Have you heard about the benefits of baking with coconut flour? As the interest in grain-free diets continues to rise, many cooks are looking to find a replacement for all-purpose flour in their baking. But, before you switch out your flour, there’s a few things you should know about using this popular alternative.
What is coconut flour?
Coconut flour is a soft, naturally grain- and gluten-free flour produced from dried coconut meat. It is a natural byproduct of coconut milk production. When coconut milk is pressed from coconut meat, bits of solid coconut meat are leftover and this coconut meat that is leftover after the production of coconut milk is then dried at a low temperature and ground until it produces a soft, fine powder which is then suitable for baking.
Popular among those adhering to grain-restrictive diets such as paleo diets, GAPS , SCD and ketogenic diets, coconut flour can offer a gluten-free and protein-rich alternative to traditional grain-based flours.
What are the benefits of coconut flour?
Coconut flour is denser in many nutrients than traditional grain-based flours. It is also naturally gluten-free, so if you’re on a gluten-free diet by necessity or choice, you can enjoy it.
Coconut flour is fairly high in protein, fiber and fat, and relatively low in carbohydrates by comparison to other flours. A single serving of two tablespoons contains a whopping 5 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein as well as 1.5 grams of fat. It’s this combination of nutrients – fiber, protein and fat – that makes it so filling.
It is also exceptionally rich in manganese, an essential nutrient that is critical for many processes and functions within the body. Notably, manganese it helps to support bone health, and it helps your body better use other nutrients like choline and biotin. Even more, it acts as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient.
In addition to manganese, coconut flour also contains other trace minerals like iron, potassium, phosphorus, selenium and vitamin B6.
Baking with Coconut Flour
Coconut flour is commonly used in baking, particularly paleo, grain- and gluten-free baking. It can be used to make cakes, cookies, breads and muffins. While it is a versatile baking flour, it can be challenging to use, and you should rely on established recipes, especially if you’re new to baking with this alternative flour.
Coconut flour is particularly absorbent, and a very small amount of flour will absorb a very large amount of liquid. It also tends to have a drying effect on baked goods, because it is so absorbent. The best way to counteract its drying effect is to use plenty of eggs when you’re baking. The protein in egg whites helps to provide structure to baked goods while the yolks provide moisture.
Foods baked with coconut flour can often have a gritty texture, so it’s best to sift the flour thoroughly before you bake with it. Additionally, it’s good practice to separate your eggs, beating the flour with egg yolks and then beating the whites separately until they hold stiff peaks. You can then fold the whites into the egg yolk and flour mixture, and this improves the natural heaviness of many baked goods that use coconut flour as an ingredient.
Substituting Coconut Flour for All-Purpose Flour
Coconut flour is tricky to work with because it is not a grain-based flour. You cannot substitute coconut flour for all-purpose flour in most recipes, and working with established recipes is the best choice. Coconut flour cannot be substituted on a 1:1 ratio for all-purpose flour, or most other flours; however, you can begin by substituting 1/4 cup coconut flour for every one cup all-purpose flour. In addition, every 1/4 cup coconut flour typically requires one egg for both moisture and structure. You may also need to increase other liquids in the recipe or make small adjustments to baking times.
Quick Tips for Using Coconut Flour
- Use additional liquid because coconut flour is very absorbent.
- Use additional eggs to give baked goods structure and moisture.
- Incorporate egg yolks into coconut flour and other dry ingredients, and whip the egg whites separately, and then fold them into the first mixture to make baked goods lighter.
- Substitute coconut flour for all-purpose flour at a 1:4 ratio, and remember to add 1 egg for every 1/4 cup coconut flour.
Where to Buy Coconut Flour
You can find coconut flour in most natural grocers and health foods stores, as well as in many supermarkets. If you cannot find it locally, you can always purchase it online here at a discount.
Drawbacks to Using Coconut Flour
While coconut flour is dense in protein, fiber, fat and many micronutrients, it is also rich in salicylates. Salicylates are naturally occurring chemicals in many wholesome foods, including coconut. Some people react negatively to salicylates, and salicylates may exacerbate headaches and hyperactivity for them, or contribute to skin issues like eczema. For these people, coconut flour may not be the optimal choice.
Coconut flour can also be gritty, and it can give everything that is made from it a slightly coconut-like flavor. While this can be a pleasant experience where that flavor is desired, not every recipe or partner ingredients will benefit from that flavor.
Coconut Flour Recipes
While you can use the tips above to try to convert your family’s favorite recipes to recipes that use coconut flour, you may find yourself wasting precious and expensive ingredients while you get your technique down. Instead, one of the best practices is to simply use established recipes from a quality source.Coconut Cake is light with a flavor reminiscent of classic yellow cake, and it’s perfect for birthdays.
Paleo Mini Banana Muffins are delightful and nourishing choice for breakfast.
Coconut Pineapple Upside-down Cake is a fun take on the classic.
Coconut Madeleines are easy to make and excellent with tea.
Coconut Flour Bread is another option.