Tag Archives: carob

Cake Questions

My friend Claire recently learned about using carob as a substitute for chocolate and decided that she wanted to try it. She felt that it was best to start with a recipe that already used carob and try to change the sugar/fat ratios so she picked this recipe.

Here are her notes, “Instead of using 2/3 cup I substituted with 1/2 cup brown sugar plus 4 tbsp's milk. It turned out looking & tasting just like a chocolate cake; just not as sweet as the ones you normally get from the store, because I didn't use as much sweetener. I shared it with a friend and she liked it and thought it was a chocolate cake. The texture of the cake is dense and more like that of a banana bread. I think if I use 100% all purpose flour or cake flour it will make a difference. I baked for 30 minutes and it turned out a little dry, so I would probably bake less than 30 minutes next time. Also adding icing might help with the dryness but I didn't use it.”

My reply: “This certainly looks great and your picture looks wonderful!! I would make one small change. Instead of brown sugar (which these days is nothing more than white sugar stained with molasses) I would try demerara sugar which is a lower process than white sugar and has a fairly good moisture content mimicking the effect of brown sugar.

In case you are wondering why manufacturers pull the molasses out of sugar to make white sugar and then add it back to make brown, it's so that they can get a consistent color palette in the product. Silly but that's why they do it.

As to the moisture…the cake probably came out a little drier because you used less sweetener. You can try to modify that by either adding a little more fat (oil or butter) or by adding something like sour cream (just a little) to help which would also give a subtle richness to the cake or applesauce which would help add moisture. The applesauce typically doesn't add anything to the flavor profile, just moisture.

Since I personally encourage people to eat more whole grains I would leave the whole wheat the way it is is the recipe, switching back to 100% enriched flour is nutritionally less desirable and will also significantly change the properties of the cake.”

As a general note, when you are modifying recipes it's sometimes difficult to remember all the different pieces that make up the whole. Changing one ingredient can have a major effect on the overall result. When working with baked goods the most important things to think about are if your change will impact the loft (whole grains are more dense requiring possibly more moisture or more leavening), the moisture, or the flavor. But most importantly, like Claire, have fun and experiment with your food.

Photo: Courtesy of Claire Wang

Mesquite Flour

My friend Misty asked me “What do you know about mesquite flour?”  Mesquite (genus Prosopis) is a deciduous, leguminous tree that grows quite well in Texas and Mexico and has a range that goes as far north as Kansas and westward to southern California.  Most people use the wood to create a flavorful smoke that imparts a fabulous taste to barbequed meats.  But mesquite also has another purpose.

I had heard of people using mesquite flour before I moved to Texas, a high protein legume that was high in fiber and originally part of the Native American diet for Southwestern tribes.

Researching it further I have discovered that it apparently also has a good profile for calcium, manganese, iron, zinc, and is high in the amino acid lysine.  Because of it's high soluble fiber content and low glycemic index, in spite of a reported sweet flavor, mesquite flour is believed to be a good choice for diabetics.  

Mesquite flour was traditionally consumed by Pima Indians.  With the advent of a modern diet many of them have developed diabetes; this seems to be attributed to their decline in consumption of mesquite flour.  According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition “the slow digestion and absorption of starch in traditional foods was a factor that helped protect susceptible populations from developing diabetes.”  These traditional foods included corn, lima beans, white and yellow teparies, mesquite, and acorns.  Another study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology highlighted an ethnobotanical study in Israel which researched plants used for the treatment of diabetes; one of the plants included was mesquite.

Because mesquite is a legume I am assuming that it has a non-glutinous profile making it best suited for quick breads, cakes, and muffins or cookies rather than for a yeasted bread.  

Mesquite also has another use, the flowers are attractive to bees and I have heard that mesquite honey is quite flavorful.  You can purchase mesquite honey on the internet as well as mesquite flour. There are also recipes available that call for mesquite flour.  All in all it seems like it might be somewhat similar to another legume flour, carob, which I wrote about here and here. Both are sweet, high in fiber and provide a good protein content.

photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Carob Update

I wrote a previous post about using carob as a sweetener.  Since it really is more than just a sweetener I thought I would share a little more information about this amazing legume.

Carob is currently being examined as a protein source.  Research indicates that the flour made from the germ of carob has a high protein content, 46%.  By isolating the germ further, protein content percentages, in a laboratory setting, have reached as high as 95% according to studies currently being done at the Universidad de Sevilla, Instituta de la Grassia.  This isolate is of interest because it would offer an alternative to soy or dairy proteins for protein shake formulas created for athletes and for diabetics.  
In addition to the higher levels of protein, the germ flour also yields higher levels of arginine, an essential amino acid that is important for healing wounds, immune function, and hormone release among other physiological functions.  
Carob flour and carob bean gum are also useful for people with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance as carob contains no gluten.
Another health benefit is the effect of carob fiber, taken from the pulp of the fruit, in lowering cholesterol.  According to a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition “Daily consumption of food products enriched with carob fibre shows beneficial effects on human blood lipid profile and may be effective in prevention and treatment of hypercholesterolemia.”  The fiber is also high in phenolic antioxidant substances and there are studies underway looking into the chemopreventive qualities of carob.
To rephrase all of that in a less confusing way carob is great as a sweetener substitute, it is high in protein and will probably be coming soon to a protein supplement near you.  Useful for people who can not ingest gluten, it is also showing promise as a functional food that may help lower cholesterol and help prevent oxidative cell damage.  
Consider adding carob to your diet but please remember to read the labels.  If you start seeing wonderful health claims that's fine but always check what other ingredients are in your food before you unthinkingly purchase something because of the marketing on the package.
Be well.

http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Scientists-study-carob-as-alternative-protein-source, http://www.foodsciencecentral.com/fsc/ixid15288, http://cerealchemistry.aaccnet.org/doi/abs/10.1094/CCHEM.1998.75.4.488?cookieSet=1&journalCode=cchem

, http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=safari&rls=en-us&defl=en&q=define:arginine&ei=AH70Sd2iH5LAM4qFnMAP&sa=X&oi=glossary_definition&ct=title, http://www.herbco.com/p-449-carob-bean-pods-cs.aspx, http://www.botanical.com/products/learn/c/carob-p.html, http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Carob-fibre-to-reduce-cholesterol-levels


Someone recently asked me about carob. They were wondering what exactly it was and if the rumors of it being a substitute for chocolate were true.

Carob (Ceratonia siliqua) is a legume and grows on an evergreen tree. It is also sometimes referred to as St. John's Bread since, as the story goes, St. John the Baptist subsisted on carob beans mixed with honey while he crossed the dessert. It was traditionally eaten in the Middle East as a source of sugar before sugar cane and beets were used for that purpose. The seeds are also referred to as “locust beans” and locust bean gum, a thickening agent, comes from these seeds.

Carob does not have the same taste/flavor as chocolate but many people like it. Per cup carob (compared to cocoa) has more calcium (36% vs. 11%), fiber (41g vs. 29g) and less fat (1g vs. 12g). Many people also prefer carob because, unlike chocolate, it does not contain the stimulants caffeine or theobromine and it is naturally sweeter than unsweetened chocolate.

Carob is rich in tannins creating a binding effect which can be helpful when given to someone with diarrhea. I have found documentation suggesting 15 g. of carob in applesauce (for flavor and ease of ingestion) is an acceptable dose for children.

Carob usually comes in a powder form (although it is possible to also buy it in blocks) and can be substituted for cocoa in a recipe, 1:1.5. — if recipe calls for one cup of cocoa you would use one and one half cups of carob powder. To substitute for baking chocolate you can use 3 T. carob powder plus 2 T. water for one square baking chocolate. You can also purchase carob chips, look for the unsweetened ones,

I like carob and we do use it sometimes in baking. I don't consider it to be a “substitute” for chocolate, but instead another ingredient with it's own unique flavor. Give it a try, you may discover a new flavor to use.

photo courtesy of ca.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usuari:Chixoy