A few days ago I saw my friend Sheila, with whom I play mahjongg, and she suggested that I write a post about gluten-free foods. It just so happened that I had some organic coconut flour in my pantry so I thought her idea was a timely one.
Coconut flour is a soft flour made from fresh coconut meat, naturally processed without heat and it is a gluten-free, low glycemic alternative to wheat and grain flours. It is high in fiber, rich in protein, and low in carbohydrates. My husband Dave, who has insulin-dependent diabetes, noticed the “low glycemic” descriptor right away. “Low glycemic” means a food won’t raise blood sugar as much as some other foods (containing larger amounts of glucose) will, with bread and potatoes at the high end of the scale.
Coconut flour is different from any flour I’ve ever used before. Coconut flour soaks up liquid like a sponge so that a smaller amount of flour is needed but more liquid and eggs are needed to supply moisture in the recipe. For every 1/2 cup of coconut flour used, 2-3 eggs and 1/2 cup liquid, such as coconut milk, are needed. The eggs act as a binder, in place of gluten in a gluten-free recipe. Coconut flour is not equivalent to wheat flour (or other grain flours) and can’t be substituted at a 1:1 ration. Very little coconut flour is needed to successfully produce a recipe.
When baking, substitute 1/4 – 1/3 cup coconut flour for every 1 cup of grain-based flour. Coconut flour can get clumpy so sifting or stirring it before measuring is advised. For frying or sauteing meat or vegetables can be dredged in coconut flour.
Coconut flour is produced by the Philippines, Sri Lanka and India. It’s interesting that the Philippines also produces coconut oil and other products that fully make use of coconuts. Coconut flour should be stored in an airtight container preferably in the refrigerator or freezer to preserve freshness.
Gluten is a protein present in cereal grains, particularly wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. Gluten helps food maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. In addition to wheat, gluten is found in wheat germ, rye, barley, bulgur, coucous, farina, graham flour, kamut, matzo, semolina, spelt, triticale, durum wheat and cake flour. For people diagnosed with celiac disease, the basic treatment is a strict, lifelong Gluten-Free Diet.
According to the Mayo Clinic, celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. Eating gluten triggers an immune response in the small intestine that over time produces inflammation that damages the small intestine’s lining. This damage may prevent absorption of some nutrients by the small intestine.
Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, gas, bloating, malabsorption, and weight loss. Celiac disease affects 1% of the people living in Western countries. Eliminating gluten from the diet allows the gut to heal. It’s important for people with celiac disease to adhere to a Gluten-Free Diet because this diet is the only treatment for celiac disease. (More information on celiac disease is beyond the scope of this post. For more information, google “celiac disease” and “gluten-free foods.”)
Two Gluten-Free Recipes
Coconut flour produces some really good dishes – such as Coconut Custard Cake and Coconut Pancakes. Both recipes come together quickly and easily. Coconut Custard Cake is a great gluten-free dessert made with coconut flour, honey, vanilla, coconut flakes and chocolate chips. It’s baked in an 8″ cake pan and makes 6-9 servings, depending on how it’s sliced. For the complete recipe, click here.
Gluten-Free Coconut Pancakes are quick and easy to prepare. Place all the ingredients in a blender and mix completely. The blender pitcher makes pouring the batter onto the griddle or skillet an easy task. Let the pancakes bake until lightly browned on each side. Delicious with butter and syrup or any toppings you desire! For the recipe, click here.
Coconut flour is a versatile ingredient in many dishes. People with celiac disease or other gluten sensitive conditions and/or those desiring food with a low glycemic index may benefit by using coconut flour. Try some coconut flour today!
Remember to savor the flavor!
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