Many of my childhood years were spent in Kerala. One of the most memorable dishes from Kerala is Nei appam which is a delicious fried donut with 5 main ingredients – rice flour, coconut, jaggery, banana and elaichi. The original recipe calls for blending the ingredients (authentic versions also involve fermentation), which are then fried in ghee or oil.
Essence of the recipe
The magical flavor combination of coconut, jaggery, banana and elaichi is fantastic. The rice flour serves as a vehicle to carry these flavors.
I am a big coward when it comes to frying. Dealing with hot oil comes at the bottom of kitchen activities I like to do. This recipe eliminates the need to fry. Blend and bake is my happy substitution.
I am also going to eliminate the rice flour portion of the recipe and focus on the other ingredients.
Why bake instead of fry?
Frying, essentially, is a process of dehydrating. We are transforming a liquid batter into a solid donut. The water is evaporated and oil takes some of its place. For eg, it has been documented that frying in oil reduces the moisture content of potato chips from 80% to about 2%. If we bake with less liquid, we can use the oven to do the same.
Timing – Yes, frying in hot oil yields quick results. However, the area of the oven is big, thus we can load the entire batch in one go. Frying, on the other hand, involves multiple batches; and if each batch takes 5 minutes vs 25 minutes as a whole in the oven, I think we can call it even.
Why go grain-free for this dessert?
Many of my long-term readers know that I prefer not to use grains in desserts. Grain flours are typically high-glycemic, throw in sweeteners, fry them in oil and it is a bad combination for diabetic patients. Why not eliminate the rice flour and go with a low-glycemic coconut base instead? (Please note using dried coconut is low glycemic, but not lower calorie. This recipe is meant to be a better substitute for people trying to keep their blood sugar in control, but it is not low-fat).
Step by Step Photos
Making of coconut butter
Making of Jaggery syrup
Blend and bake
Makes 8 pieces
2 cups shredded unsweetened dried coconut
1/3 tsp powdered cardamom
1/2 large banana
2-3 Tblsp jaggery syrup or molasses
- Preheat oven to 300F (Note- this is not the normal 350F.) Coconut burns easily at high temperatures, so please go low.
- Add 2 cups of shredded unsweetened dried coconut to the food processor. Let it run for a 3-4 minutes. Open and stir a couple of times to mix well. Continue to blend until it becomes a thick sludge like coconut butter.
- Boil 2 cubes of jaggery in about 1/4 cup of water until it becomes a thick molasses like liquid.
- Add 1/2 piece of banana, powdered cardamom and 2-3 Tblsp of the prepared jaggery molasses to the coconut butter and blend.
- Scoop out the blended sweet mixture in individual serving sizes. I used a 2tsp OXO cookie scoop for this. Place the batter on an oiled cookie sheet.
- Bake the ‘appams’ for 25 minutes. The bottom gets burned easily, so don’t be fooled if the tops are not completely brown.
- Take them out and leave them to cool for 10 minutes.
- Ta-da!! Tasty, low-glycemic, easy nei appams ready.
This recipe is also inspired by the macaroon recipe at the detoxinista blog. She has some very cool recipes, so do check it out if you have time.
Coconut contains very little carbohydrate per serving (just 1 g in a 15 g portion). But it is high in fat (5 g in a 15 g portion) and the fat it contains is nearly 90 per cent saturated.
Do try the recipe an let me know what you think….Also, with the current rage of Paleo diet, coconut seems to have shot to prominence in the Western world. Indians are not super impressed. Coconut is such a big part of Indian cuisines that it is no big deal for us. Yet, there are some fun recipes and experiments we can try and Indianize, like the one above. Are you a fan of coconut?