Product Review: “Know Better” Brand Cake Mix

If you love to cook but don’t have time — and you want a treat but you’re on keto — it’s like a double whammy. Will this cake mix solve for this conundrum? Here’s the skinny on this keto cake mix (found at Wegman’s). It’s available online but for a horrific price. $9.00 for a cake mix? I found it at Wegman’s and thought I’d give it a shot.

Know Better Brand Chocolate Chip Cake Mix

I’ve tried the “Simple Mills” almond flour cake mixes but man, seventeen carbs per cupcake or muffin! Nooooooo. If you’re doing low-carb (but not keto), those mixes are okay. If you have forty or fifty carbs, then a 17 carb muffin is not going to blow your whole day. But if you’re striving to hold the line at 20 or 30 carbs like me, that dog won’t hunt.

I found the Know Better brand chocolate chip cake mix at Wegman’s — hey, this looks better! Only 5 grams of carb per muffin or snack cake serving. Yes, it says it’s cake mix but really, it’s very much a “muffin” consistency. Here was something I could throw together on a moment’s notice when I wanted something chocolate. Perhaps something to smuggle into the movies.

I made the mix as directed. One and quarter cup of water. You can’t get simpler than that. After giving it a good mixing, you put it in a pan–I would highly recommend you line that pan with parchment paper. This is a sticky dough.

The instructions tell you to let the dough rest for fifteen minutes after you put it into the pan or (in my case) the muffin cups. Chia seeds take the place of eggs in this product. The dough has to rest in order for the chia seeds to “bloom.”

I made about six of the muffins in the approved fashion, then I decided to amp it up, to see if my non-keto son would approve of the muffins. I baked the first six as directed at 425 F — a pretty hot oven.

The muffins came out tasty, but with a dryish texture even though I took them out promptly at the 25 minute mark.   Perhaps the cake pan might be a better idea if you’re only going to use the cake mix as is. The oven seemed to have been too hot. The bottom of the muffins were very dry. For nine dollars, roughly a little less than a dollar a muffin– I expected better. But they were acceptable with the typical heavy keto density. Not all that much better than other almond flour products, but convenient.

The Better Version

I added in 1 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder and an equal amount of Swerve to the remaining dough to create a “chocolate” version. I also added about 8 mini-chocolate chips to the top of each muffin, to enhance the chocolate flavor. This way I would have a “as-is” version and an amped up version.

The better version was by far the favorite–but I also cut the baking time down to 20 minutes. This reduced the dryness — these muffins are easy to overbake!

The next day, I both WANTED and ENJOYED this amped up version. But there are cheaper and better recipes for keto muffins. This is an acceptable convenience product (for a ridiculous price).

Keto Quick Jam

People try to avoid fruit in keto ways of eating. It is a bit of temptation, but there are some days when a dab of (sugarfree) jam would really brighten up a dish–let’s say a keto pancake or other low carb treat. This recipe makes for just a small portion of jam that can be eaten smeared on peanut butter cloud bread or a keto pancake. 1 tablespoon has about 1 carbs. And its ready in minutes.

The Secret : Chia Seeds

Chia seeds can jell up fruit in a very short time. They have no flavor of their own and swell up in liquid to create a gel-like base. I got the base for this recipe from Kitchn, one of my favorite cooking websites, but there are lots of these chia-based jams, (keto and non-keto) around the Internet.

You can use just about any fruit. In this one, I put together fairly high carb golden gooseberries, with low-carb raspberries, to create a not-too-tart, not-too-sweet jam for my peanut butter cloud bread.

The Other Secret: Swerve “Sweet Syrup.”

Swerve “confectionier’s” (fine) sweetener can produce a very nice sweet, no-carb, sweet syrup to cook the fruit in. I used 1 tablespoon of swerve per 1/3 cup of water and got it to a boil to create a sweet syrup.

Quick Gooseberry and Raspberry Jam

  • 2 ounces of golden gooseberries (half of a four ounce box), each berry split in half
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh raspberries
  • 3 tablespoons Swerve (sifted)
  • 2/3 cup of water
  • 1-2 tsp of chia seeds

Step 1. Bring the water to a boil. Add the sifted Swerve to the water. Add the fruit. Let the fruit cook down and the water cook off (about 5-6 minutes should do–or as much as 10 minutes) at a medium heat. Watch carefully, stir often so you don’t burn the fruit!

Step 2. Sieve the fruit through a wire mesh sieve, mashing out all the water you can. I reserve the liquid in case the chia seeds need more liquid to “jam” up.

Step 3. Put the sieved fruit into a container (jar or tupperware-type container with a tight-fitting lid). Add the chia seeds and stir, incorporating them thoroughly.

Step 4: Put in the fridge or freezer for 20 minutes.

DONE. That’s quick. Truthfully, the results were pretty jammy after about 5 minutes. This makes about 7 tablespoons of jam. It can keep for from 3-5 days in the fridge.

The Carby Facts

Golden gooseberries are delicious, tart, and a high-carb thing. Raspberries are low-carb but can easily get too, too sweet. In this recipe, I cook down 2 ounces of fresh gooseberries down to about 2 tablespoons of cooked fruit which makes for about 6 net carbs (over the ENTIRE recipe). Cooked raspberries cook down to 1/3 cup, over the entire recipe, which makes for about 5 tablespoons over the entire recipe, as near as I can figure, at 3g over the entire recipe. So the entire recipe measure out to about 7 tablespoons at 8 net carbs (based on Carb Manager statistics)–so a little over 1 carb per tablespoon, if I have this right. And its delicious.

You can do just about any other fruit with this, even frozen fruit. This is my first go at it. It was a great success on top of the peanut butter cloud bread.

Next up: The Peanut Butter Cloud Bread.

Keto Pancakes: Hazelnut Raspberry Pancakes

A number of folks in the keto groups rave about Quest multi-purpose mix. It’s based on whey protein isolate, a product that is found in all kinds of whey protein shakes. In this post, I offer a simple pancake recipe, modified from one of the many versions on the Internet. In this recipe I use Torani sugar-free hazelnut syrup and five fresh raspberries for a single-serving recipe that yields 3 small pancakes. Lokanto maple syrup finishes it off nicely!

The origins of this recipe

As usual, Wikipedia provides everything you ever wanted to know about a topic, and whey protein isolate is no different. It’s basically protein extracted from dairy; it doesn’t tend to pose problems for the lactose intolerant (as lactose is extracted during the process).

In at least one recipe, someone used a Quest milkshake formula. Quest’s milkshakes AND the baking formula have xantham gum in their ingredients list–and that is the key thing, here. If you want to know if the protein shake whey formula you have in YOUR cupboard could be substituted here for Quest, I’d look for xantham gum in the ingredients list.

I used the Quest multi-purpose mix, which does not have any specific flavoring ingredients. This means I’ll have to add them. I have a number of Torani sugar-free syrups in the cupboard and raspberries in the fridge: hazelnut raspberry is a nice combination, so I started there. This is a good way to punch up my morning protein consumption–adding 24 grams of protein to my diet just from the Quest powder alone. As I also used 3 tablespoons of butter, which also upped my (good) fat — which have also been a bit low this week.

Keto baking requires flavor additions. While you can get away with fairly plain wheat-based recipes, taking away the wheat means taking away considerable (wheat) flavor. Keto baked goods are not going to taste exactly the same (no matter how many people swear to this). In addition, we also lose the dopamine smack to the brain that wheat provides. This is why so many find keto baking disappointing.

Plain keto pancakes are likely to taste strongly of egg without additional flavor components. In this recipe, my son (who has a very sensitive palate) remarked on the pronounced “eggy” flavor, even with the additions I made. (He tasted it without the Lokanto sugar-free maple syrup, which helps to minimize this flavor).

The Recipe

Cook’s Note: Here we are going to use the baker’s method of mixing the wet ingredients together first, then adding the dry ingredients, little by little, whisking them into the wet ingredients to incorporate them fully. This recipe creates a “pancake” batter consistency recipe — it’s good for the usual “thin” pancake. Since the only real dry ingredients are the Quest powder and a dash of salt, that’s added last.

Ingredients List

  • 1 scoop Quest protein multi-purpose mix
  • 1 ounce of water (I used a jigger to measure)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar-free hazelnut syrup
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk (or actual milk) — I used a coconut/almond milk blend from Califa
  • 5 minced or chopped raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped walnuts
  • ghee or coconut oil (or other oil) for frying

The Directions

Step 1: Put all the wet ingredients (water, almond milk or regular milk, sugar-free syrup, melted butter, large egg) into a bowl. Whisk to combine them.

Step 2. Heat a skillet or griddle to a medium heat. If you’re using a skillet, add a teaspoon or two of ghee or cooking oil to fry the pancakes. (Non-stick griddles often don’t need much more than a spray of coconut oil or butter flavored oil). I like ghee because it adds a buttery flavor. It has a high “smoke point” and so it doesn’t burn easily. (Ghee is just butter fat that has the milk solids removed).

Step 3. Add a good dash of salt and a tablespoon or so of the Quest multi-purpose mix (or protein shake) to the wet ingredients. Add the mix, little by little, stirring (whisking) rapidly until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. The mixture should have a pancake batter consistency.

 Step 4.  Add a spoonful of batter to the hot skillet or griddle. Place a few pieces of raspberry and walnut on the wet pancake surface, spacing them out. When the edges of the pancake are dry and the middle is beginning to look more solid, it’s ready to flip. Depending on how high your heat is

Cook’s Note: Protein pancakes are different. Wheat pancakes show that they are cooked through when bubbles open in the middle of the pancake, pop and stay open. This didn’t happen with these protein pancakes. I had to keep checking the underside to make sure it was nicely brown before flipping them. The flip was difficult as the pancake was still a bit runny on the top. Get a big, broad spatula to help with the flip.

Step 5.  Flip the pancake. Cook for about another 2 minutes. Put on a plate. You may need to add a little more ghee or oil to the pan, heat that up and start the next pancake.

Repeat until you’ve used up all the batter. I made 3 small pancakes with this recipe, just enough for me. 🙂

The Results

I served this up with the two tablespoons of Lokanto sugar-free maple syrup. I ate the whole thing entirely and didn’t even take a picture! (Apologies, I’ll post one tomorrow). I agree with my son that I could taste the egg in it. It could use more flavoring ingredients: more sugar-free syrup, possible the addition of stevia or other sweetener. The raspberries and the walnuts were really nice, adding flavor and texture (as well as fiber!) at a very low level of additional carbs.

Overall : needs more sweet. I would in future increase the number of chopped raspberries. This also needs more hazelnut flavor. But this is definitely better than any of the other keto pancakes I’ve had over the years. Yes, it’s more like “real pancakes” — but don’t believe that it is “just like” actual pancakes.

The Carby Facts

I keyed all of this into CarbManager and got 2 net carbs for the entire recipe NOT including the Lokanto syrup, walnuts and raspberries. The Lokanto syrup added 1 carb. The walnuts and raspberries each added 1 carb. This brings this to a total of 4 carbs for all three pancakes, including the syrup, walnuts and raspberries.

At 562 calories, calorically, this recipe is not that cheap — it’s good to note that butter added 300 calories to this meal. In future, I plan to cut the fat back slightly in this recipe — and add more sweetener to try to get this recipe whittled down a bit in calories. But it is good fat and I’ve been lacking in the fat categories this week.

This is definitely a “first version” — with more versions to come! I am fond of the “Dutch baby” pancake and that will definitely be on the menu in this holiday baking week I have before me!

Best holiday wishes, ~ Lola

Keto Baking: Fathead Pizza Tips

In this post, we’re going to explore the two main problems with Fathead Pizza recipes: limp, bland crusts.  In the past, I never had luck with Fathead Pizza.  I would follow recipes to the letter and get a sad, sad excuse for a pizza crust.  Now,  I’ve studied the recipes, the comments, the tips in both keto and regular baking sites.  Off we go!  Our goal is not just a “passably acceptable” faux pizza product — I want something I can totally love and be proud to serve to anyone (including my pastry chef in-laws!) 

Preparing for Success in Keto Baking

I watch every baking show I can.   I’ve discovered that where baking is concerned, the recipe is just the beginning point. Experience in baking is really needed to get a great result. Just look at all the ruined “bakes” by those top British bakers on the Great British Baking Show!  Even experts have bad days in the kitchen.  Great cooks and great bakers study recipes to better understand what’s “going on” in a recipe.   There are many variations — and people are worried about finding the “right” recipe. But it’s the ingredients that matter–the ingredients AND the techniques. 

The Problem of Bland Fathead

Studying the recipes for Fathead out there, I notice that most recipes leave out seasoning.   At best, the original recipe calls for garlic powder. My mother-in-law hates garlic — I know there are alot of folks out there who don’t do garlic.  Salt is not usually even mentioned.  Real pizza chefs know that a hit of salt is important to providing a well-seasoned dough–and without it, even wheat-based pizza crusts can be bland.   

Blandness is an even bigger problem in gluten-free pizzas that don’t have the natural flavor of wheat to begin with.  Garlic is added to the Fathead dough to make up for the lack of flavor in the almond flour.  There are other seasonings that can be used to amp up the  flavor in basic Fathead pizza. You can try:

  • oregeno or Italian seasoning – mix in 1-2 tablespoons! 
  • different cheeses like shredded or grated parmesan, grated gruyere or grated gouda
  • pink Himalayan salt
  • pepper — white or black
  • garlic powder, onion powder 
  • fennel seeds

Salt and pepper are probably the best additions to fathead dough to make the crust as tasty as the toppings. 

Whatever variant of the fathead recipe you use, don’t forget to give it a good dash of salt at the very least. I use sea salt, oregano and white pepper.  White pepper lingers a little longer in the mouth. I mix in about a 1/2 to 1 tsp into fathead dough to give it a touch of peppery flavor.

The Problem of Limp Fathead 

Fathead dough uses cream cheese (of which there are dozens of brands) and mozzerella–which has hundreds of brands and forms.  Each of these cheeses are going to bring a slightly different level of “hydration” — water — to the  dough. 

 Making good dough is largely about dough that “feels right.” Overly wet dough is a problem in Fathead Pizza recipes.   When I follow Fathead pizza recipes to the letter, I get dough that is sticky and wet. It doesn’t roll out properly. In my experience, these recipes tend to create a dough that is more like a bad calzone recipe and not a crisp pizza-like crust. 

Many people seem to get perfect results from these basic recipes — but I am so not in that crowd!  

Real pizza chefs know the problems of overly wet dough.  With wheat flour, they use the stretch and fold technique to deal with wet dough.  This isn’t going to work with a gluten-free dough.  Stretching and folding what is mostly wet cheese and ground almonds mixed with a raw egg is not going to get you very far.  

In reading recipes and comments, several additions to the dough stand out:  the addition of flax meal to the dough, psyllium husks, and/or baking powder.   These additions can make for a sturdier dough that bake up more like a “regular” pizza, according to many sources around the Internet. 

 Improving Fathead Dough 

I was a new member of the Facebook Group, “Fathead,” when Tom Naughton published his “Oldest Brother’s Oldest Son’s Faux Carb Pizza” recipe in 2013. Diet Doctor has the same recipe — to which it added 1/2 tsp of white wine vinegar.  WHY?  Flavor? 

Usually, you see vinegar (or cream of tartar or some other acid) added to non-yeast doughs to activate BAKING SODA and get a slight rise to the dough.  But there is no baking soda in the Diet Doctor’s recipe.  I think someone started to add baking soda to this version of the recipe but accidentally left it out — an error in editing that no one picked up. 

In reading over the comments in the Diet Doctor’s version, I noticed that there were a number of discussions of how to make this dough less flimsy and crisper.  These included: 

  • Xantham gum to help the dough stick together better, making it easier to work with.
  • The addition of flax meal or psyllium husks to improve the structure.
  • The addition of baking soda to help to create more of a “rise” in the dough. 

I noticed another difference. Youtube bakers all seem to set their ovens to 425 degrees F. — while most of the online recipes specify 400 degrees F.  That can make a real difference (but I didn’t notice this until AFTER I finished this test pizza!)  Last but not least, baking the crust on BOTH SIDES, flipping it over mid-bake was an important step to make sure the crust is nice and crisp.  

 WHERE you bake the pizza is also important.  If you’ve got a conventional oven (not like, say, a toaster oven), cooking the pizza on the BOTTOM SHELF will help create a firmer crust, but it also going to brown a bit quicker on the bottom.  If you don’t FLIP it after about 10-15 minutes of baking, you’re likely to get an overdone bottom — and a top that is undercooked.  

In the middle of the oven, I kept getting pizza crusts that weren’t crisp on the top OR the bottom.  For my oven, cooking on the  bottom shelf and flipping the dough mid-way through was the key to getting a crisp, pizza-like crust — rather than a doughy mush. 

Other Tips

  • Oil your hands with olive oil.  I used olive oil with garlic infused in it to add a bit more flavor. 
  • Use superfine almond flour — and sift it to get out the lumps!

Getting a “Feel” for Fathead Pizza

Fathead dough HAS to be “blind baked” (that is — pre-baked) before you put on the toppings.  How long it needs to be baked is going to depend on how wet your dough is and what’s in it. 

Following the recipe to the letter got me very wet dough that was difficult to work with — and it didn’t feel like “good dough.”  I added 2/3 cup of mozzerella –AND about a third cup of shredded parmesan and that improved the dough some.  I also added another 1/3 c. of sifted almond flour.  That gave me a dough that was slightly wet and “workable.”

Look at Youtube videos for “fathead pizza’ to help you understand what “good dough” looks like.  Notice that they will use very many different ratios of flour to cheeses.  Some are making larger pizzas –I’ve seen recipe variations with more than 3 cups of cheese and two eggs. Some are making smaller pizzas–with just a cup of mozzarella. In any of these videos,  take a good look at the consistency of the dough so you can tell what the dough “should”  look like. 

Rolling out the Dough

I bought myself a good one-piece French rolling pen as part of my new “I’m a baker” gift to myself.   While the videos are full of people using their hands to finger-press the dough, I have watched so many bakers using these rolling pens — there is something fun and magical and Julia Child about using a french rolling pin. (For a quick video on rolling pin technique, escoffier school has a tutorial based on pie dough.)   Fathead pizza dough is soft and doesn’t need a heavy hand to roll it out.  I personally find the french rolling pin a bit easier to control than the usual dowel pin with the handles. 

Use what you feel comfortable with.   The finger press method did not work for me very well.  I don’t have enough experience with that method. 

Rolling out the dough between two pieces of baking parchment paper is pretty much a must.   The melty cheese base makes for sticky dough.  It gets all over your hands and sticks to the counter. It’s easy to peel off the top sheet and to work with the dough on the paper.   Save the top sheet for when you “flip” the half-baked pizza dough in the middle of the bake. 

Flaxseed Meal as a “Cornmeal” Substitution

I was concerned about the softness of the dough even after adding more cheese (including the drier parmesan) and  more almond flour.  One commenter suggested the addition of flaxmeal to the dough to improve its structural integrity — so it wouldn’t fall apart.  I put a spin on that suggestion, patting about 2 tablespoons of finely ground flax seed on the top of the pizza.  

Flipping the Pizza and Cooking the Other Side

I pricked the dough with a fork and put it in the oven at 400.  I let it cook for ten minutes. I took it out of the oven.  I put a piece of parchment on the top of the pizza, put a plate on top of the (hot) pizza.  Using oven mitts, I carefully flipped the pizza upside down onto the plate.  Now the flax-meal “top” became the bottom of the pizza, with a layer of parchment paper under it.  Then I lifted the pizza crust by the parchment paper and slid it back onto the hot pizza pan. Next, I put the crust put it back in the oven to cook for another 10-12 minutes to continue crisping up on the bottom rack.  

Preparing the Toppings

In a wheat pizza, I could make the dough, throw the sauce and toppings on the unbaked crust and let it bake it all bake together in the oven.  With this gluten-free, pre-baked crust, I was only going to have another 10 or 15 minutes of bake time after I got the toppings on it.  To get the vegetables to the desired level of doneness, I have to pre-cook them as well. 

After the pizza dough was flipped and put back in the oven, it was getting pretty brown.  I knew I didn’t want to put fresh toppings on this pizza — I like mushrooms and red peppers as well as pepperonis. Fathead pizzas do need additional help in getting to the flavor level of wheat pizza–more toppings help to compensate. 

I cut up the peppers and mushrooms and sautéed them in olive oil til they were soft. I added oregano and salt on top of them to season them while they were cooking in the pan — just a dash.  Italian seasoning would have been another good choice. 

Saucing the Pizza

Finally, the pizza crust was ready.  I took it out of the oven and covered it in a thin coating of a keto-friendly jarred sauce. If you like a lot of sauce, that’s a bit of problem. The wet sauce on top of the wet dough interferes in achieving crispness.  If you like a more doughy, “pan-style” pizza, we’ll need to look at other add-ins: baking soda and psyllium husks.  That’s on the list for the next Fathead Pizza bake (the Advanced Level). 

Final Assembly

  I added the mushrooms and pepper–and the pepperonis and finally, another layer of mozzarella cheese.  Now the whole them went back in the oven for its final bake–400 degrees for another five to ten minutes in the middle rack of the oven—-just enough to melt the cheese and give the pepperonis a little cook.  

Take it out and let it cool for about at least five to ten minutes.  I slide it out onto a plate right away so it will cool a little faster.  Wait for it to cool a little before you cut it into wedges. Remember, this is largely a cheese dough, held together with egg and almond flour.  Give it a little time to develop structural integrity. 

The Carb Count

A slice of Domino’s pizza has 25g net carbs in a slice. Fathead has about 5g net carbs per slice. The real problem is not eating the entire pizza–but hey, at 20g of carbs for the whole thing?   This is not including the carbs in the sauce and the carbs in the veggies.  Still, it is a very filling option–though probably not for every day. 

You can see by the picture up top that the results looked good. It certainly tasted good–with a texture on par with say, Domino’s.  It’s not going to win any culinary awards but it is a serviceable, edible slice. The results for all this effort was a MUCH BETTER rendition of a pizza product than anything I previously accomplished.  The crust was tasty and held together.  It was crisp but not heavy.  I’m curious to see what baking soda and psyllium husks will do to enhance the dough to a better textured, more “bready” pan pizza. .  If you have any great tips for Fathead pizza, please let me know in the comments!  

Enjoy!  Hope this is helpful `~ Lola

Getting Started in Low-Carb Baking

Getting starting with low-carb baking seems simple. The basic ingredients (almond flour, baking powder, and eggs) are easy to obtain.  The “mug cake” just needs a few ingredients and a microwave. You will read rave reviews about Fat Head pizza, almond flour muffins and similar recipes.  Like me, you may not be fully pleased with your results. But it’s an art–a complicated, fiddly art — because at the end of the day, it’s baking. If you are already an experienced baker, getting great results isn’t difficult. If you’re new to baking? Oh, my, the learning curve! 

Gaining Confidence as a Keto Baker

Low-carb baking is an applied science.   Like all sciences, there is theory and there is the application–which can vary greatly.  The absolute best way to learn keto baking is through keto baking classes.  I can’t find any in my area. (When I retire, this might be an entrepreneurial idea!)   The next best thing is learning through videos. 

Youtube has been my teacher.  Like all Internet learning, it’s not necessarily the best teacher.  Blogs are a great resource, too, but with Youtube demonstrations, I get a better understanding of what things should LOOK like.  Even though I can’t actually touch, smell and taste the dough, I can at least SEE the steps and the product as it goes from a set of raw ingredients to  something edible.  

Baking shows have also been a resource for me.  I had reached a stage in my life where I can watch other people eat things I should never touch without experiencing cravings or pangs and instead consider: how can I adapt that for keto and LCHF?    This is a big leap for me. My early forays into keto baking were less than satisfying.  Now, I’m looking at keto baking with new eyes.  There are gluten-free bakers like Elizabeth Pruiett out there, revolutionizing the recipes.   Her book on gluten-free baking, Tartine All-Day, is on my Christmas list.   From baking shows, I’ve learned that cooking with almond flour does not HAVE to be basic.  But we have to start somewhere–but rest assured, there is a lot more to keto baking than just the basics! 

The Basic Recipes

I’ve been cooking and eating in the LCHF (Low-carb, high fat) way of eating for going on seven years now. There are three basic recipes that you will see making the rounds in LCHF, paleo and keto communities:  cloud bread type recipes, Fat Head pizza dough recipes, and the almond flour recipes. 

“Cloud” bread.  This is a a kind of very soft, baked merengue which has a bread-like quality.  It consist of whipped egg whites, sometimes lightly flavored, baked in the oven.  It’s one of the easiest recipes –and at the same time, it can be a challenge for a new baker.   There are some secrets to getting egg whites to whip into those “stiff peaks” — and I really struggled with it.

If you’re not getting “stiff peaks,” here are some tips from my research and practice in making these things.

  • Start with room temperature egg whites.  
  • Use 1/4 tsp (or a pinch) of cream of tartar
  • A copper mixing bowl (pricey!) or a stainless steel mixing bowl (easier! and cheaper) works best for getting those peaks.
  • Use a hand-held electric mixer. Seriously, my $300 stand mixer did not do near as good a job as my nine-dollar mixer from Kmart.  

Here’s a link to one of the many versions of cloud bread out there on the Internet.   I like this Youtube recipe as it is simple and easy.  Here’s the four minute Youtube video on how to make it.    Other recipes will have you adding garlic or other ingredients because frankly, cloud bread doesn’t have much flavor at all by itself.  It’s more or less a “blank canvas” for lots of other flavors.  I like a little rosemary and parmesan myself for a sandwich.  I also add a little Swerve to make a sweet roll-type bread for a danish!  Other good additions: turmeric, garlic and finely chopped sweet onions make for a substitute for naan for Indian dishes or as a nearly no-carb substitute for low-carb sandwich wraps for Trader Joe’s chicken shawarma (see my recipe here.)

Fat Head Pizza.  There is a long, complicated story about the Fat Head movie by Tom Naughton,  the Fat Head Facebook community, and the invention of this now famous dough for “Fathead Pizza.”  Here’s a link to the original recipe

Fat Head pizza is a riff on “rugelach” dough, a  type of cream cheese pastry that swaps wheat flour for almond flour, and adds mozarella to create a pizza-like dough that is much more similar to actual pizza dough than any other “faux dough” out there.   Fat Head is reasonably easy to put together but there are tricks to getting it right.  If you’re not an experienced baker who has a good “feel” for kneading dough, like me you may struggle. Your dough may not be as crisp and as pizza-like as a more experienced baker’s product would be.  

“Fat Heads” are fans of Naughton’s movie, “Fat Head,” a personal documentary (Naughton is a professional film producer) on obesity and the low fat diets that have made so many of us obese.  I discovered the Fat Heads shortly after reading “Wheat Belly”by Dr. Bill Davis in 2012.   

My experiences with fat head pizza were somewhat mixed.  My doughs were not as crisp as others were reporting–and I didn’t know why.  At best, I was getting a kind of soft calzone dough.   I also didn’t know what I could do. In 2012, low-carb baking was just getting started.  There were discussions about using xantham gum and psyllium husks to improve texture–but I had already lost some of my baking confidence.   

Here’s a link to “Fat Head” — it’s on Amazon Prime.  Here’s a link to Wheat Belly by Dr. Bill Davis. No, I’m not an Amazon affiliate on this blog, yet.  These are provided just to be helpful. 

Almond Flour Cake, Muffin, Bread, etc. and its variations. Almond flour products tend to have a dense texture and a bland taste that is not like that of wheat.  Anyone who says it tastes “just like bread!” or “just like cake!” has clearly forgotten the taste of bread and cake. 🙂  Either that, or they have palates so clouded by junk food that they are poor judges of the world of flavor.  

Early Experiments with Almond Flour

When I first started low-carb baking, with the usual, super easy “mug cake” formula, I was very underwhelmed.  Sure, it was something that could be described as “cake-like” and sweet.  It could also be described as “heavy” and bland.  On more research, I discovered that many people were beginning to substitute coconut flour for at least SOME Of the almond flour to achieve a lighter texture.  I have to agree that I found these to be somewhat better but the results were not enough for me to want to pursue this line of experimentation.  Headbanger Kitchen has a video that gives a quick demonstration on how to make the basic almond flour “bread” recipe.

Almond butter bread dough was a craze, briefly, back in 2012.  Almond butter is expensive at about 10 bucks a jar, so that made for ridiculously expensive bread. This did produce a sliceable loaf of bread but still, pretty dense.    After a bit, people began to substitute peanut butter, much cheaper.   Here’s a video from Head Banger’s kitchen that shows a realistic bake and review of the results that I really like. 

I love the Headbanger videos because they are realistic. He’s not trying to be a domestic goddess with perfect food. He’s a keto cook who creates interesting videos that you can follow along.  Little hint though, one cup is equivalent to 100 grams. 

These are the very plain basic, very basic recipes.  You can see from the Headbanger videos that he is trying to give an honest presentation. He’s not overselling the product. These results are not “luscious.”  They are plain, simple food that HAS to be elevated to give us what we deserve:  super-tasty, wonderful food (that isn’t going to kill us). 

Getting More Advanced

I would’ve entirely given up on low-carb baking as “not worth the trouble.”  Then I got into “baking shows.”  Baking shows with baking tips, including lots of tips suitable for low-carb baking.  I learned that there is a whole bunch of almond-flour based fine pastry recipes.  The almond based recipes of keto are just basic beginning points.  They are definitely NOT the last word in keto baking. 

In this blog, I’m going to pursuing excellence in keto baking.  I am, probably like you, FAR FROM an experienced baker–but I AM an experienced researcher.  The baking shows have shown me that baking is a science.   In science, we experiment.  We collect data.  We publish our results. 

In the coming weeks, I’m going to be doing some posts on going from basic to more advanced keto baking. 

I’m going to be chasing down new recipes and conducting some experiments to help us become better keto bakers.  I’m going to have some fails and I’m going to fearlessly discuss them. If I can do it, you can do it. 

Resources

Diet Doctor has a good site on beginning low-carb/keto baking with recipes suitable for beginners.  Diet Doctor is one of my go-to sites for information and recipes for the keto way of eating.  I’ll be using this and other sites to create my next posts– but if you’re anxious to get started, it’s a good place to begin learning. 

Happy Holidays!  Hope your baking dreams come true.  ~ Lola