For the last three or so years, ever since getting into “alternative” cooking and researching different lifestyles dominated by altered ways of eating, I’ve always been trying to make the perfect “base” batter. When I was studying veganism, it was about finding the perfect egg replacement. When I was looking into the Nourishing Traditions ideology, it was about soaking and fermenting the perfect combination of ancient grains. When I was into raw veganism, it was about how far I could actually push the term “cake”.
Recently, being most closely associated with the Paleo style in my cooking, it was about making a basic batter without the heavy usage of nuts. In the majority of “Paleo-ized” recipes today dealing with batters and doughs, almond flour is the common ingredient used in replacement of conventional wheat flour for its light flavor and ability to create a crumb-like texture. I personally stray away from the usage of almond flour because, not only is it rather costly, but it doesn’t make any sense to me to be using that many nuts in a recipe.. those that call for almond flour usually call for 3 cups at a time, which is a lot of almonds. In addition, the resulting cakes/biscuits/cookies always looked great, but ended up sitting heavy in my system (just like an ol’ buttery croissant would) and didn’t digest well for me— even after soaking and sprouting. Plus, I have many people whom I enjoy cooking for who are allergic to nuts.
Since my current belief is in the plant-based, vegetable-forward preparation of food, I naturally wondered if I could make a batter with its bulk deriving from a vegetable substance. I actually came to utilizing the starches in root vegetables from trying to use up arrowroot flour in my pantry. I had bought a bag of the stuff but found that I didn’t really use it much often, began looking for ways to use it up, and ended up altering a traditional cream puff recipe to use it. The recipe turned out to be structurally nothing like a cream puff, as expected since I obviously didn’t use any of the conventional ingredients usually required for the complex structure of cream puffs. However, I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I was thrilled! The little mounds of batter I had put into the oven ended up coming out as delicious little biscuits, with a soft, moist texture and a tender golden crust.
Since I didn’t want to get too attached to relying heavily on arrowroot starch, I came to wonder again, why not just “render” my own starch? I thought of the starchiest root vegetable I knew, and it came down to the taro root. As a kid, I’d always pass on them in restaurants when I found them in my sticky-rice because they just tasted too pasty from all their starch. But now, it became a miracle of an ingredient that would give my batter reliable structure and a soft crumb… because it worked!
I’ve tested this recipe several different times (this might be the sixth time) using both baby taro root and the korean gold-fleshed sweet potato (which is a little more starchy than the orange variety, results shown above). I’ve also tried with/without raw honey, with/without baking soda and toggled between how much coconut oil and coconut flour is used.
I’ve come to really enjoy what this batter bakes up into, and decided today to use it as a burger bun. I especially enjoy the subtle sweetness from the honey because I’ve always loved sweet brioche buns with my burgers.
This recipe is very dear to me as of right now, and I’m still working with it whenever I find the time. I’ve come a long way with this “basic batter” project and I’m very proud that the current stage it lies in today involves the majority of the batter to be plant-based, instead of relying heavily on processed flours and chemical leaveners.
125g taro or sweet potato (steamed and tender, easily poked through with a fork)
50g coconut oil
15ml coconut milk (homemade recipe here)
22g coconut flour (homemade recipe here)
1 tablespoon raw honey
1/8 teaspoon sea salt (fine)
** Update 02/23/2014: An awesome reader by the name of Ingrid converted this to US measurements. Scroll down to her comment below if you don’t have a digital scale!
1. Preheat your oven to 350 F degrees.
2. Begin by warming together the coconut oil, coconut milk and raw honey on low heat just until everything melts together.
Mise en Place on the left, clockwise: 2 steamed baby taro (took me 20 minutes in my electric pressure cooker on a rack over an inch of water), the coconut flour and salt sifted together, melted coconut oil mixture and 2 large eggs. The photo on the right is the baby taro peeled (should be very easy if steamed thoroughly) and weighed. The two I picked got me very close to the amount I needed for this recipe (125g). The leftovers I just set aside to toss into my next stir-fry.
3. Place the baby taro and coconut oil mixture into a high-speed blender and combine until smooth, pictured on the left. Add in the sifted coconut flour mixture and blend until combined. The coconut flour will soak up a significant amount of moisture, making the batter a lot thicker, as shown on the right.
4. Transfer the taro batter from the blender into a large bowl. Beat the eggs in one at a time, scraping down after each addition, until a smooth and creamy batter is achieved.
PREP THE BAKING SHEET
5. To make each bun exactly 4″ inches in width, I traced a 4″ inch pan-bottom I had with a pencil directly onto my parchment paper. When you’re done tracing all four, make sure to flip the parchment paper to the other side (you don’t want your batter to be touching your pencil markings!) Parchment paper should be translucent enough for you to see your markings clearly on the other side.
5. In order to achieve an even amount of batter to fill each circle, I used both my ice cream scoop (not pictured) and my small cookie scoop (pictured). My ice cream scoop holds about 1/4 cup, and my cookie scoop about 2 tablespoons. I used a scoop from each, making each batter pile approximately 6 tablespoons. I also ended up with 5 extra mini scoops that I baked on the side.
FLATTEN AND SMOOTH
6. Using a small offset spatula, I flattened out each mound to the end of my pencil markings on the parchment paper, making four even circles.
7. Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely before assembling.
The burgers above consisted of all-beef patties (weighing 120g each before cooking), baby spinach, avocado and fresh tomato slices. Enjoy!