Cooking is an art of infinite possibilities. And, while there may be 9 different kinds of flour, from whole wheat to whole white, it’s still all just flour. But since this thing called CoffeeFlour started making rounds, it’s been met with both excitement and a bit of side-eye.
But what is this CoffeeFlour of which I speak? Well, it’s not actually flour in the traditional sense in that it’s not made from grain. CoffeeFlour is, technically, a fruit. As coffee beans are harvested, the outer covering, or fruit, is cast aside, which means your morning caffeine fix is actually a lot more wasteful than you probably realize.
The shunned husk often rots and clogs streams, causing all kinds of environmental and logistical woes. But the world doesn’t seem to be kicking its coffee addition any time soon, so what are we to do?
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Well, one day Dan Belliveau came up with a solution. He noticed that the discarded pulp was really high in antioxidants and fiber, among other goodies. He found if you dry the husk and grind it up, it can be quite versatile, nutrient-rich and tasty.
But if that wasn’t enough of a goldmine, it also has some important socio-economic benefits. As well as preventing the rotting of the husks and the hotbed for vermin and bacteria that it creates, using the previously cast away waste also can become a profitable commodity for local farmers. Innovative, socially and environmentally conscious, and healthy? I’m in. Oh, but how does it taste?
James Beard Award-winning chef Jason Wilson recently held a tasting in Manhattan. Chef Wilson is Mr. R & D over at CoffeeFlour, blazing a trail through the virgin lands of this superfood.
“I can really see this as working best in the world of baking,” said Chef Wilson. “That’s where the flavors and its ability to retain moisture really thrive.”
First up on Wilson’s menu was the penne with shiitake mushrooms and a creamy, buttery sauce. The sauce and mushrooms gave the pasta a smoky flavor, but the pasta didn’t exactly taste like pasta; it was a bit darker and almost sweet, but the texture was a bit soft for my liking. It was certainly lacking that al dente loveliness only gluten can deliver. The gnocchi was actually well suited for the denser and richer texture and flavor. It really absorbed the flavor of the tomatoes and oil upon which it sat.
But, as Wilson suggested, CoffeeFlour really excelled when it came to baking. It should be noted that this ingredient – which has a flavor profile of roasted fruits, dates and figs – is not a replacement for regular flour. Instead, it’s meant to be added to regular flour. Chef Wilson suggested about 10% to 15% of the flour in a recipe can be replaced by CoffeeFlour.
According to Wilson, the CoffeeFlour tends to absorb quite a bit of moisture, which makes whatever you bake with it stay moist, as well as add its distinct flavor. This was evident in the brownies, which were moist and chocolatey. The olive oil and chocolate muffins were tasty without the sweetness that inspires diabetes and shame.
But does CoffeeFlour really fill a hole in the culinary universe? Not exactly. Considering it doesn’t take the place of actual flour, it would have to be combined with gluten-free flour to stay gluten-free.
So what’s the point of it all? Well, for one thing: those brownies. That’s where CoffeeFlour is in its element. Who knows how they would have tasted in the hands of a lesser chef, but Wilson’s brownies were as binge-worthy and comforting as rewatching The Office.
It’s still at the beginning stages of availability, but CoffeeFlour is currently partnering with Izzy & Em’s on a line of gluten-free treats for the Brooklyn Roasting Company, and Local Leaf is beginning to use CoffeeFlour in its recipes.
CoffeFlour’s greatest attributes probably have little to do with flavor: its nutrient richness, socio-economic benefits and environmental responsibility are what make the ingredient something worth checking out.
“I think coffee’s greatest potential is in chocolate and bread,” says Wilson. “CoffeeFlour is a great source of protein, fiber, color and unique tastes. But I really love the story. When people see how CoffeeFlour helps the environment and provides revenue for people who live from the land, its popularity will really catch on.”