Desiccated coconut is coconut meat which has been shredded or flaked and then dried to remove as much moisture as possible. There are a number of different styles of desiccated coconut used around the world, and availability of this coconut product varies, depending on the region where one is shopping. If desiccated coconut is not available, regular dried coconut can be used as a replacement, although dried content tends to have a higher moisture content, despite the “dried” in the name.
One of the most common forms of desiccated coconut is an unsweetened, very powdery product which is produced by drying shredded coconut and then grinding the shreds. It is also possible to find coarser desiccated coconut, such as desiccated shreds and even flakes of coconut. Many producers also make sweetened versions. The label should clearly specify whether or not the coconut has been sweetened.
Bakers should be careful with recipes which call for desiccated coconut, because both sweet and plain versions are available. If a recipe calls for unsweetened desiccated coconut and a sweetened variety is used, the result may be a cloying recipe which is far sweeter than desired. Conversely, using unsweetened desiccated coconut in a recipe designed for the sweetened version may result in a more tart or bitter recipe. The texture is also an important consideration, as dessicated coconut swells slightly when it is exposed to moisture, which means that shreds and flakes of coconut can grow in the batter for cakes, brownies, and other baked goods, while the powdered version tends to remain relatively small.
Storage recommendations for desiccated coconut generally include keeping it in a cool, dry place out of the light. Dried coconut often needs to be stored in the freezer or fridge to keep it fresh, and to prevent clumping, because the moisture causes the coconut to pull together in the package. Desiccated coconut, on the other hand, can be stored at room temperature for up to a year very safely. Some producers also add a small amount of cornstarch to the package to prevent sticking in the event that the coconut becomes moist during storage.
In baking, desiccated coconut can be added to a recipe for texture and an added coconut flavor. This coconut product is also used in the preparation of chocolates and other sweet treats, as a dusting for the outer layer. Puddings and ice cream can also be made with desiccated coconut. Cakes and cupcakes can also be sprinkled with desiccated coconut or rolled in it, and it can also be used as a dressing or garnish for savory foods.