Coconut, in its various forms, is definitely the "in" ingredient at the moment – you could say it is the new "black" of the food and nutrition world. Here’s a brief rundown of my favourite coconut products to use in baking:
There are generally three different types of dried flesh: desiccated, shredded and flaked. Desiccated coconut, also known as shredded, is the finest of the three and the most versatile. Use it in cakes, biscuits, puddings (like this impossible coconut and passionfruit pie), slices and to sprinkle. Shredded coconut, also called flaked, is long threads of dried flesh. It adds great texture when added to particular baked items, such as crumble toppings, and is good to use for decorating and topping cakes. Flaked coconut, also called coconut chips, is the largest of the three with a "flaked" appearance. They are best used for decorating and in toppings, rather than in mixtures themselves. Be wary of sweetened varieties that are often soaked in corn syrup or treated with additives – it's always best to stick with the "natural", coconut-only products.
Coconut palm sugar
This is crystallised nectar from the coconut palm tree’s flower and is an unrefined "brown" sugar. I find it less sweet than cane sugars and it has a lovely, earthy caramel flavour that works well in biscuits (such as these coconut oat biscuits), brownies, cakes and puddings, in particular. It also adds a lovely crunch to crumble toppings or when sprinkled over cakes and biscuits before baking.
Made from pressing the dried coconut meat (or flesh), yielding a slightly sweet oil which is solid at room temperature, coconut oil is a joy to use in baking. It will add moisture and a divine, sweet hard-to-resist aroma as in this wonderful coconut-banana bread. It is best to buy the unrefined oil that has a richer aroma and flavour than its refined counterpart. I also keep a little dish of it on my kitchen bench to use as a natural, cook-friendly moisturiser for my hands!
This very "thirsty" flour is made from the pulp left over from coconut milk production. This pulp is dried out and then ground into a finely textured, gluten-free flour. The main thing to remember when using coconut flour in your baking is to not substitute it for wheat or other grain-based flours at a 1:1 ratio. It is an incredibly absorbent flour and generally you will only need ¼-? of the original flour in a recipe when substituting. You will also have to add more eggs and liquid to compensate for the nature of coconut flour (generally, a recipe using 1 cup coconut flour will need both 6 eggs and 1 cup liquid). Experimenting with coconut flour can be a little disheartening, not to mention expensive, if you are unfamiliar with the way it behaves in baking. I would, therefore, highly recommend you start with established recipes, such as this gluten-free coconut and raspberry brownies, before attempting to adapt recipes using other flours.
Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. Read our interview with her or for hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Tina McLeish.
Zulu tiles from Onsite. Tam small dip bowl in poppy red (shredded coconut) and black (coconut flour) both form Country Road; flared bowl in colour orange (desiccated coconut) from Mud.
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