when selecting fats for my cooking and baking and always hunt down the best unrefined and natural fats that suit my cooking.
Fat has a vast range of functions in the body. It is a compact source of energy, a vital component of cell membranes needed to synthesise hormones and transport essential vitamins around the body. Healthy fats are also warm and nourishing, protecting vital organs, helping nutrients absorption and keeping you satiated.
Different fats are suited to different cooking techniques, and it is important to use them with care and purpose.
To make desserts rich and creamy and cakes moist and decadent, it’s necessary to add the right type of fats for a scrumptious, buttery-like texture. Fats such as butter or extra virgin olive oil add moisture and a beautiful texture to homemade cakes and pastries, and this often means you can reduce the sugars considerably in all your recipes.
This is one of the reasons I wrote my cookbook Healthy Baking - Cakes, Cookies + Raw. The recipes are low in natural sugars and made from wholesome ingredients that make you feel great inside out.
My favourite fats for baking and raw desserts are extra virgin olive oil, grass fed butter or ghee, macadamia nut oil, cold-pressed coconut oil and avocado oil.
Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is my number-one favourite, and you'll notice that I use this oil in most of my recipes - yes, including desserts, cakes, cookies and even chocolate! This oil is beautiful-tasting, velvety and brimming with health benefits: it’s a rich source of antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids. This is one of the reasons why a traditional Mediterranean diet is wonderful for heart health - extra virgin olive oil is part of their daily diet. I also adore the versatility of olive oil. It’s a lovely heat-stable and all-purpose oil, so it’s excellent for most cooking purposes including baking.
A cake made with extra virgin olive oil is magnificent to eat especially in chocolate cakes.
Grass fed butter
Good quality butter is a rich source of essential fat-soluble vitamins A, E, K, antioxidants and trace minerals. Australian butter is mostly made from grass fed sources and is rich in beta-carotene (vitamin A) giving it a yellow appearance. Butter works beautifully in baking to add flavour and richness to a cake or piece of shortbread. My great Polish aunt made her own butter regularly. Like every Polish household, it was the foundation of her awesome cooking and delicious food.
Ghee is clarified butter which has been simmered until the milk solids separate. It is then caramelised over a low heat and passed through a muslin cloth to remove any impurities. Ghee is a favourite for those with intolerances to lactose or casein as it contains less than 1% lactose. Ghee is also rich in butyrate, a short chain fatty acid that can support a healthy digestive system. For those who are sensitive to lactose and still crave the taste of butter, ghee is a wonderfully healthy option.
Fatty acids—like butyrate—help keep the gut wall healthy and sealed. Studies show that butyrate both suppresses the development of a leaky gut and improves the intestinal barrier.
Cold-pressed macadamia nut oil
The golden colour and smooth, buttery flavour of cold-pressed macadamia oil make it simply irresistible. It’s a great anti-inflammatory fat, high in mono-unsaturated oleic acids and antioxidants that support cardiovascular health. Macadamia oil is a fantastic multipurpose cooking fat you can use in the same way as olive oil. It is just spectacular in baked treats and creates the yummiest chocolate chip cookies.
Macadamia nut oil contains a potent bundle of heart protective nutrients: healthy anti-inflammatory fats, plant sterols, dietary fibre and antioxidants like Vitamin E and manganese. This combination of nutrients can help slow ageing and support cardiovascular health.
Cold-pressed coconut oil
Antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal, this delicious oil works best in raw food recipes. Coconut oil is also rich in lauric acid, which is antibacterial and antiviral so it helps support your immune system. I prefer using coconut oil for all my raw desserts and dairy-free creams.
Rich and creamy, avocados are nature’s butter. They’re a rich source of mono-unsaturated fats that have healthy compounds to protect against inflammation and promote heart health. They are also loaded with the antioxidant vitamin E, which helps support and protect the body against free radicals and promote a strong immunity as well as healthy skin and eyes. I love using avocados blended with cacao as a raw, nutrient-rich frosting for chocolate cake.
I also love avocado to add a lovely creaminess to homemade smoothies, raw desserts or an truly amazing anti-ageing facial mask.