My Ongoing Love Affair With Food.
I seem to have fallen in love with a foodstuff. Again.
You might know that my family and I went grain-free with our eating, a little over 6 months ago. And that I’m prone to food crushes. First, my chocolate crush. Okay, that happened waaaay before I went grain-free. You can go here for some toxin-free, grain-free, chocolate bliss that’s free of refined sugar.
Now, I have a thing for cassava flour. I’m not sure whether it’s going to end badly or not, but more on that below.
I’ve been looking for this stuff for ages. Where I live, it’s a pretty elusive flour to find. Two weeks ago, a good friend who knew I was searching for cassava, spied it at our city market.
I have to tell you, it’s been two weeks of bliss. Yesterday, the bliss came to a head when this happened in our kitchen: … insert drum roll…
We got out the toaster.
I know! Cassava flour makes grain-free bread that you can actually toast! If you’ve ever gone grain-free, you’ll know how exciting this news is. Wheat bread is a tricky one to replace. Lots of grain-free breads are crumbly, or pasty, or more like cakes.
Cassava flour has the closest consistency to wheat flour of any grain-free flour that I’ve tried so far. You can even make toasty sandwiches; an old and missed favourite for us. And it makes ‘normal’ pancakes, that are white in colour. We never ate white pancakes, even in our wheat days, so this is a total treat for us.
Don’t worry, I’m Moderating My Intake.
I don’t believe it’s healthy to eat too much of any one ingredient. And cassava comes with some question marks: more below, like I said (above). But I can’t deny, I’m excited by the possibilities of cooking with cassava. Tortillas, for example. Hello.
Here are my humble findings about this white, grain-free flour. As always, please realise that I’m not a nutritionist. Just one clueless mama navigating grain-free life for herself, and her family. Here’s what I’ve found on cassava so far:
What is Cassava Flour?
Cassava flour is the ground, starchy root of the cassava plant, which is native to South America. It’s a key crop for millions of people in South America and parts of Asia and Africa. It’s also known as yuca.
So, you could dig up the yuccas in your garden, and have them for lunch. The roots of your garden yuccas are NOT edible, as far as I know, and are not cassava. Cassava is also named yuca. Not yucca.
The part that is eaten is the tuber (the root). It is washed, peeled, and processed into flour.
Cassava Vs. Tapioca: What’s the Difference?
Cassava flour and tapioca flour; or tapioca starch as it is sometimes labelled, come from the same plant. But they’re different products. Cassava is made from the whole root, while tapioca is the starch extracted from the root.
That’s not to say that cassava isn’t starchy. It is. But it’s the whole tuber (minus the peel). Nutritionally, cassava flour is a good source of resistant starch. Tapioca isn’t.
Cassava and Carbohydrates.
Cassava flour is not without controversy, even for this grain-free mama who’s currently in love with it. Our family deal with autoimmune disease. My oldest child’s life-threatening disease is the reason we began overhauling our diet, in the first place. Cassava; being mainly starch, is high in carbs. Very high. That’s not great for my child, or for any of us. Especially not in excess.
On the other hand; and to contradict myself, my children are pre-teen and teenaged. Our carb intake has dropped dramatically since we went grain-free. We were already sugar-free, so cutting grains too means that some days, we have trouble making up the amount of carbs in our diet that a growing teenager needs. Eating high carb foods like cassava occasionally, helps. Cassava does have a low glycemic index, too.
To be honest, the jury is still out in my mind about how many carbs we really need in our diet. For now, though, we’re careful to follow the recommended guidelines.
Cassava and Cyanide.
Ouch. Not the sort of heading you want about a baking ingredient, eh? But it’s not alone. Spinach contains cyanide. As do sweet almonds, but not enough to be poisonous. Bitter almonds, on the other hand, are dangerous for people to eat. Cassava is the same. Bitter cassava contains dangerous levels of toxins. Sweet cassava contains fewer, and lots are in the skin, which is removed when processed correctly. Remember, people have been eating cassava safely for centuries. It’s only poisonous when prepared incorrectly. And you’re really unlikely to find commercially available, organic cassava flour, that isn’t processed safely.
Find a trusted supplier, like Bob’s Red Mill. As you know, I got mine from a local market store, but if in doubt, I would try Bob’s.
6 Cool Things about Cassava Flour
- It’s gluten and grain-free.
- Cassava flour is also nut free.
- It has a similar consistency to wheat flour.
- It behaves similarly to wheat flour, and can be used as a replacement in cooking.
- Cassava has a mild flavour, like wheat.
- It’s rich in Resistant Starch.
Why is Cassava White?
Unlike white wheat flour, cassava flour isn’t bleached to produce its whiteness. Yes, cassava and tapioca flours are bright shiny white. Don’t worry, it’s their natural colour.
Finally, a recipe!
To quote myself, I’m not a nutritionist, chef, or anyone who possesses artistry in the kitchen. But I’ve decided to be brave and share photographs of my actual cooking. My aim is to show that even a non-professional (to say the least) grain-free mama, can go chef for her family. Or papa, for his family, of course.
Here is my first attempt at baking cassava flour bread:
It doesn’t look like much, but it was YUM. Better yet, it tasted like bread. And like I said, it toasted like bread, too. Even if it is an imperfect looking loaf.
Here’s the recipe I used (click on the title):
I did the weirdest thing with this. It’s supposed to be a French Bread but I baked it in a bread tin. What can I say, I get frazzled when baking, and forget my mission. I’m glad I did with this one, because it works well as a loaf. It doesn’t rise as much, perhaps, as a dough that’s meant for a loaf tin. Or maybe that’s just my baking.
If you clicked the link, you’ll know this recipe is my rookie take on the Gluten-Free Crunchy French Bread recipe from Otto’s Naturals. Next time we make soup or stew, I might return the recipe to its intended French Bread form. For now, the loaf shape is staying. It’s satisfying our cravings for regular bread and toast.
My Version of Ingredients:
My 2 tablespoons of maple syrup are on the smaller side, and I’m going to brave the recipe without it, soon. We’re conscious of how much sugar we consume, however wholesome and natural its form.
I use 3 medium sized eggs, instead of 4.
I’m not sure if cassava will stay in our pantry, long term. I hope so, because I really want to make this Cassava Brownies recipe. Cassava is not quite a whole food, but it seems like a good fit for our grain-free diet. If I find otherwise, I’ll fess up, and end the affair.
Then I’ll probably write a post about re-purposing toasters.