What is coconut sugar?
Coconut sugar is produced from the fresh sap in the flower buds of the coconut palm. The sap is heated to evaporate the water, then the remaining syrup is reduced to a coarse caramel-coloured sugar - not to be confused with palm sugar, which comes from the sugar date palm.
Why do we care?
Claims that coconut sugar has a much lower GI and higher mineral content than other sugars are unsubstantiated. It's more environmentally friendly than cane sugar, however - the yield from a coconut palm plantation is at least 50 per cent more per hectare than sugarcane, with far less drain on the soil nutrients.
But we love it for its rich toffee flavour - it's so much more interesting than cane sugar or brown sugar. Used one for one in place of brown sugar, the result will be a little less sweet, too, which is a plus.
Where can I get coconut sugar?
Health-food shops are the place to go for coconut sugar, although many supermarkets also stock it.
How should I use coconut sugar?
Coconut sugar is a baker's best friend, adding a little something special to biscuits, slices, cakes and more.
COCONUT SUGAR RECIPES
Spiced coconut sugar cookies
Preheat oven to 160C and line a couple of baking trays with baking paper. Beat 200gm coconut sugar and 125gm softened butter in an electric mixer until light and fluffy (1-2 minutes), then beat in 1 egg and 1 tsp vanilla bean paste. Stir in 160gm plain flour, 2 tbsp cornflour, ½ tsp baking powder, ½ tsp each ground cinnamon and finely grated nutmeg, ¼ tsp ground cloves and a generous pinch of salt until a soft dough forms. Roll into 12 even-sized balls and place on prepared trays, leaving about 8cm between each for cookies to spread. Press to flatten slightly, then scatter each cookie with a little extra sugar and a little sea salt and bake until browned around the edges (10-12 minutes). Cool on trays and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Coconut sugar caramel sauce
Makes about 250ml
Stir 100gm coconut sugar, 2½ tbsp honey and 50gm diced butter or softened coconut oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and cook, stirring once or twice, until thickened (1-2minutes). Add 150ml cream, gently stir to combine, then cook until sauce thinly coats the back of a spoon (3-4 minutes). Stir in 1 tsp vanilla bean paste and a good pinch of salt, and serve warm over ice-cream.