I cook and bake with anything under the sun, moon and stars as long as it is not a grain or a legume. I was dying to work with cassava flour especially since National Pizza Day was on February 9th. I am pretty familiar with tapioca flour (same thing as tapioca starch), and know they bake vastly different. Otto’s Naturals Cassava Flour has been a company name and product used and/or tried by many of my baking buddies and online friends. I had to give it a try and see what it was like to work with, how it tasted and just what it was like in general in my own kitchen.
As most of you know by now, I am not one to read and believe all that I see on the internet. I have to try it for myself, research and dive in. I then share my results and honest opinions as I like the real deal myself. So that is exactly what I did. I wanted to learn about it first, try a few others’ recipes out there using Otto’s cassava flour and then try the big challenge that they claim: that it can be used cup-for-cup! This is a very bold statement when speaking about baking and conversions of a gluten-loaded recipe to a grain-free version. I have seen, heard and/or experienced many flops and a ton of wasted ingredients and money with claims like this. So, I was so curious to give it a go.
First came the educational step for me and hopefully you. Tapioca flour is one of the most popular ingredients in gluten-free baking and also used as a thickener. It is also called tapioca starch. Tapioca is the bleached and extracted starch of the cassava root. In paleo baking we use it for a variety of purposes, however I particularly use it to get more fluff and provide a softer texture to many of my baked goods. Keep in mind that it DOES add the carbs though. Otto’s cassava flour is the whole food of the cassava plant (Manioc or Yucca in some languages)! They say theirs is the whole root; peeled, dried, ground, is naturally gluten-free and Gluten-Free Certified to have no cross contaminants, is Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) friendly and Certified Paleo by The Paleo Foundation.
Otto’s cassava flour and tapioca flour/starch have very different actions in both baking and our digestive systems. It is a staple ingredient in Brazil, Portugal, and many other countries outside of the United States. Cassava Flour can be used in gluten-free baking; it is very mild and neutral in flavor. It’s also not grainy or gritty in texture but rather it’s soft and powdery. Many prefer it over wheat flour in taste.
Otto’s cassava flour is a warm light color as opposed to the stark white that all tapioca flour has. This is explained why above; as it is bleached. Wow! I love fried yucca and have eaten it often. Yucca, after I peel it is never stark white and the peel is pretty coarse and dark. I am feeling brighter and more intelligent about this subject already.
Before I get into my recipe and my baking results, the team at Otto’s say this about measuring it cup-for-cup in any wheat-based recipe: “Otto’s cassava flour works in the same proportions as wheat flour in most cases. You don’t have to do any crazy converting in your head or add 57 eggs per half cup of flour. You don’t even have to look for ‘cassava flour recipes’. Use all your old favorites from your pre-grain-free days. Just give Otto’s cassava flour a whisk before measuring it out; it can settle.” I went ahead and inquired with one of the owners – Sadie. She said it does fairly well on some yeast rising breads and some not so well. She went on to share this: “It just doesn’t usually work as a 1:1 in those recipes. We have yeast bread recipes in circulation currently. The proportions are just different and you usually need an egg to replace the protein that gluten normally provides. We have one on our website if you’d like to try it. Click here for the recipe.” Well my input on this is that recipe developing and altering is simple a bit of trial and error and fun. Recipe developing is truly a game of chemistry in the kitchen.
So, now I am in the kitchen taking my notes and testing out two recipes using Otto’s (an apple strudel and a pie crust) from two other gals on the internet. First I try a simple conversion from a basic wheat pie crust (top and bottom) for a cherry pie; a wheat loaded yeast-free focaccia recipe conversion; and lastly basic cinnamon-butter cookies.
The focaccia recipe was a hit and worked out beautifully and could easily be made into a pizza crust! The pie crust on top turned out incredible and was better with a bit of sweetener as the cassava is very bland and not sweet like wheat flour. The cookies were delicious and again the cinnamon helped with the sweet flavor and the cassava flour worked well with the Full Spectrum shortening as well as the butter. I found the flour to be very light; similar to that of tapioca. It didn’t really have any glutinous texture so I could wrap or bend my doughs (which I was curious about). So that answered that question.
Unfortunately the online apple strudel crust recipe was a flop. The crust itself did not turn out at all like the recipe stated, and I found the crust needed far more butter than was called for as the cassava flour sucks up the moisture quite rapidly, so you need to work fast. I also found that the instructions to wrap my dough pieces around the strudel before baking were nearly impossible to follow as there is no give to the dough. It acts more like a grain-free dough wherein you need to be a bit more careful and do a bit more hand-holding and make it happen with your hands. I found this recipe copied on two other sites and I’m wondering if the other two ever tested it (before sharing it on their sites) as it did not turn out well.
Overall I really liked the use of the flour and the option to have another grain-free, gluten-free flour. The incredible fluffy texture and the smell was very clean. It did remind me of all-purpose flour which is a nice change after the many nut flours I use. I am sure I will use it some more and enjoy the cup-for-cup possibilities in more recipes I try. One day I want to try it with a “wheat” conversion yeast-rising bread recipe too.
Since I am big on low carbs, blood sugar, keeping lean and helping others to do so, especially children and adults who have to sit for long hours, it is important to relay that daily treats, bread options and desserts are not Paleo, AIP nor optimum. Use these incredible flours as an occasional treat and you will do well. Stay lean and keep your blood tests where they are optimum and you will feel great.
The carbohydrate content of both tapioca and cassava are quite high. Per 100 grams (3.5 ounces) cassava has double the calories and carbohydrates as a sweet potato. As always, moderation is key. Here is a terrific flour comparison chart to use to check on carbs.
Otto’s is definitely one of the finest and ethical cassava flour companies on the market and I am truly happy that I dove in and tried it out. I will use this flour again. The quality and care they place on their product is really spot on. Their care shows.
If you have any questions or suggestions just email me at Tina (at) Paleomazing.com.