On Keto Cornbread and Almond Flour Baking

My experiences with almond flour recipes has always been mixed with the negatives outweighing the positives, until I found Natasha Newton’s Southern Keto cookbook. When looking for a faux cornbread recipe, I turned to this cookbook for real cornbread flavor. As a Southerner myself, I trusted Natasha to know how to get that flavor– and this recipe is very close to the real thing, in my humble experience. And a first-time success at 2 net carbs per serving!

Some Caveats about Almond Flour Baking for Newbie Keto Bakers

Keto baking often requires “investment” in ingredients. Newbie keto-ers are often shocked at the expense, especially for almond flour, a staple in keto baking. The food industry makes its money on cheap ingredients (wheat, sugar, and grains generally) and has flooded the market with these things in one form or another, to the detriment of our health. Insulin, however, is very expensive. Moving to a keto diet means giving up junk food — including breads. This is a hard move to make in Western societies. Our childhood food memories always have significant “bread” moments. Newbie keto bakers turn to almond flour in the hopes that they will be able to recreate their present diets, just by adding keto forms of best-loved dishes.

The high praises for almond flour often leads to high expectations and terrible disappointment.

Almond flour is an ingredient lots of newbies in keto love to hate. They feel betrayed by the people who sing its praises as if it really DOES substitute “perfectly” for wheat flour. Alas, it doesn’t. Wheat is an addictive substance, as the authors of Wheat Belly (cardiologist Dr. Bill Davis) and Grain Brain (Dr. Daniel Perlmutter) have discussed at length. We’re addicted to the dopamine kick in the brain that wheat delivers — and our cravings for bread, cake and other baked goods may never be sufficiently addressed by almond flour substitutes–especially in the beginnings of anyone’s keto journey.

It’s best to either substantively lower expectations–even to the point of staying entirely away from keto substitutes for bread in the first three months or so of starting a keto diet. Let your body forget wheat, its flavor and texture. I didn’t touch wheat for many years, gradually fell off the wagon during my year and a half struggle with cancer. Like many who fall away from a low-carb way of eating, I had to come back with a new game plan that involves refining and elevating my keto baking abilities.

Flavor and Texture

This recipe isn’t real cornbread, but for me, who hasn’t had more than three pieces of cornbread in the past six years, it was nearly perfect. My son, not in keto, has an amazing palate (he can taste individual ingredients in recipes, especially spice). I asked him to give me his honest opinion. He declared the flavor to be “okay” and for the texture “okay, but a bit weird.” My first attempt is suffering from older baking powder — not past its due date but within a few months. I think this is why it didn’t rise as high as expected.

Almond flour does have a much more dense texture than wheat. Bakers often “lighten” it up by adding coconut flour. This recipe doesn’t go that route. It uses 2 cups of almond flour and 2 tablespoon of golden flax meal. Golden flax meal has some properties of a corn-like taste. I put it into my version of fathead pizza dough, to provide a more chewy texture.

I personally found the texture to be slightly dense but acceptable, given the great flavor. Now, that’s me, someone who has barely touched cornbread for six years. (In my defense, I used to have to restrain myself from eating the entire pan). My son described the flavor of this keto recipe as “like a cupcake, with a corn aftertaste that isn’t bad.” For me, I find it very close to cornbread in flavor–due, I think to the “optional”–and quite expensive– corn extract.

“Corn” or “Cornbread” Extract

This is an expensive ingredient, just slightly less expensive than liquid stevia but for a tiny, 1-oz quantity. At nearly 8 dollars a bottle online, corn extract seemed like an insane investment, especially since my early experiments with almond flour baking were — kind of horrible. Almond flour based packaged mixes–the Simple Mills brand, especially, changed my opinion that almond flour was never going to be “for me.” They were “adequate” substitutes and I ate them sometimes during the cancer year, to give myself the illusion of being low carb (and staying away from wheat).

In this recipe, you only use 1/2 teaspoon of corn or “cornbread” extract—and it worked like a charm. Any extract used in large quantities tends to make for problems of producing off-tastes. The bottle was only 30ml but the amount used is very small, so I’m fairly sure it will last me for at least half a year. I also think it will work well in cauliflower recipes, but that’s for another experiment, another day.

The Recipe

The recipe is pretty much a snap to bring together. Start by preheating the oven to 375F. You’ll need a ten-inch cast iron skillet (for best results) but other baking pans will work alright, but a seasoned cast iron skillet will produce a browner, crisper crust.

Ingredients

The dry ingredients:

  • 2 cups superfine (finely ground) almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons golden flax meal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

The wet ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons of melted butter

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375F
  • Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  • In a larger, separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, a quarter cup or so at a time, whisking the dry and wet ingredients together to form a batter.
  • Now prepare the cast iron or other ovenproof skillet or baking pan. (See notes below)
  • Finally, pour the batter into the hot, prepared skillet or baking dish and put it in the oven.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.
  • After you take it out of the oven, flip the cornbread onto a plate or cooling rack. Let it cool for about ten minutes.
  • Serve with softened butter!

Preparing the Pan or Skillet

  • To prepare the pan, you will require:
  • 2 additional tablespoons of ghee, butter, coconut oil, or other “grease” (like bacon fat) for coating the skillet (or baking pan).

If you were not raised in a Southern kitchen with a cornbread-making mama (or papa!) , you might not know that cornbread batter NEEDS to hit a hot, greased skillet right before it goes into the oven, to create that nice, brown cornbread crust. My Southern mama used Crisco for everything, including this. VERY BAD IDEA, because, as we learned later, Crisco is just concentrated trans-fat. Probably the worst thing in terms of healthy grease!

Butter, Ghee, Coconut Oil or Bacon Fat: Choosing your Grease (and Your Method–and Your Pan)

Greasing the skillet (or baking dish) is a very necessary step for achieving good corn bread. The trick is to get the pan good and hot– and coated with grease all over the bottom–so that the cornbread will flip out easily after its baked.

Natasha’s Method: Natasha Newton’s recipe used butter that you put in the cold skillet. Then, you put the pan in the oven at 375 to melt the butter, while you put together your wet and dry ingredients. The problem for me was that I am SLOW and easily distracted! By the time I got my batter put together, the butter had gone from melted to “brown” — with the beginnings of burned bits of milk solids in the bottom of the pan. NOT GOOD. I had to spoon out the heavily browned milk solids.

Next time, if I use this method, I will just use ghee, which is clarified butter. It is a shelf stable product which has a very high smoke point. This means you can get ghee much hotter than butter, without burning it. You can get this at Walmart (in with the Mediterranean type of ingredients) or at Trader’s Joes, or, these days, many general supermarkets.

The Down-Home Texas Method. My Southern mama taught me to put a DRY cast iron skillet in the oven to heat it up while I put the wet and dry ingredients together. THEN, I was to take the hot, dry skillet out of the oven, put it on a low burner, then add the grease and get it nice and hot.
THEN, when the skillet is well coated with hot grease, you pour the cornbread batter into the hot, greasy skillet. And get the pot holders to pop the skillet right back into the hot oven right away!

The Bacon Fat Option

Bacon fat is also a very good option for greasing the baking dish or skillet. Fry two or three pieces of bacon directly in the cast-iron or ovenproof skillet. Or, if you use a baking pan that is NOT safe for the stovetop, drain the bacon grease into the oven dish before you pour in the batter. It will give your cornbread a rich, bacony down-home flavor.

This is why a cast iron skillet or other oven-safe skillet is preferred. Skillets have a good handle that enables you to move them from the stove top to the oven and back using a good pot-holder.

If you use a regular baking dish that is NOT suitable for the stovetop, grease the dish well with ghee or coconut oil and put it into the oven to preheat for about five minutes or so. Or use hot bacon fat that you swirl around the cold dish before you put it into the oven to heat up. THEN, take it out (carefully with potholders) and pour in the cornbread batter.

Flipping the Bread Out

This step requires a bit of practice. If you’ve never done this before, its similar to flipping out cakes, however the skillet is MUCH heavier — and hotter–than cake pans. If you’re not an experienced baker, you should wait about 30 minutes to an hour for the skillet to cool down. Or you can use an offset spatula to gently lift the cake out.

How to Flip: Using oven mitts, put a large plate or a wire cooling rack (which is a bit better) on top of the skillet or pan.

Turn the pan upside with the plate or wire rack underneath it. The bread SHOULD immediately release onto the plate or rack. If it doesn’t release, just leave it there until the pan is cool enough to take it away. Greasing the bottom of the pan well is the critical step in getting the cornbread to just fall right out.

The Carby Facts

Natasha Newton suggests that this recipe serves 6, for 2 net carbs per serving:

  • Calories: 233
  • Fat: 20.6g
  • Protein 7g
  • Carbohydrates 4.6g
  • Fiber 2.6g

Bon Appetit! More soon. ~ Lola

Keto Bacon & Gruyere Dutch Pancake

This easy, delicious savory pancake is a keto Dutch dream come true. Have it for brunch–lunch–dinner!

I once had the opportunity to travel to Ameersfort in the Netherlands– where a friend introduced me to the Dutch baby–a special Dutch concoction — at a “Pannekoekenhaus” in the old, walled town. What a revelation! So many savory pancakes to choose from — and they even had a gluten-free option. I was floored. It was 2013 and gluten-free options in restaurants were hard to find — especially in Europe. I had this INCREDIBLE bacon and gruyere offering, nicely savory, with a light application of maple syrup. I’ve been on the lookout for a keto version for AGES. Thanks to Natasha Newton and her excellent cookbook, Southern Keto, and my personal memories of this amazing Dutch restaurant, I present this re-creation of this Dutch classic.

From the Netherlands with Love

The Recipe

I used the very same recipe from yesterday, for the sweet version, but I’ll repeat it here for good measure.

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated erythritol
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons of butter

The pancake isn’t all that sweet to begin with, so using it as-is works just fine. We’ll prepare the pancake JUST as in the other recipe, but at BEFORE we pop it in the oven, we’ll top the pancake batter with these two ingredients:

  • 3 pre-cooked bacon slices — I used Oscar Mayer’s from a pre-cooked bacon package.
  • 3 tablespoons of shredded gruyere cheese

The Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Whisk the eggs, adding in the water and the cream.
  3. Add the vanilla extract, erythritol (or other sweetner. I used granulated Allopure) and coconut flour. It will make a fairly thin batter.
  4. In a 10-inch oven-proof skillet, melt the butter. ( Note: You can use another oven-proof pan that’s not good for the stove top. Just get whatever pan you use get nice and hot, even if you just put the butter in the pan and put the pan in the oven. A cast iron skillet is a good choice, though).
  5. Pour the batter into the hot pan.
  6. Take the bacon out of the package and place the bacon on the top of the batter.
  7. Sprinkle with the gruyere cheese.
  8. Put the pan IMMEDIATELY into the hot oven.
  9. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

I serve this with a light drizzle of sugar-free maple syrup. My favorite brand is the Lokanta brand.

The Crepe–Dutch Savory Way

In many ways, the results are somewhere between a crepe and a fritatta. The smoky bacon and the savory cheese brings the egg flavor a bit more forward than in the sweet version.

The Dutch restaurant has literally a dozen different variations –I wish I had taken a photo of the MENU! I recall they also had other versions of this — ham and fig jam, for example–and chicken curry were among the choices. Try this and then, experiment!

The Carby Facts

According to Natasha, this recipe makes FOUR servings. Let me say this, no way in the world that anyone is going to eat 1/4th of this amazing delight. I’m giving you the facts for the WHOLE pancake. Because you’re likely to want to eat it, especially since the net carbs for the whole thing work out to about four net carbs! This is the count for the pancake WITHOUT the bacon and gruyere. Bacon usually has no carbs. Gruyere has 0.4 carbs for an entire CUP, so you can safely count it as 0 as well. 2 tablespoons of Lokanta has 1 carb, so the total for this, syrup and all is about 5 net carbs carbs.

  • Calories: 656
  • Carbs: 6.8
  • Fiber: 2.8
  • Erythritol (sugar alcohol) 6 grams
  • Protein. 28.8

Taking the fiber AND the sugar alcohols out of this seems wild, but if most all the carbs are from sugar alcohol and then the fiber from the coconut flour– that’s about zero carbs. Some sources say take out HALF of sugar alcohols. That’s probably not quite on the money, but even if you leave the net carbs at FOUR, and not subtract the erythritol at all, this is a great carb bargain.

Keto on ~ Lola

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).

An Introduction to Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting or “IF” has been around for five or so years as a boost to weight loss and an overall improver of health. This is especially true when team up with LCHF (and keto) ways of eating. In a nutshell, intermittent fasting helps us become “fat-adapted” more quickly. It improves our body’s ability to shed excess weight, maintain an even blood sugar level, and makes us feel better in the long run.

Here is a very quick, non-technical explanation of why IF is a “thing” in low-carb ways of eating circles. There’s alot of good research that indicates that IF can speed weight loss and generally deliver excellent health benefits. In the next post, I’ll provide a synopsis on how to get started and choose the style of IF that’s right for you –if you decide this is what you’re looking for to supplement your journey to better health.

Constant Snacking Is Not Good

I like my snacks. I’ve avoided IF for years because of my fear of losing snacking privileges. One of the great advantages of going LCHF (or dirty keto) is the fact that one can just swap high carb snacks for low-carb ones and still lose weight. Lots of people do. Stephanie Nyland Laska of Dirty, Lazy Keto fame has gone on record as to not having done anything like IF — and she lost 140 lbs so she has that as her personal experience.

I tried IF in the “early days” — but couldn’t stick with it, though I knew it had real, scientifically founded benefits–and I lost 20 lbs myself on LCHF. But this go-round, since I’m dealing with a much bigger problem of T2 diabetes, I thought it was high time I looked into it again as a way to get back to greater health.

What is IF (Intermittent Fasting)?

Intermittent fasting is a going without food for a period of 12 hours or more, depending on the various “styles” (or “schemes”) to lose weight and advance our general fitness. This article by Diet Doctor explains what IF is and its benefits. 

This post is based on the Diet Doctor’s advice — which I find easiest to understand. It could probably be a little easier, though. When scientists talk in technical terms, I notice people’s eyes glaze over. They don’t get it. So here’s a very non-technical explanation. It’s a little shorter and not nearly as accurate as the Diet Doctor’s or other highly technical discussions on the Internet, but I find that many people do not want the “deep dive” explanation.

How we get fat

When we eat, the body takes the calories we consumes and converts them in to energy we use (in moving around, sitting in a chair, petting the dog, what have you). Carbohydrates get converted quickly and easily into energy for immediate use. Fat can also get converted into energy after the carbs run out. Energy that is not burnt off (either carb or fats) in daily activity gets stored in the liver.

The liver can only hold so much fat and no more. If the liver “tank” is full up, then excess calories are converted into body fat. Losing weight is about getting our bodies to process the body fat, readily and easily, into energy.

Insulin resistance and Diabetes

Science doesn’t fully understand the process of weight loss because individual health issues can get in the way, hampering our body’s ability to burn off body fat. Insulin levels in our blood rises when we eat. Insulin is kind of like a air traffic control tower. It directs the energy from the food we eat straight into the tissues of the body that need immediate energy. Some people develop insulin resistance so that the body doesn’t easily turn the food we eat straight into energy we use. Instead, more of the calories we eat get stored as body fat. Yes, you can eat the very same foods as someone else —and you’ll get fat and that other person won’t–because you have insulin resistance.

If I had known there was a lifetime limit on junk food, I would’ve paced myself.

(What I often think when I’m looking at a pastry counter’s lovely offerings. Sigh.)

If this goes on, the body will begin to produce less and less insulin, so that in time, we get diabetes Type 2. And we get fat –more easily and more quickly than before — because the body begins storing the energy from food (as fat) rather than making it available to our body tissues for energy. Eat too many calories from protein and the body may also begin changing the protein into “sugar” (glucose) and storing it as well. Yikes. This is why everyone is so obsessed with the “macros.”

It takes energy to convert the food we eat into fat. Protein takes the most energy to get converted into glucose (and then into fat). Carbohydrates take the least energy to convert into fat. A low-carb diet pushes the body to convert fat into energy in a preferred way. This is what we mean by being “fat adapted.” When we’re fat-adapted, we lose more weight.

How IF helps get us back our health

Human bodies need a break from constant processing calories.

We usually get that break at night–while we sleep. During the night, our bodies heal up from the stresses and physical issues of the day. That gives us about 8 hours or thereabouts for our bodies to repair themselves–and to BURN OFF FAT. Since we’re not taking in any food, the body turns to the liver and to our body’s stores of fat for the energy it needs to fight off microbes, repair our muscles, and do all the many maintenance tasks we need to stay alive. Put simply, when we fast, we burn body fat. When we eat, things get complicated for the body as it tries to trade off between burning the incoming calories — and burning the body’s stores of fat.

Intermittent fasting is simply extending that time period of going without calories to longer than 8 hours–stretching it to 12 hours or more. This gives our bodies more time to process and burn off our fat stores without throwing in the complication of “what to do” with incoming calories.

IF helps to reduce inflammation, improves our capability to burn fat, lowers cholesterol and increases mental clarity–to name just a few of its many benefits. It also can help to reverse Type 2 diabetes–for me, a great reason to work this into my weekly plan.

A Great Guide to Beginning IF

The Diet Doctor’s blogpost also provide a link to a detailed guide on IF that explains three different styles.

I’ll write and post a short beginning guide to these styles based on this article tomorrow. But here are some highlights to take away with you.

  1. You don’t have to do IF every day to be successful.

Even a few days a week can help. Even just ONE day a week can get you some of the benefits!

2. You can drink water, coffee with no-calorie sweeteners, tea or diet soda and not “break the fast.”

That simplifies matters and doesn’t leave me too hungry.

More soon. And Happy Holidays

Three Great Websites to Get Started on Low-Carb

A “Blogmas” Post

My favorite Facebook group swelled by over two THOUSAND members after Thanksgiving. That’s a lot of people starting keto, even if it’s dirty, lazy keto.   There’s a real need for guidance and support for newbies, so here’s my “blogmas” list for “how to get started.” 

The Diet Doctor

The Diet Doctor is probably the best all-around website on low-carb dieting of all kinds. Run by Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt and team of over forty, it provides some great advice and help for getting started and for maintaining a low-carb lifestyle.

If books are not your “thing” and you prefer getting your knowledge via video, there is an entirely optional “membership” plan, with a free one month trial, that will give you a sound education on keto from a physician.  It’s not a substitute for actually talking to your doctor. If you have serious medical issues such as insulin-dependent diabetes, talking to your actual doctor is a MUST–and this website explains who really needs to talk to their doctor (and who probably doesn’t need to do this). 

I have never tried the paid membership option. I DO turn to this site (as I have for many years) for its very large recipe file and clear, helpful  (and free) knowledge resources.  The entire site is also available in Spanish and Swedish. 

Even in its free version, this website is probably as good or better than any book out there on low-carb.   The membership version is less than $9 US a month–with the first month free. 

Mark’s Daily Apple

Mark’s Daily Apple is another well-known site, quite commercial but with customer-centered principles. Mark Sisson’s book, The Primal Blueprint came out around the time I first got seriously interested in low-carb –around 2011. He began with the “paleo hypothesis” — the notion that human beings were are not genetically programmed by evolution to consume the current junk food diet. A diet more like what we ate in our early evolutionary history would be “better” for us.

I’m a card-carrying anthropologist. Doctorate and everything. And I can tell you that humans have continued to evolve after the paleolithic.  This evolution is precisely why some people can eat dairy with no ill effects– and other people can’t.  The next problem? The food we eat — those species–have been changing all this time, too. (We’ve had an active hand in changing them.)   Our genes have changed–our food’s genes  have changed.  Still, the notion of “ancestral eating styles” has tremendous merit.   The manufactured diet that we’ve been eating since the 1970s has clearly caused this obesity and diabetes epidemic. 

Still, I am a paleo fan and at one point, went full-on paleo. Great food. Great health. But it is not necessarily a weight-lowering diet.  Even Sisson eventually altered his point of view, gradually embracing keto (and combining it with the paleo precepts.)  Sisson’s site has some great resources for starting keto.  He’s got yet-another-book out, The Keto Reset Diet, that I plan to review as part of my Blogmas postings.   

Dirty, Lazy Keto

Dirty, Lazy Keto totally deserves a plug. While Ms. Laska is not in the same league as Diet Doctor and Primal Blueprint, her emotionally supportive, permissive style of keto is bringing many people great results. I once wrote that I didn’t think her book was worth the price (I thought it should be cheaper, but a great resource). I hereby eat my words. Sitting in the Facebook group, chatting with the folks there and how that book changed their lives, I think it’s totally worth it. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon. You’re very welcome.  Laska is not going to provide you with the sound medical advice of the Diet Doctor or the full-on hoorah of Sisson’s rock-star writing style and in-depth research, but she speaks from the heart.

Laska’s approach is simple: just count carbs, don’t worry about the other “macros” (proteins, fats). Other approaches have specific metrics and people have apps that count their “macros” to get their diets tuned to whatever their approach deems to be “perfect” for weight loss.   She also doesn’t see anything wrong with artificial sweeteners, diet soda or other taboos, in moderation. Yes, people lose weight on this — many of them, lots of weight.  She doesn’t even make people count the carbs in leafy greens and other non-starchy vegetables–making this by far the simplest (and most sane) approach to changing one’s way of eating.  She lost 140 lbs this way.  Others in the group report impressive results. 

If you’re tired of the harping of the religious nuts in the keto (and paleo) communities, if you want gentle encouragement and big yays for your victories, come hang with the dirty, lazy keto people on Facebook

More soon and happy Blogmas! ~Lola

Recipe: Basic Fluffy Omelette

My daughter married into a warm hug of a Big Family of cooks, including professional chefs.  Thanksgiving, even the casual one we’re having this year, has Menus that the matriarch and her offspring work on well in advance.  I love Thanksgiving there; we can talk about anyTHING — religion, politics, sex. But not eggs. I was warned about eggs.   Eggs are so important that how to scramble them has divided the family for years.  Here’s an omelette recipe: Let the controversy begin!

A Simple Recipe
  * 3 eggs, separated
  * 3 TBSP of dairy or dairy sub
  * Seasonings
   * Cheese, fillings, as desired
   * 1-2 TBSP of fat 

Fluffy Omelettes!

In my previous post, on the Art of the Omelette,  I describe the three bowl method of separating eggs.  Do I really do all that?  Yes, if I’m making more than three eggs worth and need to whip up the whites into peaks, stiff or soft.  If it’s just TWO eggs, my usual?  I have a bowl for yolks ready, then I might just put the whites straight into the cup of my Bullet mixer.  If it’s a big, brunchy THREE egg omelette?  Yeaah, I do break out the glass bowl for the whites, so I can inspect for errant yolk specks.   A bit fussy, I know. 

For this big, brunchy omelette, I set the egg whites on the counter for an hour or so, to let them try to get to something like room temperature.  My stand mixer is currently vacationing at my daughter’s house, so I make do with the Bullet. 

Next I assemble my ingredients, the mise en place for omelette construction.  A plain omelette is fairly bland. It needs seasonings to wake it up, if only turns of a pepper mill and a sprinkling of salt.    

The Fat Question

While I love the taste of an omelette fried in butter, frying in butter isn’t a great idea–because butter has a tendency to burn easily. The milk solids in butter need a bit of buffering.  Chefs often add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to butter, and this offers a lovely flavor.   Whenever I use butter alone, a burned omelette bottom is always a potential issue, so I hedge my bets, adding a tablespoon of good California olive oil and a pat of butter–or just ghee, which has the mild solids removed. Ghee has slightly less flavor than the butter and olive oil combo but a much higher “smoke point.”  It’s much more unlikely to burn if I misjudge the temperature.

Bacon fat, coconut oil, or ghee also do very well as fats for frying omelettes.  Bacon fat can impart a nice smoky flavor. Even beef tallow or lard is great. If  you must use a seed oil, that’s fine, but you’ll be missing out in terms of flavor.  This is a dirty keto recipe, you make your own choices. 🙂 

Seasonings

Fresh herbs wake up a plain omelette nicely–but even dried herbs are great.  I often pair turmeric with smoked paprika;  turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, very good for the body, and smoked paprika is a nice complement.   I like white pepper, dried coriander, but I don’t use salt until AFTER the egg is cooked–as I’ve read the cooking the egg with salt will create a tougher, less tender omelette. 

Fresh herbs that are leafy,  like leaf parsley or cilantro are best served as a garnish after the omelette has been plated.   Woody herbs can be set in the pan with the fat while it heats up. A stem of rosemary or a several stems of thyme can be set in the pan and removed BEFORE you put the eggs in, to flavor the oil (and the pan).  I take them out before pouring in the egg mixture, taking only a few leaves to sprinkle on the top of the egg mixture when it’s cooking in the pan.

Cheese and Fillings

These are the totally optional ingredients.  They make the omelette have more flavor — but you can mix it up or leave them out entirely and have a good meal. 

Cheeses are the ultimate flavor additions to omelettes.  Let’s face it, eggs every day for breakfast can get tedious unless you mix it up regularly — and cheese is an amazingly transformative ingredient. If you’re unfamiliar with anything outside of cheddar and parmesan, here’s a little slideshow of 13 cheeses to get you started.

Funnily enough, I have never been a big cheese fan until I went LCHF. Not on this list are some of my big favorites: fontina, which melts beautiful, and brie, which can be combines with fruits for a sweet omelette.   A nice keto friend combination: brie cheese and reduced sugar “craisins” (cranberry raisins).

Cheeses are added after the eggs are in the pan.  For hard cheeses, I use a microplaner and grate the cheese into a fluffy heap in a bowl, waiting til the eggs are cooking, to be sprinkled on top. 

 Other fillings usually need to be pre-cooked.

Onions should be chopped into a small dice and put in the pan with fats. Cook them down using low heat and they’ll carmelize and get sweeter. This can take some time, so have patience — ten minutes with constant pushing them around in the pan so they don’t burn is about right. I don’t usually take that kind of time,  just three minutes or so. 

Peppers either green or red, orange or yellow, should be diced fairly small and added about a minute after the onions.

Mushrooms — white, portabella, or even some of the fancier kinds, add a meaty element and “umami” taste to omelettes.  Quite good.

Spinach or kale needs to be washed and dried and chopped–or you can buy baby spinach and baby kale. 

The Execution!

Step 1. Separate the eggs. 

Step 2. Add the fat to the (oven-safe) omelette pan.  I prefer an 8 inch pan.  A six inch pan WILL create a somewhat taller omelette,  but it needs a touch of patience, perhaps a lower temperature to get the insides cooked before the bottom is overcooked.  

Step 3. After the fat gets hot, add the woody stems of fresh herbs, if you’re using them. Add the onions, if using, and start them cooking for at least 2 or 3 minutes.

Step 4.  Fish out the stems of herbs and set them aside on a plate.
Add the peppers and mushrooms (if using).  Get them nice and brown, another 2 minutes or so.  Put in the spinach and let that wilt while you turn to the EGGS! 

Step 5. Add a tablespoon or two of dairy to the yolks and whisk. I like heavy cream,  but I also have been known to use ricotta, or milk, or creme fraiche, or a nut milk.  They all work nicely to give a soft texture to the omelette. 

Step 6. Add cream of tartar to the egg whites (about a 1/2 tsp) or a teaspoon of  lemon or lime juice–and whisk them (or use a mixer) until they reach twice their volume.  If you don’t have either cream of tartar, lemons or limes, don’t sweat it.  The acid helps the whites to create good bubbles.

Step 7. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the yolks mixture, stirring them until they’re just combined. 

Step 8. Pour the egg mixture into the pan on top of whatever you’ve been cooking.   While the eggs being to set, sprinkle the grated cheese on top (if using).  I sprinkle on extra seasoning —turmeric and paprika–at this point, too. Coriander is also nice.

Step 9. Turn on the broiler to about 550 to 600 degrees F.  When the eggs look dry around the ends and it’s mostly set (perhaps a little soupy), I take the pan off the stovetop and put it under the broiler for about 2 minutes.  This makes the top of the omelette set and perhaps turn slightly brown.  You HAVE to keep an eye on this. 

If you got the egg whites nicely whipped, and the broiler nicely hot, the eggs should “puff” a bit.   The puffing may not be very noticeable.  (My oven JUST ISN”T hot enough to make a good poufy omelette!.) Take the pan out of the oven.  You should be able to fold it over and slip it onto a plate. 

Add fresh leafy herbs if you wish — cilantro or parsley is nice.  

And it’s done!  I’m rather fond of adding a streak of sriracha sauce across the top– a garlic hot sauce from Thailand –my daughter prefers “Texas Pete’s” hot sauce.  But that’s it.  I’m still trying to figure out how to make these EVEN PUFFIER.  I’m not sure if the separating the eggs from the yolks and doing them separately IS worth the trouble.  There will be more omelette recipes to come, to test the matter. 

Enjoy!  ~ Lola