Friday, November 6, 2015

Coconut Sugar Shortbread

 by Sheila Connolly

I’m not usually a fad-follower, whether it’s fashion or food. But this past week my supermarket was featuring coconut sugar. I’d never heard of it (although I admit to having coconut oil in my pantry). But as you might guess from my posts here, I’m a big fan of sweet things, so I decided it was worth trying. After all, how can you resist a label that says the product is “made from fresh coconut tree sap collected from cut flower buds”? I’m still puzzling about how the sap comes from the buds, and who the heck collects it, but I’ll go with it. By the way, it does not taste like coconut.

Online sources claim that it’s good for us, too. One says “It provides the same number of calories and carbohydrates as regular cane sugar . . . However, coconut sugar is 70 to 79 percent sucrose and only three percent to nine percent each of fructose and glucose. This is an advantage, because you want to keep your consumption of fructose as low as possible, and cane sugar is 50 percent fructose.” We might argue that eating sugary food is never good for us, but it sure does taste nice!

Coconut sugar, up close

So I went hunting for a recipe. I wanted to keep it simple, so I could taste the sugar (which is said to have caramel overtones). The recipe on the package was a bit too “crunchy granola” for me, and besides, I don’t have any hempseed on hand. But I did come across a couple of shortbread recipes, which are simple and should showcase the sugar well. (I often make Scotch Shortbread, which has ginger in it—it’s one of my all-time go-to recipes, from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookies and Candies cookbook that I bought in 1972 for $1.95.) So here goes the experiment:

Coconut Sugar Shortbread
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 cup flour

A recipe doesn’t get much simpler, does it? Other versions I’ve seen substitute various flour products—tapioca flour, rice flour (both of which I do happen to have)—but I thought I’d stick to the basics for my first time out.

You may use salted butter. If you use unsalted, add a pinch of salt.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

I usually use an 8” round pan for my shortbread, but you can go free-form and shape it on a cookie sheet. You may grease it, or line it with parchment paper, but given the amount of butter in the recipe, it’s not essential. And you’re going to eat it directly from the pan anyway.

Butter and sugar
In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the flour, and mix until the dough sticks together.

Press it into your pan (or shape it into a circle). With a fork, prick lines where you’re going to cut it when it’s baked. This is both traditional and allows air to escape so the shortbread stays flat.

Bake for about 30 minutes (the shortcake won’t brown), then let cool.

Cut into wedges along the pricked lines. Make yourself a cup of tea, and sit down and enjoy!

My verdict: It's darker than I expected, and the flavor is kind of molasses-y. It's also chewier than traditional shortbread. But I think I like it. Let me eat a few more pieces to be sure!

Doesn't A Gala Event look like it's ready for the holidays?

You can order it at Barnes and Noble and Amazon, and at your favorite bookstore (I hope!).


  1. The Coconut Sugar Shortbread looks amazing! I have never used coconut sugar but I have been wondering if it was good for cooking/baking.

  2. I read that it interacts with butter differently from cane sugar, so you might need to adjust your proportions. I'll be happy to try it in cakes (like apple cake!), since I still have a lot left.

  3. An adventure! Good fun.
    You say it has a molasses-like taste. It looks rather molasses-like in the finished product.
    Let us know what else you try it in.

    1. I'll keep you posted. I love to experiment (and I think I've reported on some of the more abysmal failures too).

    2. We appreciate your experiments and your honesty!

  4. I am fascinated by the magic of coconut, Sheila. Thanks for a fun recipe! I'll try it soon.



  5. I tried this out yesterday and it was delicious. I pressed chocolate chip cookies on top and sprinkled a little coffee on before baking. I don't think it has a shortbread feel, it's much more like a large, crispy, chocolate chip cookie. I'm planning to make it again using orange blossom water and a little lemon zest.