Monday, January 13, 2014

Ode to Coconut and, a Bit of Kitchen Chemistry

Toasted Coconut Pancakes . . . I know I had you at toasted. We love pancakes in our house, and I find it easy to make pancakes that are delicious and also pack in a lot of nutrition.

Toasted Coconut Pancakes
For these pancakes I use shredded coconut, coconut sugar, coconut milk and coconut oil. You know what they always say,  "Go coconut, or go home!"

Holding all that coconut together are whole grain flours, a touch of almond extract (I find it enhances the coconut flavor), and buttermilk. The buttermilk is important. It plays a vital role in making a fluffy pancake with a tender crumb. Why? Because of its acid content.

Quick breads, things like pancakes and muffins, owe their rise to a bit of simple chemistry. It is the same reaction that produces those science fair "volcanoes". The reaction of Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and acid. Combine baking soda, and vinegar (or lemon juice, or buttermilk), and you get Carbon dioxide and water. The Carbon dioxide gas gets trapped as bubbles in the batter resulting in light airy pancakes.

There is not much point in adding baking soda to a batter that doesn't have any acid in it. It won't have anything to react with. If you're batter doesn't call for an acidic ingredient, baking powder will be your leavening agent. Baking powder is baking soda with the acid already added, usually in the form of potassium bitartrate, also known as "cream of tartar". In fact, if you run out of baking powder, you can substitute baking soda with the addition of vinegar, lemon juice, or cream of tartar.

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Ok, back to the toasted coconut. Do you know how good coconut smells when it is toasting? Crazy good! I seriously adore it. To start making these pancakes, set your broiler to low. Spread shredded coconut in a thin, even layer on a baking sheet. Set it on the middle rack of the oven. Then just stand there.

I know, it's hard to just stand there and not start doing other things.  Trust me it's worth it. Think of it as a few minutes of meditation; be fully present in the moment, with your coconut. You will be rewarded for your efforts by a greater sense of calm, and the amazing smell of perfectly toasted coconut. You want it just the softest shade of brown. It should look a lot like the latte you are drinking.

Now that you are in coconut heaven, let the coconut cool while you mix the rest of the ingredients for your pancakes. Then enjoy (with your latte of course)!

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