There are many things that I love about writing this blog. The sense of excitement that came from starting a new adventure after saying goodbye to my former longtime career, the satisfaction that came from finally doing something I had long dreamed about and recently, a new one that I had never even thought about before.
I began to realize just how much writing a food blog opens your mind to trying new ingredients. I think in general I do have a fairly good sense of adventure when it comes to trying new things, but there are many ingredients that have truly never crossed my mind before. When one of your main focuses becomes your blog and the topic is food, it happens organically quite often. Sometimes it happens because I seek out new things to try and on occasion, thanks to my wife Lori, a new ingredient just falls into my lap!
Ever since Karen and I started this blog, Lori has enjoyed shopping for random ingredients to stock in the house. She has told me that she likes seeing what they will magically turn into. It started last winter and continued this one with various vegetables that I found myself roasting and turning into soups to share on our lunch breaks – perfect for the cold winter days.
She doesn’t always just present me with veggies though, sometimes an ingredient I have never even thought about will appear. Last weekend after our grocery order was delivered and we finished unpacking and putting everything away, I sat back down to finish my morning coffee. As I grabbed my cup to take a sip, she placed a bag of coconut flour on the counter in front of me and smiled and walked away. I think she enjoys sitting back and watching me in the moments that follow because she knows more often than not the item she placed before me will get stuck in my head, much like a song can get stuck in there!
I took a few more sips of my coffee as I stared at that bag and I didn’t disappoint her as the show began! Two minutes later my phone was in my hand and I was reading about it. I learned about suggested amounts to use in place of regular flour, about how it absorbs a great deal of moisture so you need to add enough liquid to prevent what you’re making from getting dry and how depending on what you are making, some coconut flavor can come through in what you make.
With that bit of information in my head, I began to think about what I should make for my first time using coconut flour. It would need to be something that I didn’t think would end up being dry when done, while at the same time tasting okay if some coconut flavor did come through. Almost immediately I thought “brownies!”
Not too long ago in our most recent round of Angie’s Kitchen, we made brownies. I joked at the end of round 2 that I liked my changes to the original recipe, but there were other things I would also like to try and that perhaps it was time for brownies 3.0. I didn’t expect that I would be working on a 3.0 recipe idea so soon after that, nor did I even remotely think that using coconut flour would be one of the changes I made, but nevertheless, here we are!
I decided to work with my 2.0 recipe and tweak it just a bit. I lowered the amount of butter back to 4 tablespoons as it was in my grandmother’s original recipe, but I kept the extra egg for moisture. In our Angie’s kitchen post we also spoke about baking powder and how some brownie recipes use it and some don’t. Grandma’s recipe didn’t use it and I kept it that way in my 2.0 update. For this recipe, not knowing how coconut flour would act with no leavening agent, I opted to add a small amount. Finally, of course, the regular flour was swapped with coconut flour.
After I mixed up the batter, I found it to be a bit dense. That didn’t totally concern me as that is not unusual with brownie batter, but to err on the side of caution I went ahead and added a touch of extra moisture with a bit of oil. I decided at that point that it was time to bake them up and see what happened and off they went into the oven, less than 90 minutes after Lori put the bag of flour in front of me!
After cooling and cutting them, it was time to dive in and have a taste. You never know what you will end up with when you try something new, but this one was a pleasant surprise. Everyone in the family loved them – they were moist and chewy and the brownie flavor came through perfectly.
My wife and son both said they tasted just like a regular brownie and they didn’t really taste the coconut. I agreed that the taste was very much like a brownie, but for me, there was a bit of coconut flavor that came through. I like coconut, so I didn’t mind it and chocolate pairs well with coconut which was in part what influenced my decision to try brownies first.
Later that night, I still had coconut flour on my mind and I started to think about how that flavor also pairs nicely with almond. I remembered a delicious coconut almond macaroon that we used to get a long time ago in college when we used to go to Atlantic City. I wondered if I could create a cookie that was similar in flavor to those macaroons by using the coconut flour, pulverized almonds and some almond extract. The next morning I was back in the kitchen writing out a recipe to test and mixing up the dough. It smelled very much like it would have the flavor I was hoping for, but you never really know until the taste test. I rolled up the cookies and into the oven they went.
For my brownies, I think a combination of wise ingredient choices contributed to their success along with perhaps a touch of beginners luck. For my second attempt, the coconut almond cookies, it appeared as if that beginners luck had run out! I wouldn’t necessarily say that my ingredient choices were bad, but rather that the amount of each ingredient used did not add up to a great success.
I was hoping they would flatten out more during baking, but they retained the ball shape. That certainly is not the worst thing though, many cookies remain that way after they are done baking. While I would still like to change that, the bigger issues with the cookie were with texture and flavor.
The almond flavor was there, but it felt a bit like it was hiding just under the surface waiting to fully come out. When I create a new recipe idea, I am generally of the mind that less is more. Why dump in a half a cup of sugar, when a third will do? Sometimes that gamble pays off, and other times it doesn’t. In this case, using less sugar resulted in a cookie that just plain wasn’t sweet enough, and I think that lack of sweetness is what also caused the full almond flavor to not come through.
The other big issue I had with the cookie was the lack of moisture. From my research I knew that this can be an issue when using coconut flour and while I successfully hit the nail on the head in that area with the brownies, I fell short with the cookies. They weren’t completely dry, but they were dry enough to make the eating experience somewhat unpleasant. I’ve mentioned in past entries that when I create a new recipe, I generally rate it in one of three ways:
- An instant keeper!
- Try, try again – it didn’t hit the mark, but there is good potential there.
- Throw away this recipe idea and never speak of it again!
I rate these cookies a 2 – there is definitely potential there. One day they will hopefully make a triumphant return to blog. In the meantime, I am happy to share the brownie recipe with you today. While a rating of 1 is often a little more elusive than a rating of 2, I am happy to say that I would rate them a 1.
Brownies 3.0 – Coconut Flour Brownies
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 ounces 72% dark chocolate
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 1/2 cup coconut flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Slowly melt together the butter and chocolate in the microwave until smooth and just melted. I like to use the defrost setting in 30 to 60 second increments for melting butter and chocolate. I feel like it gives you more control in getting there slowly without making the mixture too hot for adding the eggs.
Stir the sugar, vanilla, eggs and oil into the melted butter and chocolate mixture until well combined, then add in the coconut flour and baking powder and stir until the dry ingredients are just moistened well.
While the mixture sits for a few minutes to allow the coconut flour to begin to absorb some of the moisture, grease a 7 inch square pan. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 25 to 27 minutes, allow to cool and then cut into 16 squares and serve.
If you have worked with coconut flour before, I would love to hear about some of your experiences or tips you have found helpful when using it. Also, if you try the brownie recipe, please let me know what you think. Until next time, I hope you have a great weekend!