Chat Leftovers: Coconut what?

April 24, 2013

Happy Wednesday. There’s plenty to nourish you in Food today, including: Jim Shahin’s story about chef Victor Albisu, who plays with fire — literally — in his new Penn Quarter restaurant; Vered Guttman’s look at Gazan food and a local woman who has written a cookbook; and Jane Black’s take on “stealth health”: casual restaurants that sell healthful food without making a big deal of it.

Wednesday is also, as always, the day for our Free Range chat, and you can join us live at noon to talk about those stories or anything else that’s on your culinary mind.

In a previous chat, someone mentioned ways to store almond flour and coconut flour, and that comment prompted this question from another chatter:

What is coconut flour and what do you do with it?

Coconut flour is pretty interesting. It’s made of ground-up dried coconut. It’s powdery and off-white, and when you open the container, you get a definite whiff of coconut. If, like me, you are a coconut fan, that’s a good thing.

Coconut flour is gluten-free. My container of Coconut Secret Raw Coconut Flour claims the stuff is “very low carb, actually lowers the calorie content of food, contains 40% dietary fiber, promotes lipid oxidation (helps burn fat), aids in digestive health, and helps balance blood sugar levels.” Well, I have no idea whether all of that is true, but it sounds good.

When I compare it with my all-purpose flour, I can see that it has slightly more calories, sodium and sugars per two-tablespoon serving, and slightly fewer carbohydrates. The biggest differences are in fat (there’s none in the AP flour and 1.5 grams in the coconut flour, all of it saturated) and fiber (about ½ gram in the AP flour, 6 grams in the coconut).

Anyway, its gluten-free status has given it a place in many baked goods. And some non-gluten-free cooks use it to replace some of the wheat flour in baked goods as a way to add fiber. A word about replacement, however. Coconut flour is unlike wheat flour and can’t be used for 100 percent substitutions. When trying to retrofit a recipe to add it, you shouldn’t swap out more than 20 or maybe 25 percent of the AP flour for the coconut flour.

Also, this flour is DRY. So for every ½ cup you use, you are supposed to add two to four eggs. “Eggs act as a gluten substitute,” The Coconut Secret Web site says. It also advises adding more of your recipe’s liquid to make up for the dryness of the flour.

I’ve added coconut flour to baked goods in small amounts with negligible effect, except I hope I’m getting some benefit from the fiber. But I hadn’t tried a coconut-flour-only recipe until recently, when I made the Fluffy Coconut Flour Pancakes suggested by this Web site.

“Finally, a coconut flour pancake worth eating,” blogger Shannon enthused, but I wasn’t sold. The cakes were grainy and not very flavorful, even with the slight coconut taste. But they were, as the title promised, quite fluffy, and they rose up high and golden. If I’d smothered them in syrup, they might have seemed more agreeable, but I’m one of those perverse people who like their pancakes syrup-free. I later fed them to another human guinea pig, who was more appreciative.

Bottom line: I like the flour, but I think I’ll stick to small additions in baked goods. You should try it to see what you think.

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