|Culturing Coconut Milk|
with Water Kefir Grains
There are some of us who cannot use dairy products in our cooking and while this presents nutritional challenges it also presents culinary challenges. I will address the calcium issue later, but for now I want to talk about cooking substitutions for dairy products. Dairy performs a lot of chemical functions in our cooking and baking and going without it can be a challenge. If you cannot cook with milk or milk products, here are some easy and delicious substitutions to help you prepare meals:
Butter, particularly pastured (from grass-fed animals), is a crucial fat in the traditional diet but sometimes it is unavailable or not suitable for someone because of allergies and sensitivities. If you are senstive, but not allergic, to the proteins in dairy then you might be able to use ghee. Ghee is the milk fat only and in some sensitive persons does not aggravate a response. If you cannot use ghee, here are some options:
Coconut Oil: this is another prized fat that is a short chain fatty acid (which does not need gallbladder bile salts to emulsify) and is antimicrobial. In cooler temperatures, below 70F, it becomes very hard and wax like so if you use it in pie crusts, do not chill it for long or you will not be able to roll them out. Over 77F and it is a liquid and must be treated as an oil, which can mean oily baked goods. Depending on the processing, this can impart a slight coconut flavor to foods which can be appealing, or not, depending on what you are making and what your tastes are. You can use coconut oil in the following applications:
- popping corn, drizzled on popcorn
- baked goods, either melted as an oil or softened
- pan frying
- drizzled as a flavoring on vegetables, this promotes vitamin absorption (see HERE)
- crackle topping for ice cream, see HERE
Coconut Butter/Cream of Coconut: There are a lot of names used for this product but it is all the unsweetened, whole coconut ground. It is very solid, given the amount of saturated fat in it, and often needs to be warmed before it can be used. It is flavorful and rich but can also be gritty. If combined two parts coconut butter with one part palm shortening, it can replace ounce for ounce with butter in cake frosting recipes with delicious, albeit coconut flavored success. It is really best in sweet applications.
- cake frosting
Palm Shortening, non-hydrogenated: this is a soft, shelf stable fat which makes an excellent and flavorless substitute. Since is it more firm at warmer temperatures and becomes less hard than coconut oil, it makes excellent pastry and decent cake frostings, especially when mixed with coconut oil. It also tolerates higher temperature frying making it useful for small batch deep frying. Because it lacks flavor, it is not good for using as a flavor enhancer and can be best used with other fats for those purposes.
- popping corn
- baked goods
- pan frying
- cake frosting, does need to be combined with other oils because it lacks depth and flavor
Olive Oil: this oil is delicate and breaks down easily when exposed to light and heat. It is not useful for cooking as much as it is useful for flavoring.
- drizzled on popcorn
- brushed on finished baked goods to preserve moisture and promote tender crusts
- used on pizza and focaccia instead of heavy sauces
- drizzled as a flavoring on vegetables, this promotes vitamin absorption
- salad dressings, this promotes vitamin absorption
Milk promotes tenderness in baked goods, which means it makes them softer, and the fat content helps preserve moisture. It can be replaced with water in most cases but you should know that the results will be slightly tougher, especially if there is no other fat. You might want to replace one tablespoon per cup of water with fat in order to prevent dry, crumbly baked goods. To provide for the viscosity and flavor depth as well as the fat in milk, you can use coconut milk. In baked goods you can follow these substitutions:
- Replace milk with a combination of two parts coconut milk to one part water
- Replace buttermilk (the cultured variety from the store) with one part coconut milk and one part water with one tablespoon per cup of an acid like apple cider vinegar or lemon juice.
Coconut milk makes an excellent substitute for cream in many applications, just be aware that it does harden quickly so in cold drinks and foods it might not be the best choice unless you want something very firm.
- Add a splash of vanilla to coconut milk to make an excellent creamer for coffee or tea.
- To enrich pan sauces, see HERE
- Use the cream from the can of coconut milk to make ganache, see HERE
- Whip the cream from coconut milk to make whipped cream, this is very good with a bit of honey and vanilla
- Make THIS gorgeous looking chocolate mousse from The Nourishing Gourmet
Yogurt and Sour Cream Substitutes
Coconut milk kefir is just like yogurt and it is wonderful plain as well as with fruit, soaked granola (see HERE), as a topping on soaked oats as well as incorporated in baked goods. You can culture coconut milk with water kefir grains overnight to make a wonderful, probiotic coconut yogurt which also works well in place of sour cream, see HERE.When using fresh and unheated, the probiotic qualities provide an important boost to gut health. It works beautifully in baked goods and because of the acidity you will not need to adjust your leavening for recipes that use either yogurt or sour cream.
If you are lacto-fermenting or soaking foods, it does not mean you need milk to provide a lactic acid stater. The lacto part of the fermentation process is actually accomplished by lactobacilli and there are other foods which can provide it which are not dairy based.
- "Hooch" or the the clear to brown liquid layer that rises to the top of sourdough makes an excellent lactic soak for grains and beans
- Kombucha and water kefir can be used in place of whey when lacto-fermenting vegetables and fruits
Looking for recipes using coconut oil and cream? Get tons of delicious and free recipes from Tropical Traditions HERE!
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