Coconut sugar is made from the sap of coconut palm flower buds and shouldn't be confused with palm sugar which is made from the sap in the stems of various palms.
Once the sap is collected from the buds, it is boiled to eliminate excess water and forms a thick syrup - this syrup is then pressed to form blocks such as this or allowed to crystalise to form something a bit like brown sugar.
Though it looks like it would be hard to cut through, it actually isn't and you can shave it quite thinly
Tastewise, I find it very intriguing - it's not as sweet as refined sugar and not as sharp as brown sugar - it is a cross between caramel and toffee in flavour - try as I might, there is no coconut taste to the sugar.
Coconut sugar is also low GI and full of minerals - potassium, magnesium, zinc iron and contains B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine) and when cooking, it replaces regular sugar at a 1:1 ratio.
For the recipe this week, I've decided to use the coconut sugar as a replacement for brown sugar to make a caramelised coconut banana cake.
150 grams coconut sugar
70 grams butter, cut into cubes
lady fingers banana, sliced in half lenghtways
250 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
120 grams raw caster sugar
120 grams melted butter, cooled
½ to 1 cup coconut cream
Make the caramel:
Before you begin make sure you have a lined loaf tin ready.
Put the coconut sugar and butter into a skillet and place over a low heat - stir until the butter has melted and the mixture amalgamates. Add in the sliced banana and toss them through the caramel and cook for another minute.
Arrange the bananas over the base of the loaf tin and drizzle over with any remaining caramel.
Make the cake:
Sift the flour, baking powder and sugar together into a bowl and make a well in the center.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and cooled, melted butter and pour into the well - stir and then add enough coconut cream to form a spoonable batter - depending on the flour you're looking at somewhere between ½ to 1 cup of coconut cream. If it is still too thick after 1 cup, use regular milk.
Spread the batter over the bananas and level the surface with a palette knife.
Put the cake tin onto a baking tray and place in a preheated 160°C oven until golden and cooked through - roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour.
When cooked, let it rest in the loaf tin for 10-15 minutes to allow the caramel to cool and set slightly. Turn out onto serving plate.
Using coconut sugar produces a caramel with a slightly different look (a touch on the red side) and taste (much more creamy in the mouth) - but I felt it was better than the caramel I've made with brown sugar. In fact I'm a convert and am looking forward to experimenting some more with coconut sugar.