There are different kinds of grains and a few other substances, like Xanthan Gum, that are used successfully in gluten-free baking mixes to approximate the qualities of wheat flour and, to a lesser degree, spelt flour. But those who are exploring the use of Coconut Flour need to know that the ground-up coconut meat is not, in itself and by itself, interchangeable with flour made from grain.
Those who know of the existence of coconut flour can be all gung-ho to use it instead of grain flour. But this flour has properties all its own. For one thing, 40% of the total flour is dietary fiber, which will definitely help to lower blood sugar.
The protein in coconut flour is entirely free of gluten (which only occurs in wheat) ahd helps burn fat. You might not think of coconut as doing this, but for many if not most of us, our exposure to coconut has been pretty much as candy in one form or another.
Sweetened coconut is indeed yummy, but its fibers also can turn into tasteless shreds that are hard to get out of your mouth, much like raw carrots. The person who thought of grinding coconut into flour was brilliant.
During World War II the Japanese Empire occupied Guam, and some members of my in-law family there were employed as slave laborers to produce coconut oil. In fact, there are a lot of people from Guam and the Philippines, as well as other Pacific communities, who know how to make coconut oil. The best that I ever found comes from Palau.
Coconut oil is made by boiling down the coconut "milk" until it becomes an oil, which you can almost see if you buy regular coconut milk instead of the canned "light" kind or the one that comes boxed in the dairy section. If you cook that coconut milk down further and filter it, you'll end up with coconut oil, although I wouldn't myself because I have no experience doing it and anyway, the oil in the stores today is wonderful. Check at Sprouts or Whole Foods in Tucson and you will find several different kinds.
But when you actually have coconut flour, the thing to do is use it strategically to make things that have both the lovely flavor of coconut and are good to eat. The texture of baked goods is as important as their flavor, so you don't just throw the coconut flour into a recipe without reading the package instructions.
If you do, you will find that it should be used on a 1:4 ratio with any other flour. Coconut flour is extremely absorbent, and it has the potential to spoil a recipe if you don't look before you cook. Therefore, a recipe that calls for a cup of flour can take 1/4 cup of coconut flour combined with 3/4 cup of spelt or all-purpose flour and be successful (don't use "bread flour" for anything but bread).
So here is a recipe that will permit you to make a Coconut-Banana Bread that will work, bringing both the flour and the oil to bear to add another level of complexity to one of America's favorite comfort foods.
COCONUT BANANA BREAD
From Cafe Margot
1-1/4 cup all-purpose or Spelt flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup sugar or Splenda Bake
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup ground walnuts or pecans
1 large egg at room temperature
3 ripe bananas
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a loaf pan for the banana bread.
Using the low speed of an electric mixer, break up the bananas by beating them with the egg. When they are well combined, mix in the oil and vanilla and set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, sugar and baking powder. Keeping the electric mixer on its lowest speed, mix the dry ingredients into the banana mixture. Finally fold in the ground nuts.
Turn the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake it for 40 minutes before checking to see that it is done. It will probably crack down the middle and the area within the crack should not be liquid. The loaf will also brown lightly.
Remove the banana bread from the oven and let it cool on a safe surface until the heat is no longer dangerous to handle. Slice the loaf and serve warm, or freeze for later use.
I find that slicing bread just after cooling it makes it more convenient to use; I also have bakeries slice the bread that I buy before I take it home.
You will also notice that my coconut-flour ratio is a bit higher than 1:4 but this proportion is close enough to work. You could also put flaked sweetened coconut into this bread, but I am still looking for sweetened coconut that is not infested with high-fructose corn syrup, so I don't buy it.