Carob in Recipes: A Healthy Choice
Baking With Carob
What is Carob
Carob is a tropical tree native to the Mediterranean region. The tree produces pods containing a sweet, edible pulp and seeds that are not edible. Cocoa powder and chocolate also grow as pods on trees in the tropics. After carob has dried, the pulp is roasted and ground into a powder similar in appearance to cocoa powder. The flavor and texture is distinct from that of chocolate and it is without caffeine.
An Alternative to Chocolate
Carob offers a good alternative as an option to use as a chocolate substitute in recipes. The flavor is mild, sweet and somewhat like chocolate caramel. A little trial and error may be needed before you are able to always obtain the best consistency.
The mixtures may be drier for baking cakes and cookies, however, that can be remedied by adding extract such as vanilla or almond which also improves the flavor. Due to the natural sweetness of carob, you may choose to add less sugar as stated in recipes. Adding two or three tablespoons of applesauce helps to moisten the mixture.
One tablespoon has 25 calories, no cholesterol nor fat or saturated fat, and six grams of carbohydrate. Carob chips can be substituted for chocolate chips in recipes. It is sweeter but not as flavorful as cocoa.
Carob provides a rich source of nutrients and vitamins. It contains vitamin A, B complex, D, calcium, E, magnesium, iron, manganese, chromium and copper. It is high in fiber, low in sodium, offers three times the calcium compared to cocoa powder and contains pectin, proteins, tannins and minerals.
Carob as a Natural Remedy
One tablespoon of carob powder in one cup of liquid helps to alleviate diarrhea, nausea and upset stomach. Kidney function has been shown to improve greatly by mixing a small glass of unsweetened cranberry juice with 2 teaspoons carob powder four or five times daily. Relieves persistent cough, constipation and heartburn. Helps to improve vision, reduce eye infection and promote digestion. May also help to relieve asthmatic reactions caused by allergies.
Lignans are antiviral, anti-fungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory which also can serve as an estrogen replacement after menopause. Although soy has been much researched for its phyto-estrogen content, lignans are also found in flax seed, legumes, whole grains and some fruits and vegetables.
Carob contains Gallic Acid which is present in the tannins. Gallic acid has been administered for the prevention and treatment of polio.
Carob is a legume grown from shrubs that are pruned into trees. The shrubs are tolerant of droughts and today they are grown in Florida and other states in the southwestern region of the U.S. Their structure is broad making them ideal shade trees that can grow 50 feet tall. They thrive in temperatures as low as 18 degrees F and do well in the direct sun.
The leaves are dark green, glossy and leathery. After six to eight years of growth, the tree produces pods. By the twelfth year, one tree is capable of bearing up to 100 pounds of pods every year, averaging between 200 to 250 pounds annually for 100 years.
Foods to Make Using Carob
Pods can grow up to a foot in length. They are either cooked a long time or roasted and ground into powder. Roasting brings out the chocolate-like flavors and can be used to make cakes, cookies, pudding, candy, breads and muffins, beverages and shakes, as well as fudge and brownies. Less sugar is needed in recipes because of its natural sweetness. Two medium size carob pods weigh one ounce after they have dried.
To Substitute Chocolate with Carob
Three tablespoons of carob powder plus one tablespoon of water is equivalent to one ounce of unsweetened chocolate. When cocoa powder is an ingredient, use the same amount of carob powder. You will likely need to reduce the amount of sugar (a dry ingredient) that is stated in the recipe, therefore, adjust the wet to dry ingredients accordingly to achieve a balanced consistency.
Carob has been used as a food substance for over 5,000 years. It has been referred to as honey locust and also St. John's Bread in regard to John the Baptist. The weight of carob seeds is compatible to that of gold and diamonds. Deriving from the Arabic language for carob, this is where the term carat weight stems from.
Not only does carob provide a healthy option as an alternative to chocolate, it also makes a healthy addition to your diet.