Cracking Coconut Sugar 101 + The Best Toffee Roasted Macadamia Recipe
With the clean eating and healthy lifestyle worlds becoming more apparent than ever, consumers are looking for more natural alternatives to refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. One of nature's best natural sweeteners I have found to date is coconut sugar, and I am going to show you just how this ‘superfood’ is derived and how it can replace all of the regular sweeteners in your pantry.
In October 2013, I ventured 7,000km’s to Sri Lanka to road trip their beautiful country with my native Sri Lankan born food professor friend. It was an incredible experience, and I was privileged enough to learn first hand how to process almost every coconut product you see to date in Western societies health food stores and supermarkets. It was truly an incredible life changing experience to witness first hand just how some of my favourite foods are produced.
The technical processing of coconut sugar
Coconut sugar is derived from the sap of the coconut tree, which is a sugary sap found when cutting the flower in the very tops of the coconut tree. Coconut sugar is often confused with Palm sugar, which is similar but made from a different type of palm tree. The Sri Lankan practice of farming this beautiful sap is by hanging charcoal painted black clay pots in the trees that rest collecting the sap. The reason for using charcoal painted black clay pots is to stop the fermenting process happening before reaching its boiling stage. If the sap ferments too quickly it becomes ‘totty’ a natural alcoholic drink loved by many South Pacific and Asian countries. ‘Totty’ is very strong, and tastes like a sweet but very strong Vodka.
In Sri Lanka, there are two lines of rope fastened very tightly between the tops of coconut trees. One for walking across and the other for helping you keep your balance. Most harvesters over there are very quick at running between trees, with some trees averaging 100 feet in height. Once the clay pot is full of sap they drop them directly down to the bottom of the coconut tree by rope where the other farmers will quickly collect them and place them in a larger vat to boil straight away. As I mentioned earlier, without the boiling process the sap ferments to ‘totty’.
Once this process is finished, they send the vat off to the manufacturing plant where they continue to ferment the sap turning it into a thick syrup. Various types of coconut products such as coconut syrup, coconut amino seasoning, coconut vinegar and of course beautiful coconut sugar are made from the sap of the coconut tree.
To crystalise coconut sugar from the thick sap it roughly takes around 6-8 weeks from the original harvesting process. Once crystallising has been finished the stock is then ready for dispatch to their destination. The processing of coconut sugar is a very lengthy process, and it truly is food that takes a lot of time to produce. This is why I love coconut sugar; there is such an art to creating this beautiful product.
In my time in the coconut industry I have had numerous of clients ask me if coconut sap harvesting is ruining coconut trees coconut reproduction by cutting the flower. There is literature out there on the internet by a few U.S. companies I have seen which say so however on my travels throughout the Pacific and Asia I have asked this same question and all the growers have told me it almost doubles the reproduction rate and they get a higher yield of nuts.
Benefits of coconut sugar
Apart from tasting great coconut sugar has many advantages over regular sugars and sweeteners. Coconut sugar has a low glycemic index of 35. It contains several minerals such as potassium, zinc, calcium, iron and contains a fibre called inulin, which explains why it slows glucose absorption and has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar. In saying that, look for suppliers of coconut sugar that have done a glycemic index test in Australia to Australian laboratory standards. The test is around the $3,000 AUD mark, and you would be surprised at how many importers do not do this. This will also ensure that the coconut sugar is not blended with cane sugar, sadly, something working in the coconut industry I have heard many times before.
What makes coconut sugar so great is its processing as you read above. It is a much more natural process than your regular sugars, and after all, I feel this is what health inspired foodies such as myself are looking for, something that is natural with no additives, preservatives and fillers. In saying all of this, natural or not, this product is still a sugar and should be consumed in moderation with a healthy balanced diet.
The best part of coconut sugar
I believe the best part of coconut sugar is that it generates income to some of the poorest countries in the world and to some of the parts I have travelled to around the world have sustained their entire villages and lives from a simple coconut.
As a foodie, it also resembles regular sugar to a 1:1 ratio which is perfect for creating your favourite recipes replacing regular or brown sugar for coconut sugar. Apart from fuelling the economies in some of the world's poorest countries it also makes the most amazing caramel when baked. When baked it almost liquefies to its natural sap state and resembles a caramel sauce which tastes simply amazing when oven roasting nuts such as macadamias. Some of my favourite recipes to date are coconut scroll scones with coconut sugar rolled in the middle of the scones, or the good old fashioned sticky date pudding.
With all this delicious food talk, here is the recipe for my most beloved coconut toffee macadamias.
Coconut Toffee Macadamias
Quite possibly the best 3pm snack you will ever taste!
GLUTEN FREE | PALEO | VEGAN | DAIRY FREE
Approx. $7.38 AUD per batch - $0.73 AUD per serve
Equipment Required: Baking tray & oven
1 cup macadamias or cashews, diced
2 tbsp. coconut nectar syrup
½ cup coconut sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C or 320°F.
2. Prepare a flat baking tray with baking paper.
3. Combine macadamias, coconut nectar and coconut sugar in a bowl.
4. Spread mixture evenly onto baking tray and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until coconut sugar is melted.
5. Once cooked allow to cool then place in an airtight jar.
Article by: Brynley King
A blogger of all things coconut from - www.goingcoconuts.com.au and Banaban Virgin Coconut Oil’s Creative Director - Bryn is Australia’s Certified Organic under 30 winner, Going Coconuts Recipe App Creator, International Published Author of Going Coconuts (Australia) & Superfood Kokos (Europe). // You can also check out Bryn’s latest and best selling Going Coconuts Baking Mixes including healthy sticky date + cinnamon donuts in all good health food stores across Australia & New Zealand <3