The Rise and Fall of Coconut Flour

Orange Cinnamon PancakesMany of us could confess to owning a store cupboard containing a few hidden, out of date dried herbs and spices, where a particular recipe required one measly teaspoon of something you haven’t used again. There maybe a few vinegars, sauce jars or other condiment found lurking in the back too, but there appears to be a new contender in the Top Ten of “Brought and Used Once” list of food ingredients joining the battle for cupboard space – welcome Coconut Flour!

With a recent influx of information promoting this wonderful flour; it’s association with healthy eating, low carbs, gluten free diets and of the course the fact it has come from a coconut (which we are all learning is a wonderful ingredient to use, however it comes), there has been quite a few of us that have invested in a bag. When the word “invested” is used, this is no exaggeration – coconut flour is expensive!

A lot of us may have initially been quite keen to try a recipe using the flour and one saved article was pulled out of the magazine or website article you had been holding on to. The flour made its way to the oven, the bake was ok/great/a bit disappointing, but then all is forgotten...sound familiar? What do you do with the rest?

If you have tried using coconut flour in direct replacement of white or brown plain wheat flours, you may have found yourself both rather alarmed and rather insulted by the result! You may have thought you weren’t too bad at baking and have created some rather glorious cakes, breads and biscuits in the past, but whoa! WHAT HAPPENED?

When coconut flour was initially promoted around the UK food scene, it may have been helpful to educate customers, that this flour is NOT to be used as a direct replacement for wheat flours. It creates a heavy, flat and utterly dry experience on its own. It needs company! It’s also a thirsty beast and will absorb all of the liquid you would usually use, plus more and it will still produce a rather dry, crumbly and uninspiring result.

So, what exactly is coconut flour?
Coconut flour is dried, defatted coconut meat, that has a mild taste of coconut. It’s high in fibre and low in carbohydrate, plus, it’s gluten free. It’s also lower in fat content than the similar textured, almond flour so it’s got a lot going of it! However, to succeed with using it, you need to help it a long a bit.

If you are a novice baker, or someone new to coconut flour, it is worth initially following recipes that have been designed to use coconut flour specifically. When you get to know how these flours behave you could then start to replace the usual wheat flours with “blends”. This means 2 things –
1) Add extra liquid to the recipe
2) Add a friend or two to the coconut flour, so combine coconut flour with oat flour, or tapioca, buckwheat flour and other plain gluten free flours.

That bag of expensive coconut flour can be used up in easier ways too. You don’t need to be a top baker! How about using it to coat items? Soak some tofu or chicken pieces in buttermilk/soya yoghurt and then mix with coconut flour and oats. Bake as required. How about mixing the coconut flour with nuts, oil and sea salt and bake – use this as a topping for gratins, soups or salads. In other words, use it in ways where you want some texture or crunch.

Coconut flour doesn’t need to be lurking in the back of the cupboard and need not be an expensive mistake. Just understand that it’s thirsty and it produces a rather crumbly, heavy texture on its own. However, this means it still has a variety of uses and it can produce some wonderfully tasty and healthy results, so enjoy it...for what it is!

Try these recipes

Coconut orange and maple syrup pancakes

Pear and Ginger crumbles

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