Most gluten-free bakers have used tapioca starch – it’s one of our staple ingredients, adding mouth experience to the baked goods we make without changing their flavor. As the late cookbook author Bette Hagman puts it, “Tapioca starch adds chew....” Which is a polite way of saying it feels good but tastes bland.
An interesting, new alternative is tapioca flour. I was recently given some to test by New Jersey based American Key Foods Products, principals of which I met at the Charlotte Gluten-Free Expo in April. Unlike T-starch, which is a byproduct of shredded cassava (AKA tapioca or yuca) root, tapioca flour is the finely ground root itself. AKFP imports a brand called King Lion Cassava Flour from Brazil. (They also import potato starch from Germany – more on that later). I’m here to tell you King Lion is interesting stuff.
Mel Festejo and Connie Ponce de Leon at AKFP gave me a brownie recipe to try with King Lion. It was the simplest brownie formula I’d ever seen; designed that way on purpose (Mel says) to show off the flour’s taste and textural qualities. Of course, being me, I modified the instructions. I used black cocoa powder, blended coconut oil with the called-for butter and added a mix of walnuts and toasted Brazil nuts. What came out of the oven was truly astounding. (Recipe below).
Today I pushed a little further and made Gluten-free artisan bread. My idea was to see how Cassava blended with sourdoughs. Much to my amazement, it worked very well. The bread has a pliable crust (I prefer and usually obtain a brittle one, but I can see the usefulness of this – can anyone say “Artisan Burger Buns”?), a moist, chewy crumb, and a flavor that’s rich and meaty with a deeply sour finish. (This is still a beta version so I’m not posting the recipe.)
Now about that potato starch: Mel says that AKFP uses only German potato starch because German farmers grow potatoes strictly for the starch industry. American and Canadian potato starch companies extract their starch from farmers’ leftovers, blending species together with little thought to taste. After reading what Michael Pollard has to say about potato farming in the US, I’d be sold on AKFP even if I hadn’t tried it and found it subtly better.
A problem for home bakers is, where to get these products. AKFP likes to sell by the RR car, not in 1 lb bags. Also, King Lion is new, just being tested. However I’m going to do my best to source these materials so you can all enjoy them. When you get your hands on them, here’s a recipe to try:
Luce’s Black Brownies
Adapted from a recipe © American Key Food Products
160 grams unsalted butter, more to grease baking pan (optional)
67 grams Goya brand coconut paste (look in Latin grocery stores)
412 grams granulated sugar
3.5 grams salt
4 large eggs
120 grams King Lion brand cassava flour
30 grams King Lion brand potato starch (NOT potato flour)
63.5 grams “Black” Dutch Process cocoa (from King Arthur Flour)
71 grams dark chocolate (65% cocoa) chips or chunks
75 grams chopped walnuts
75 grams chopped, toasted Brazil nuts
1) Line a 9” square metal baking pan with baker’s parchment, or grease well with unsalted butter. Melt remaining butter and coconut oil and set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2) Using a large bowl, blend all dry ingredients except chocolate chips. Add the remaining ingredients in this order, stirring well to blend: Eggs, butter, chips.
3) Spread batter into baking pan. Bake @ 40 minutes – more for a cake-like brownie, less for a fudge-like brownie. Cool thoroughly before cutting and eating.