My coconut flour pancakes taste like dirt and disappointment
November 21, 2013 8:50 AM   Subscribe

In an attempt to embrace my gluten intolerance, I purchased some coconut flour. Things have not gone well. I've had problems with another GF flour mix I have. WTF is going on.

The first thing I made was coconut flour banana bread and it was incredible. My non-gluten-sensitive husband snarffed it down too, declaring it awesome even by normal gluten-eating standards. It was lovely and dense and moist and flavourfull. However the second time I made it with the exact same recipe with the exact same flour it tasted awful. AWFUL. Like dirt. It had to be binned, it was that bad.

I decided to try something else with it. Everyone on the interwebs said that coconut flour makes great pancakes. So I found a GF coconut flour pancake recipe that was well reviewed, followed it to a T, but again... disaster and horribleness. One bite and both my husband and I were all "Uggggh! Dirt!". Totally inedible. The whole thing got binned.

I also have some GF flour mix that I got from Costco. Cloud 9 or something. I made pancakes with it and they were awful. I made chocolate chip cookies with it and they were fabulous. My gluten-eating son declared them the best chocolate cookies he had ever had. When I made the EXACT SAME RECIPE with that flour a second time a month or so later the batter ended up gummy and like glue, and the cookies ended up cakey and kind of nasty. My disappointment was epic.

What the eff am I doing wrong?! Why was it so good the first time I made banana bread but not any time since? Why did my cookies made with GF flour taste so good the first time but were awful and gummy and cakey the second time?!

I am someone who enjoys baking and who is awesome at it. Screw modesty, I know I am a great baker. My (wheat flour) pie dough is perfection. My (wheat flour) cookies are amazing. My(wheat flour) cakes never fail to impress. That was all before this god damned stupid gluten intolerance took hold. I can still cook gluten baked goods for other people that are wonderful (or so I am told) but I am god damned pissed off that I am apparently unable to make enjoyable gluten free baked goods for me. Yes, I know, there are naturally gluten free things that taste good so I should just stick to those instead of trying to make gluten free versions of these things. I made a flourless chocolate cake that was incredible. I make an amazing creme brule. The reality is that I want my effing baked goods. Even if I only make these things twice a year I need to know I CAN if I want to. I get that I can never have delicious chewy wonderful pan rolls again for the rest of my life, but for christ's sake I should be able to eat chocolate chip cookies!!

Please help me.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Did your flour go rancid? Did you keep it in the freezer? Many flours do not last at room temperature very long.
posted by Requiax at 8:54 AM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have had similar problems. I would recommend measuring everything on a digital scale as you make it the first time. Just set the bowl on the scale, tare before adding each ingredient, and make a note of the weight. This should help you be much more consistent each time you make it.
posted by carolr at 8:58 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it sounds like your flour is going bad. Differences in water temp/quality could be at play, too (I've had the best results getting fluffy GF bread by using room-temperature seltzer--the carbonation helps the bread not turn into a brick.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:58 AM on November 21, 2013

Seconding "it might've gone rancid" - coconut flour's higher in fat than other flours, PLUS it's probably been on the supermarket shelf for longer (given that it's a specialty item).

Re: the Cloud 9 GF flour. Their website says the flour contains "a blend of Rice Flour, Buckwheat, Corn Starch, Potato Starch, Tapioca Starch & Xanthan Gum". None of those seem likely to go rancid, but I think a few of 'em might taste kinda WEIRD if not cooked super-duper thoroughly. Like, you can make slightly-underdone wheat-flour baked goods that taste great, but when relying heavily on alternate starches, their individual "weird" flavors might be more prominent when underdone.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:59 AM on November 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

I have a friend who is GF and constantly experimenting. Her latest "yes!" is the King Arthur Flour GF baking mix biscuits, which she uses to top a chicken pot pie.

Another GF thing to try might be straight buckwheat (Ployes). I've used it for crepes and pancakes.

I will see if I can get her latest successful bread recipe and post it here or MeMail you if you want. Pretty sure none of it involved coconut flour.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:04 AM on November 21, 2013

I haven't come across this coconut flour before but I use desiccated coconut powder in things, which changes markedly when mixed with water. Could it be that the coconut flour behaves properly for you just after the package has been opened, but then the container isn't airtight enough or something and just the humidity in the air has changed it by the next time you use it?
posted by XMLicious at 9:06 AM on November 21, 2013

Not coconut flour, but when I'm in the mood for a pancake, I use this Almond Flour recipe.


1 cup almond meal
2 eggs
1/4 cup water (for puffier pancakes, you can use sparkling water)
2 T oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 T sweetener

Mix ingredients together and cook as you would other pancakes. I like to use a nonstick pan with a little oil. The only real difference is that they won't "bubble" on top the same way as regular pancakes. Flip them when the underside is brown.

I don't usually have any plain sparkling water laying around but in a moment of awesomeness I did have Coconut Pineapple Sparkling Ice water. Which is let me tell you, awesome.

Another gluten free/low carb breakfast I do a lot is Flax Porridge.

3 T of Flax, 1 scoop of Protein powder (I usually double the recipe) also makes a pretty hearty flax porridge for breakfast. After mixing in hot water, throw in a little butter/cream and you are good to go. Nuke for 20 seconds for a slightly different texture. Almost half porridge half bread pudding.
posted by PlutoniumX at 9:29 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

The last comment on this blog about coconut flour mentions it tasting like dirt, so you're not alone. They also list some websites for better coconut recipe info in the comments.

My friend's best bread recipe came about by accident. She used the Four Flour mix by Bette Hagman (she uses her gourment GF book a lot). Then by mistake, she used the recipe geared for the Featherlight mix and said it came out really well.

It's definitely a science-y type of experimentation and she keeps copious notes as she goes along.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:38 AM on November 21, 2013

I'm a big fan of the Pamela's Pancake Mix and use it as a wheat flour replacement all the time.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:52 AM on November 21, 2013

Response by poster: Okay, I had NO IDEA that coconut flour can go rancid. What the hell. Add one more to the "Gluten Free is a god damned pain in the ass" column.

So, I need to keep it in the freezer? How long does it last in the cupboard vs. in the freezer? I really like the idea of coconut flour. I like the high fiber, low carb, dense aspect, and I frankly love coconut, so if I can figure out how to use the stuff I'd be happy.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:01 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

You really have to experiment around.

Good GF recipes call for a mixture of different types of flour. Brown Rice Flour is very nice, Tapioca Flour is very fine powdery, like corn starch, but it's dirt cheap at Asian grocery stores. I got some Amaranth flour. Potato starch will work too. And our old friend buckwheat.

What I'd do is use a good Buckwheat pancake recipe, and where it says "all-purpose flour" just do equal parts of Brown Rice Flour, Tapioca Flour and Tapioca flour. Also, double the baking powder. Done and done.

For some reason one type of GF flour is gross, but I've has a lot of success with mixing flours.

I'm still casting about for a great pizza crust recipe. Most I've used, including Bob's Red Mill mix are meh. I stumbled across this one (notice the diversity of the flours) so as soon as I can accumulate the flours, I'm going for it!

It's a journey. Hang in there!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:02 AM on November 21, 2013

A couple I know consists of the following two people:

SHE: Gluten-free diet, for health reasons.
HE: Longtime baker and pancake fiend.

It's been a learning curve for them both - especially him - and I check with them about gluten-free baking as a result; he says that the biggest challenge with gluten-free baking is a textural one. The gluten in wheat flour just does something structurally to the baked good, and that's why there are so many weird starches and xanthan gums and what-not in a lot of gluten-free recipes - it's meant to replace the flour. And however much of whatever you use depends on the kind of Flour Replacement Method you also use. So it may not be the flour as such.

For pancakes, they swear by Bob's Mill Pancake And Biscuit Mix. I also tried it to top some pot pies for a dinner party with a mix of GF and non-GF people, and all in attendance liked it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:05 AM on November 21, 2013

Check out this gf-girl's hacks to all our flour problems. I have it bookmarked and go back often when I want to bake something.

Generally though, I find that it took me a while until I found a flour mix I liked. I tried several. Now I read the labels, if it is only rice & maize and some additives, no thank you, likely will taste like cardboard.
I have several different flours (white rice, brown rice, millet, buckwheat, soy, corn starch, potato starch, sure forgetting something) at home and just mix and match depending on the type of dough. Not every flour works for every recipe. There is no magic no-wheat flour with all the characteristics like wheat flour. Find a good combination of a few different flours and it should work better.
posted by travelwithcats at 10:32 AM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Okay, now read the question and the replies. Sounds like it might be a storage problem you had.

I also find that gluten free flour tends to need way more liquids compared to wheat flour. So any time I try to make a traditional recipe gluten free, it's a bit of a challenge to adjust liquids. Maybe that is part of your bad results?

I believe you're a kick-ass baker, and I am confident you can hack this!

How about carrot cake? Does not need much in terms of flour.
How about a sponge cake with only starch? Icing & fruit can totally transform it.
posted by travelwithcats at 10:47 AM on November 21, 2013

Yeah, just stop with all the crazy flours. Unless you were really into meticulous baking beforehand, it will drive you crazy and broke. Get a good cup-for-cup GF flour, like Mr. Ritts and use it in all of your regular recipes.*

You actually want to minimize the gluten development in pancakes, so making them with GF flour can actually yield tastier results (same goes for cupcakes). GF flour will dry out your baked goods more though, so add a touch of sour cream or yogurt to keep things moist. GF homemade cookies have a shorter shelf life in terms of taste/texture, so best to make them on the day you plan to consume them. You can make the cookie batter beforehand and freeze/refrigerate it until you're ready to bake.

I made my own (small, 2-tier) wedding cake using gluten free flour and according to Mr. Saurus (who emphatically does not lie about food quality) it was the best cake he's ever had - glutinous or GF.

So, tasty treats are still in your future.

*My mom is an avid cook/baker, GF for past 10 yrs or so; her local celiac support group of 50ish people did a taste test of the various flours, with Mr. Ritts being the overall winner.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:50 PM on November 21, 2013

I have had consistent cookie and cake success with Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour. I've also used it on eggplant before frying and it looked and tasted good. I keep it in the freezer. I don't bake often enough to want to fuss with 3-4 different flours.
posted by fozzie_bear at 1:14 PM on November 21, 2013

My coworker who bakes gluten free regularly says:

"I avoid coconut flour for that reason. I use shelf-stable stuff. Could also be the water. I buy distilled water for baking, I never use tap."
posted by kbuxton at 1:17 PM on November 21, 2013

Is your place of living really humid? maybe you're getting bacteria growth or something weird in the flour. I would definitely try the freezer next time, and I'm wondering if coconut flour, which is like.. a "thirsty" flour, is soaking up air humidity and acquiring a gross taste from it? I haven't worked with many other GF flours other than coconut and almond, but coconut flour can soak up so much liquid I wouldn't be surprised if it's pulling humidity out of the air if it's not sealed super tight.

mine is in a gold foil bag and kept in my fairly cool kitchen cupboard and it's been good for like 3 months at least. and I have a CRAZY nose for rancid, because I hate that smell and taste. but I also live in arid wintry calgary, so I haven't got much humidity to suck up.
posted by euphoria066 at 1:39 PM on November 21, 2013

Anything oily, including whole wheat flour, can go rancid. I keep any oddball flours and meals in the freezer. Something else may be the culprit but, to see a pattern, you need to reduce the variables. I'd stick with one brand of GF all-purpose flour until you get reproducible results, then start trying strange flours.
posted by Foam Pants at 4:55 PM on November 21, 2013

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