Dear Kava Guru,
What about baking with Kava?
Another great question; thank you Abbey! Most who know the fragile nature of Kavalactones have a number of 140 degrees Fahrenheit in their minds. This magical number is the temperature at which Kavalactones begin to break down. (If you’re not sure what a Kavalactone is, you can see Kona Kava Farm’s “Kava Chemotypes Decoded” for more.)
The key word is “begin“.
Most of my Kava career, I’ve been too afraid to heat Kava up beyond 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Baking with Kava seemed like a pipe dream. I wrote about “Cooking With Kava” in a previous post, and discovered some interesting things when it came to cooking or baking with Kava. It turns out Kavalactones are somewhat sturdier than Kava aficionados have been led to believe.
Also, thanks to the diligence of Wonderland-Labs, a testing lab that specializes in Kava, we now have a handy chart. This chart accurately shows at what temperatures and times that Kavalactones actually break down. Why do we care? Because we can do a lot more with Kava when we can cook with it. Kona Kava Farm has reported that countless people have offered them a number of recipes for cooking, and that the effects can pack quite a punch! There’s actually a good article on Kava.com called “Boiling and Baking With Kava” that also explains this curious topic. So, here’s the breakdown for you:
TO GET 50% KAVALACTONE LOSS
140°F – Heating for 8 hours150°F – Heating for 7 hours160°F – Heating for 6 hours170°F – Heating for 5 hours180°F – Heating for 4 hours190°F – Heating for 3 hours200°F – Heating for 2 minutes210°F – Heating for 1 hour220°F – Heating for 30 minutes
They also found that Kavalactone, under pressure, can withstand even higher heats for longer periods of time. This is exciting news to bakers, and explains why the many people I’ve spoken with swear by Kava cookies. Even better news, is that starting from an extract, such as 33% Kavalactone powder can yield very pleasant baked goods. Even if 50% of the Kavalactones were to break down during the baking process, you’d still have a solid 15% of the Kavalactone remaining. No, it’s not as strong as something made from 33% Kavalactone or 55% Kavalactone Paste, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
Something equally as interesting to note is that Kavalactone typically absorbs into the human body via fats. So, coconut milk, very popular in Oceania, can help quicken the absorption of Kavalactones, making the effect even more noticeable. When we’re baking with Kava, there are several sources of natural, healthy fats such as margarine, vegetable oil, nuts, or chocolate chips.
So, to me, one of the beautiful things about natural herbal products such as Kava, is the freedom we have to explore them as much as we want, and without fear. If you’ve got an idea for adding Kava to a recipe, I’d love to post it here. If you want to see what it’s like to take a capsule of Kava alongside some chocolate chips, you might be surprised at how extra-pleasant the experience turns out to be. From here at Kava.Guru, I say that baking with Kava can be quite an extraordinary adventure!
Live a little, try out some recipes and share them with us here! If I post your recipe, I’ll send off a 4oz package of Kava.com’s Instant Kava Mix, Natural flavor.