Working with a new ingredient is always a daunting exercise, and doubly so if it involves baking, a procedure that requires more precision than most others in the kitchen. Coconut flour was one such new ingredient – one I produced myself (see Milk & Flour). Because the coconut milk is extracted first from the coconut and the flour is ground fine from the remaining dried fibers, it does not work in the same way as baking with desiccated coconut.
The first thing that occurred to me was to find out as much as possible about the nature of coconut flour. Although it does taste and smell of coconut, the flavor is less intense. It also has different properties than other flours. Most sites I consulted recommended using already established recipes that use coconut flour. I have to say, that statement was like a red rag to a bull. Where exactly is the fun in following someone else’s recipe to the letter?
The most important fact I learned was that coconut flour cannot be substituted on a 1:1 ratio for wheat flour; less is required. It also requires a binding agent (such as eggs). Many recipes combine other gluten free flours to reduce the fiber and it has even been suggested to me by Elaine@foodbod that mashed beans can be used. Less sugar is needed since coconut flour does have some sweetness already. Moistening ingredients are also important as coconut flour really soaks up liquid. With those things in mind, I felt it was best to move on to the next stage – trial and error.
My first attempts were okay – a kind of chocolate chip cookie with hazelnuts. However, the dough was very crumbly, taking a quite a bit of care in forming the cookie. The baked cookie was also grainy in texture – the fiber of the coconut was a bit too evident, although the interior of the cookie was fluffy enough. The problem here, I felt, was using 100% coconut flour. The following is my revised recipe, adding rice flour, increasing the amount of butter, and substituting the golden syrup for sugar and moister glacé cherries instead of hazelnuts.
Coconut, Chocolate & Cherry Cookies
I think there is a good balance of coconut flour in this recipe, although if I make this again, I may try adding equal amounts of rice flour to coconut flour. It’s a soft cookie, slightly nutty in taste.
Makes about 3 dozen
- 3/4 cup coconut flour
- 1/2 cup milk
- 4 oz. butter (1 “stick”)
- 1/4 cup golden syrup (= light Karo syrup)
- 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup rice flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup chopped glacé cherries
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Measure out the coconut flour (do not compact) and place it in a small bowl and pour on the milk. The coconut flour will immediately begin to swell. Stir and let sit for at least half an hour.
In the mixer, cream butter and add the syrup, mixing until smooth. Add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, then the vanilla mixing until incorporated, although the butter will separate somewhat. Measure out the rice flour and the baking soda. Mix in these dry ingredients and blend. Add the milk-soaked coconut flour. It will be a slightly grainy mixture due to the nature of the coconut flour.
Chop the cherries and add these plus the chocolate chips. Stir until they are mixed in. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a baking tray by lining it with baking parchment. Allowing the mixture to sit for a while while the oven preheats will let the coconut flour absorb more of the moisture and the dough to become more pliable. The mixture will need re-stirring as some of the moisture will have seeped.
Taking a spoonful of the mixture, drop it onto the baking parchment, keeping a little room between. The dough will still be a bit crumbly, so take care in spooning it onto the baking tray. Bake in oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on a rack and store in an air tight container. The cookies will soften as they cool.
Next … coconut flour cake or muffins?
Notes and Results of the Experiments:
- Coconut flour is not the easiest flour to work with and probably would not be my first choice of a gluten free flour.
- It is best combined with other gluten free flours or other starchy ingredients.
- Add extra eggs as these work as a binding agent.
- Moisture is a key element to add to any recipe involving coconut flour. The next three notes relate to moisture.
- Syrups rather than sugars also work well.
- A resting period for the dough is advised.
- Soaking the coconut flour before adding to the dough really helps absorption, and is probably an essential technique when dealing with this flour.
- Above all, continue experimenting and don’t let anyone tell you that you should only follow accepted recipes.