Cooking with coconut flour

Anne Johns experiments.

Having suffered a bad press for some years (oh no - saturated fat!) coconut products seem to be having a resurgence. This is partly because more in-depths research amongst far eastern populations who eat substantial amounts of coconut has shown that, although saturated, coconut fat is made up of medium chain triglycerides (44% lauric acid, 17% myristic acid and 8% palmitic acid) which appear to have a beneficial rather than a harmful effect on heart health.

Possibly more relevant for Foods Matter readers is the fact that coconut milk, cream and oil make good substitutes for dairy milk, cream and butter for those on dairy-free diets. However, those on gluten-free diets can now get in on the act too as, along with the liquid products, you can now also buy coconut flour.

In nutritional terms coconut flour has not only the benefits of the oil but it is very high in fibre. If it is the fibre you are looking for you can add up to 20% of coconut flour to any ‘normal’ baking recipe without significantly changing the way the recipe works. However, if you want to bake entirely with the coconut flour that is a rather different matter as, like most entirely gluten-free flours, coconut flour is good at neither rising nor holding and absorbs a great deal of liquid.

Fortunately, guidance is at hand in the form of a book by American nutritional doctor and coconut enthusiast, Bruce Fife - Cooking with Coconur Flour (Picadilly Books ISBN 0-941599-63-9) - see below. He has tackled both the excess liquid and the lack of gluten problems head on by enormously upping the number of eggs that he uses in his recipes. Indeed, he uses so many eggs that we were deeply dubious about the outcome - but we were wrong to be so!

Having judiciously anglicised and adjusted his recipes to reduce their sweetness we found that both the corn bread and the chocolate cake were absolutely delicious and did not taste nearly as ‘eggy’ as one would have expected. Moreover, they kept extremely well - and only tasted faintly coconutty, although this could be because we used goat butter in both rather than coconut oil. We will continue to experiment and report in future issues.

Meanwhile, if you wish to try for yourself, we currently know of two suppliers of organic coconut products including cold pressed virgin oils:

Tropical Oils Europe were the first to bring coconut products to the UK - via Ireland. They sell a range of products including skin care items - and Bruce Fife’s book! You will find them at +353 1 287 3216 www.tropicaloilseurope.com

Tiana - have recently started importing coconut milk, oil cream and flour directly into the UK - you can find them at 020 8864 8127 www.tiana.eu

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First Published in 2007

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