Coconut palm sugar is a good alternative to refined sugar, says Susan Jane White, and it's low-glycaemic too.
I. Was. Wrong. Last year, I flung coconut palm sugar out of my cupboard, condemning it as another hysterical trend for the kale-gnawing, diet-Chardonnay battalion. At €18 per kilo, the joke's on them! But somehow, it slipped back under my radar and high-jumped my cynicism. Now I like to look at my packet of coconut palm sugar and stroke it like a newborn kitten.
Think granulated toffee. Crunchy chunks of caramel. The mmm in smooth, and the tutti in fruity. It doesn't share cane sugar's sickly sweet kick either, which does frightening things to my heartbeat. Too good to be true?
Oh alright, it's still a sugar. But it's more frenemy than enemy. Here's what happens in far-off places like Bali, king of the coconut community. Nectar from the coconut palm tree is collected by securing a vessel underneath the tree's flowers to collect its sticky sap (gap-year students, take note). This liquid nectar is then roasted in Harry Potter-esque cauldrons to boil off the water content, and turned into a licky-sticky syrup. Then, to make a crystalised sugar, the syrup needs further boiling, cooling, massaging and grinding, to end up with very fine granules.
Many small boutique producers in Bali will sieve the sugar to create a powdery coconut palm sugar for the Western market, but the locals will use it in big clumsy clumps.
The finished product is a whole sweetener, which means its nutrition is intact and has not been stripped off like white sugar's has. (Woah, Neddy! Coconut palm sugar is still a sugar, just a less evil variety, OK?) You'll find surprising amounts of iron and potassium in coconut palm sugar, which may help explain why athletes become curiously giddy at its mere mention.
Coconut palm sugar's USP lies within its low glycemic range. This tropical sugar is half as sweet as brown sugar or honey, meaning it won't spike your blood-sugar levels and leave you with a crashing low. This familiar 'sugar slump' ultimately drives the vicious circle of craving more sugar, and another artificial high. Wonky blood-sugar levels usually result in sharpened fangs and terrible tantrums. Just look at the debating chamber in the Dail before lunchtime.
The Hot Cocoa
You will need:
1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar
500ml (17fl oz) unsweetened almond milk
2 tablespoons cacao or cocoa powder
2 tablespoons hazelnut butter
Using a high-powered blender, whizz the coconut palm sugar, the almond milk, the cacao powder or the cocoa powder, whichever you're using, and the hazelnut butter together until fabulously foamy. This step is the key to a super-creamy mug of cocoa. Transfer the cocoa to a mini saucepan and gently warm it to your preferred temperature. Clean your blender jug because, if you forget, it's much harder to scrub in 60 minutes. Pour into two mugs. Chillax.