So GoodApril/May 2010 Issue

Cooking with Gluten-Free Coconut Flour

A tropical twist on gluten-free goodness

Are you looking for a great-tasting gluten-free flour that’s high in protein, high in fiber and low in carbs? Try coconut flour.

Hypoallergenic coconut flour has a pleasant flavor that’s slightly nutty and mildly sweet without a strong “coconut” taste. Cup for cup, it provides more protein than wheat flour and ten times more fiber, most of it the healthy soluble type. It has fewer net (absorbable) carbohydrates than any other flour. Plus, it contains lauric acid, a fatty acid found in mother’s milk that possesses antiviral, antifungal and antimicrobial properties.

Here’s what you should know about this flour’s baking properties: Its extraordinary high fiber content means that it absorbs considerably more liquid than other flours. Therefore, the more coconut flour you use in a recipe, the more liquid and eggs (for leavening and binding) you’ll need. While there are no exact formulas for substituting with coconut flour, these suggestions can serve as general guidelines.

 

  • Use coconut flour to replace from 10 to 30 percent of the other flour (or flour blend) in recipes for muffins, loaf breads, dinner rolls, cookies, cakes, bars, and quick breads.
  • For each portion of coconut flour used, add an equal amount of additional liquid in the form of water, coffee, milk, dairy-free milk or coconut milk. You can also try replacing a granulated sweetener (white or brown sugar) in the recipe with a liquid sweetener (honey, agave nectar or maple syrup). For example, I often replace 1 cup sugar with ¾ cup honey. I count this as part of the additional liquid needed when using coconut flour.
  • In meatloaf and meatballs, replace crackers or breadcrumbs with half as much coconut flour. Then add an equal amount of water, milk, or dairy-free milk as coconut flour.
  • If adding coconut flour to a conventional recipe, you may need to double the number of eggs to give the baked goods loft. If you're using egg replacer, add twice the amount you would normally use in a recipe.

As you begin working with coconut flour and modifying your favorite recipes, make a note of what you add, subtract or change so that you know how to improve on results or repeat your success the next time around. Expect to do a bit of experimenting. In some cases, you may need to make a recipe a few times to achieve the desired results—but getting the boost in nutrients and fiber is worth it.

We’ve done the work for you in these recipes. They’re deliciously recreated with no gluten, dairy or sugar. They can be made egg free, too, with tasty results.

A Crowd Pleaser

Calli’s Coconut Fruit Cocktail Cake

MAKES 9 SQUARES

This cake is a family favorite. To feed a larger crowd, double the recipe and bake it in a 9x13-inch pan.

1 cup gluten-free All-Purpose Flour Blend
⅓ cup coconut flour, fluffed with a fork and sifted before measuring
⅓ cup unsweetened flaked coconut, finely flaked
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon guar gum or xanthan gum
½ cup honey or agave nectar
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple in juice or fruit cocktail, undrained
2 eggs, room temperature
½ cup raisins
1 medium orange, cut into very thin slices for garnish

Hot Caramel Sauce

¾ cup full-fat unsweetened coconut milk or 1½ cups unsweetened lite coconut milk or plain unsweetened almond milk
1 stick butter or ½ cup extra-virgin coconut oil or palm shortening
½ cup honey or agave nectar
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan or 9-inch round cake pan.

2. Lightly spoon the flours into a measuring cup and level with a knife. Combine flours and remaining dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk well and set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together honey, crushed pineapple and eggs. Stir in dry ingredients until combined, scraping the bowl to mix in all the flour. Fold in raisins.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake 30 to 35 minutes on middle rack in preheated oven until firm and slightly golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

5. Prepare Hot Caramel Sauce by combining coconut milk, butter, honey and salt in a 2-quart pot and bringing it to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil until the sauce reduces to 1 cup and becomes thick and caramelized. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. (If you prepare the sauce ahead, allow it to cool. Then cover and refrigerate it in a heatproof bowl. Reheat it gently in a toaster oven at 225 degrees until warm and runny.)

6. To assemble cake, run a knife around the edges of the pan and turn the cake onto a large plate or platter. Poke holes all over with a skewer or chopstick. Pour sauce over cake. Garnish with orange slices and serve. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers after 3 days.

Each serving contains 390 calories, 17g total fat, 11g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 74mg cholesterol, 394mg sodium, 61g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 4g protein.

 

For Egg-Free Fruit Cocktail Cake, replace 2 eggs with 3 tablespoons applesauce (added to wet ingredients) + 1 teaspoon additional baking powder (added to dry ingredients) + 1½ teaspoons egg replacer mixed with 2 tablespoons water (added when you combine the wet and dry ingredients).

TIP To make finely flaked coconut, pulverize shredded coconut in a blender.

New Twist on an Old Favorite

Coconut Chicken Tenders

SERVES 6

Most recipes for pan-fried or oven-fried chicken call for dipping chicken pieces in beaten egg and then in flour before frying. In this egg-free rendition, coconut flour and cornstarch batter stand in for the eggs and flaked coconut stands in for the flour. Serve these crusty tenders with a green salad and pan-fried plantains, baked or roasted sweet potatoes, a creamy vegetable soup, or a fresh fruit salad.

1¼–1½ pounds chicken tenders, about 1-inch thick
1½ cups shredded, unsweetened, flaked coconut
⅓ cup sifted coconut flour
⅓ cup cornstarch
1 ½ teasoons salt
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme or dried, rubbed sage or poultry seasoning, crumbled
1 teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt)
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons cool water
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened lite coconut milk
6 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil, ghee, palm shortening or olive oil or a combination of two of these

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange chicken pieces on a plate.

2. Spread coconut in a pie plate or cake pan and set aside.

3. Measure flour and cornstarch by spooning it into a measuring cup and leveling the top with a knife. Place flour, cornstarch, salt, pepper, thyme or sage, and garlic powder in a bowl and whisk to combine. Mix in water and coconut milk with a fork to make a smooth pancake-like batter.

4. One at a time, dip each chicken tender in the batter and arrange on a tray. Use all the batter.

5. One at a time, turn chicken tenders in coconut to coat, pressing coconut on with your fingers. Place pieces on a plate. Repeat with remaining chicken.

6. Heat 2 tablespoons fat or oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. When hot add ¨÷ of the chicken. Do not crowd the pan. Cook until lightly golden on each side, about 1 to 2 minutes maximum, and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Remove dark bits of browned batter from the pan before adding another 2 tablespoons oil. When hot, add and cook ½ of the remaining chicken. Repeat with remaining chicken and fat or oil. (Don't let the pan get too hot. The chicken should turn golden on both sides, not black.)

7. Transfer the tray of lightly cooked chicken to preheated oven and bake about 10 to 15 minutes, until chicken is the same color inside and out and registers an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

8. Serve warm. Cover and refrigerate leftovers and use within 3 days. Reheat briefly in a toaster oven at 300 degrees.

Each serving contains 360 calories, 26g total fat, 22g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 54mg cholesterol, 651mg sodium, 11g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 23g protein.

TIP No chicken tenders? Make your own by cutting 1½ pounds boneless chicken breast halves into long strips, about 1-inch thick.

Coconut Turkey Patties

MAKES 10 TO 12 SMALL PATTIES

Coconut flour stands in for bread or cracker crumbs in these patties. Serve them as breakfast sausage or for lunch or dinner with a salad and roasted vegetables.

1–1¼ pounds ground dark-meat turkey
2 tablespoons sifted coconut flour
2 tablespoons dairy-free milk, broth or water
1 egg or flax gel
½ teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon ground marjoram, oregano or basil
½ teaspoon ground cumin or dry mustard
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
¼ cup minced fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
½–1 teaspoon salt
½ cup minced onion or 1 tablespoon freeze-dried onion or shallot flakes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin coconut oil, palm shortening or ghee, divided

1. Spread the meat over the bottom of a large bowl.

2. In a medium bowl, combine coconut flour, milk or broth, egg or flax gel, herbs and spices, and onion and mix well. Pour this mixture over the meat. Mix with clean hands by pulling apart rather than squeezing and packing to evenly distribute seasoning (I use disposable gloves). Do not over-mix.

3. Shape meat mixture into ¼-cup portions. Flatten into patties and arrange on a plate.

4. Heat half the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half the patties, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Brown on one side. Then flip and brown the second side. Cover and cook until done, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining oil and meat.

5. Serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers and use within 3 days.

Each serving contains 92 calories, 6g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 47mg cholesterol, 141mg sodium, 2 carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 7g protein.

TIP Save steps by replacing 1½ teaspoons dried herbs with an equal amount of Italian blend or Herbes de Provençe.

Variations

For Chicken Patties, replace ground turkey with an equal amount of ground dark-meat chicken.

For Lamb Patties, replace ground turkey with an equal amount of ground lamb.

For Meatballs, use ground beef, bison, lamb, or dark-meat chicken or turkey. Shape meat mixture into tablespoon-size balls and place in a large skillet with ½ cup water. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until just cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes.

For Mediterranean Patties, replace sage, thyme and marjoram with 1 teaspoon ground coriander. Increase cumin to 1 teaspoon and add ¼ teaspoon ground allspice. Add garlic, if desired.

 

Sugar Free, Too

Coconut Chocolate Chip Blondies

MAKES 16 SQUARES

Coconut flour gives these blondies a dense texture and nutty flavor. Soaked dates stand in for brown sugar, adding a sweet taste without refined sugar. They blend in so well, you won’t even notice. Like most coconut flour desserts, these bars taste even better after 24 hours in a covered container.

½ cup soft, pitted dates
- Warm water, to cover dates
½ cup sifted coconut flour
¼ cup gluten-free All-Purpose Flour Blend
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon guar gum or xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup extra-virgin coconut oil or palm shortening or olive oil
2 eggs
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Place dates in a shallow bowl. Pour warm water over them to just cover. Let stand for 1 to 4 hours. Then scoop the dates out with a slotted spoon, leaving the liquid behind.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper, greasing the top of the paper and bottom and sides of the pan.

3. Lightly spoon flours into a measuring cup and level with a knife. Place flours, baking soda, guar gum and salt in a bowl, whisking to combine. Set aside.

4. Combine soaked dates, oil or shortening, eggs, honey, and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Mix until smooth. Add dry ingredients and blend only enough to combine. Scrape batter into a bowl and fold in chocolate chips. Batter will be stiff like cookie dough. (If you don’t have a food processor, purée dates, honey, eggs, and vanilla in blender until smooth. Pour mixture into a bowl. Stir in dry ingredients and then chocolate chips.)

5. Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for 24 to 30 minutes on middle rack of preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with only a few crumbs. Allow blondies to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then turn onto a rack to cool completely before cutting. Store in a covered container until used.

Each serving contains 187 calories, 12g total fat, 9g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 26mg cholesterol, 84mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 2g protein.

 

Variations

For Egg-Free Blondies, replace 2 eggs with ¼ cup Ener-G egg replacer mixed with ¼ cup hot water. Whisk until smooth and gooey. Add to the wet ingredients in step 4 and proceed with recipe as instructed.

For Raisin Blondies, replace 1 cup chocolate chips with 1 cup raisins or use ½ cup raisins or dried cranberries + ½ cup coarsely chopped, lightly toasted green pumpkin seeds or almonds, walnuts or pecans, if tolerated.

No Eggs!

Coconut Shorties

MAKES 16 WEDGES

If you miss shortbread, you’ll love this gluten-free, dairy-free twist on the classic Scottish cookie. Use coconut oil for a more pronounced coconut taste. Use palm shortening for a milder flavor.

 

⅓ cup sifted coconut flour
⅔ cup gluten-free All-Purpose Flour Blend
½ teaspoon guar gum or xanthan gum
⅛ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup extra-virgin coconut oil or palm shortening or butter, room temperature
3–4 tablespoons honey or agave nectar, to taste
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk, lite or full fat
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Lightly spoon the flours into a measuring cup and level with a knife. Place flours, guar or xanthan gum and salt in a bowl, whisking to combine.

2. Place softened coconut oil or palm shortening in a medium bowl with honey and beat until smooth. Add coconut milk and vanilla. Add flour mixture to liquid ingredients and stir until blended.

3. Place dough onto a 12x12-inch square of parchment paper. Pat dough into a 6-inch circle. Cover with another piece of parchment paper and roll dough into an 8-inch circle with a rolling pin.

4. Fold or roll the sides of the parchment up to keep the air off the dough and chill it for 30 to 60 minutes. If chilling longer, cover with plastic wrap.

5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove top sheet of parchment paper. Transfer the dough on the bottom sheet of parchment to a baking sheet. Cut dough into 16 wedges, cutting into dough (not through it) using a knife or pizza cutter. Pierce dough in several places with a fork.

6. Bake on middle rack in preheated oven until lightly browned on the bottom, about 20 minutes.

7. Cool in pan for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges. Cool completely on a wire rack. Store in a covered tin at room temperature. Refrigerate in hot weather or freeze for longer storage.

Each serving contains 83 calories, 5g total fat, 4g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 19mg sodium, 9g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 1g protein.
Variations

For Citrus Coconut Shorties, add 1 to 1½ teaspoons finely grated lemon, lime or orange zest to the flour mixture. Add up to 1 teaspoon orange blossom water to the fat or oil, if desired.

For Spice or Seed Coconut Shorties, add up to 1 teaspoon ground spice (such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg or cardamom) or 1 teaspoon anise seeds or up to 3 tablespoons poppy seeds or sesame seeds.

Egg-Free, Too!

Soft-Batch Cookies

40 SMALL COOKIES

These cookies have a texture reminiscent of soft-batch oatmeal cookies even though they don’t contain oats. For flavor and extra chewiness, add your favorite dried fruits. They keep well at room temperature for nearly a week.

 

½ cup gluten-free All-Purpose Flour Blend
½ cup sifted coconut flour
1 cup very finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon guar gum or xanthan gum
2 teaspoons cinnamon or pie spice
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries or chocolate chips, optional
¾ cup extra-virgin coconut oil, palm shortening or butter, room temperature
⅔ cup honey or agave nectar
¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a large baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.

2. Lightly spoon each flour into a measuring cup and level the top with a knife. Place flours, coconut, baking powder, baking soda, guar gum, cinnamon and salt in a bowl, whisking to combine.

3. In a separate bowl, combine raisins, coconut oil, honey and applesauce, beating until smooth. Add dry ingredients and mix only enough to combine.

4. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet. Flatten cookies into circles with damp fingers, allowing ½-inch space between cookies. They will not spread. For larger cookies, shape dough into portions of about 3 tablespoons each, then flatten.

5. Bake cookies on middle rack of preheated oven until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. (For larger cookies, bake about 18 minutes.) Halfway through baking, rotate pan in the oven.

6. Cool cookies slightly. Then transfer to a rack to cool. Store cookies for up to a week in a covered bowl or tin, separating each layer with parchment paper. Refrigerate or freeze for longer storage.

Each serving contains 76 calories, 5g total fat, 5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 89mg sodium, 8g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 0g protein.
Variation

For Soft-Batch Cookies with Eggs, omit applesauce and add 4 eggs to liquid ingredients. Reduce baking powder to 1½ teaspoons. 

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