Desiccated and shredded coconut refer to two methods of treating coconut meat for cooking purposes, and the manufacture of both begins similarly. Shredded coconut is coconut meat that is dried slightly and usually sweetened. Desiccated coconut is coconut meat that is grated, dried to less than 3 percent moisture content and ground to fine flakes or a powder. You can use either form of coconut in sweet and savory dishes or in baked goods to lend flavor and texture.
Desiccated Coconut 101
Desiccated coconut begins as coconut meat separated from its husk, shell and coconut skin. Manufacturers wash and blanch the meat to remove any foreign matter and to kill microbes to improve the meat's shelf life. After grinding and drying the meat with a hot air blow-dry method, the preparer cools and sieves the grounds to retain only the desired sizes. Now the desiccated coconut is fit for packaging. Because it is nearly devoid of moisture, its shelf life tends to be longer than that of sweetened, shredded coconut.
Shredded Coconut 101
The method of preparing shredded coconut is similar to that of preparing desiccated coconut, by shredding the meat of a ripe coconut. Manufacturers dry the shredded meat partially and then mix it with sugar. This is the bagged coconut product you would use for making macaroons or for sprinkling on an iced cake. Shredded coconut is also available unsweetened. Use it to make coconut-infused water for drinking or for making an instant coconut milk-base for savory Thai rice dishes or curries.
Using Desiccated Coconut For Cooking
Depending on the brand, desiccated coconut may be sweetened or unsweetened. What distinguishes it primarily from shredded is the fact it is almost completely dry and commonly sold as a finely ground powder. Desiccated coconut powder is especially useful when you want to thicken a soup and add coconut flavor simultaneously, add coconut flavor to a cake batter without introducing the texture of shredded coconut or flavor pudding and ice cream while retaining their smoothness.
What to Look For
When selecting desiccated coconut, look for a product that is white, has few black spots and a grind with a consistent particle size throughout. The presence of some black spots indicates grated coconut skin, so don't be too alarmed at the sight of them. Store shredded and desiccated coconut in a dry place away from light and at room temperature. Unopened, either product will keep for up to six months.
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