Low Carb Baking – Tips and Tricks
Low carb baking is very satisfying but does require learning a few new skills. Did you know that you could actually enjoy an occasional baked treat while sticking to your low carb or keto eating plan? And you can enjoy them in a way that doesn’t require “cheat” days?
Baking while following a low carb or keto diet is certainly not necessary, but if you find yourself missing bread and baked goods, it is well worth your while to learn how.
Biscuits, cakes, waffles, pancakes, breads and more are very much possible on your low carb diet!
How to Get Started
Don’t let the recipes you read online or elsewhere scare you off. With a bit of knowledge and experience, you will soon be making low carb baked goods that are crowd-pleasing and satisfying. Going low carb or keto does not mean you have to give up all treats. It does not mean you have to have a “cheat” day to enjoy treats. While baked sweets should not be an everyday item, they certainly have their place in keeping variety and satiety in your diet.
When you first attempt low carb baking, you will notice that there are quite a few new ingredients to learn about. These ingredients are expensive compared to traditional baking ingredients. You will want to learn as much about how they behave before you find yourself tossing a lot of expensive ingredients.
Personal Opinion . . . I really think that the reputation of low carb and keto diets as being “expensive” comes from the reality of the issue of baking. Protein sources and above ground vegetables don’t change in price just because you have adjusted your diet. However, if your previous diet consisted of a lot of white flour, pasta, and packaged goods, then yes, these “real food” ingredients would be more expensive.
Compare the cost of a loaf of cheap white bread to the price of a pound of almonds. It is no wonder that almond flour costs more than white wheat flour.
BUT . . . on the flip side, you will likely consume smaller quantities of baked goods made with almond (or other alternatives) flour than you would of items made from wheat flour.
A Few Things to Be Aware of About Low Carb Baking
- Doughs are generally softer and stickier than what you are used to.
- Textures will be a bit more course.
- Cookies will not flatten like conventional ones.
- Not all cookie recipes will get crispy.
- Some items will need to cool before reaching the desired texture.
- Alternative flours will brown or burn more quickly.
- Different sweeteners will give you different results
How to Begin
The first thing I would recommend is to start with relatively simple recipes already designed and tested for low carb baking. Eventually, you will gain enough knowledge to substitute ingredients in your favorite recipes. Still, it really isn’t the best place to start.
It doesn’t work to simply substitute almond or coconut flour for wheat flour in your own recipes. Gluten is the ingredient in wheat flour that allows for the elasticity that gives our familiar baked goods texture.
Almond flour, coconut flour, and other nut flours, do not have gluten and will not respond to yeast the way wheat flour does. They simply will not rise like yeast flours. Coconut flour also acts like a sponge and will absorb significantly more liquid than either almond or wheat flour. Both almond and wheat flour are more crumbly than wheat flour and often require the use of more eggs or other ingredients to help hold them together.
What About All Those Special Ingredients?
Here we will explore many of the baking ingredients you will likely encounter. I will cover sweeteners in a separate post as they are an extensive subject all to their own.
Before creating a shopping list for all of the items listed here, I suggest finding a few recipes you would like to try and purchase what you need for them first. These ingredients can be pricy. Except for the almond flour, you will be using such small quantities that you could easily have way too much on hand before it is needed.
Depending on where you live, you might find it easier to purchase most of these ingredients online. Regular grocery stores are beginning to carry more of them as demand has increased. However, some are still difficult to find, especially in rural areas.
Low Carb Baking Ingredients
This is easily the most common substitute for wheat flour. I typically purchase this in 3-pound bags, which last me for several months.
Use extra-fine almond flour made from blanched almonds. In addition to the labeling, the color will be different. Flour made from blanched nuts will be a light cream color.
I do not use nearly as much coconut flour as almond, so I generally purchase it in smaller quantities.
Keep in mind that you CAN NOT substitute coconut flour equally for either almond or wheat flour. Quantities of each are not equal.
Psyllium Husk Powder
This is an interesting one and one I would not be without. It helps with the texture of the flours and helps bind them together.
Brands vary significantly, and some even turn your dough purple! This doesn’t seem to affect the taste of the final product, but somehow I don’t think purple is an appealing color for baked goods.
I currently use both the Konsyl and NOW brands. Neither of them changes color. The Konsyl is actually sold as a fiber supplement in the pharmacy department and I have only been able to purchase the NOW brand online.
Xanthan gum is often added to gluten-free recipes to aid in the texture of the final product. It is frequently added to commercially baked products and ice cream to create a softer, creamier texture. I personally don’t like it and pretty much avoid its’ use.
My opinion of guar gum is pretty much the same as xanthan gum.
This is different than oat flour, which contains carbs. Do not confuse the two. Oat fiber is just a very fluffy fiber derived from oats. It adds to a light texture to baked goods.
Whey Protein Powder
Unflavored, unsweetened whey protein powder is an excellent additive to baked goods, used as a dry ingredient, along with the almond and coconut flours.
Commonly available in health food aisles or with weight lifting supplements. Verify ingredients to make sure there are no sweeteners, additives, or other items added.
Mini Sugar-Free Dark Chocolate Chips
Both Lakanto Monkfruit sweetened, and Lily’s Stevia sweetened chocolate chips are great. Try them both and decide which you prefer.
I use both in chocolate chaffles or chocolate chip cookies.
If you cannot find them locally, they can be ordered online.
Heavy Whipping Cream
A baking essential in my kitchen. I keep at least a couple of quarts on hand at all times, as I use it in so many things.
I prefer to find a brand that has only cream listed in the ingredients, but they sometimes difficult to find.
In addition to being an ingredient called for in many recipes, having heavy whipping cream on hand gives you a quick way to dress up any dessert in less than 5 minutes by making homemade whipped cream.
Any other ingredients, except the sweeteners used in low carb baking, will be the same as used in conventional baking. Baking powder, spices, dairy products, vanilla extract, etc. Nothing special needed for these items.
Pick a couple of recipes and just try them. Do not expect them to be a direct copy or replacement for your previously favorite recipes. Instead, approach it with the idea that you will experience new flavors and textures that will likely become favorites.
After you have tried several recipes, take what you have learned and experiment with adapting your own personal recipes. OR, just keep collecting new recipes that have already been tested for you.