Monday, 1 January 2018

Low Carb Brunkager

As promised, an update on the brunkager after they were done. They worked, and even though I used the sunflower seed flour together with baking soda, they didn't turn green. It appears this particular reaction also requires oxygen, and this is a very compressed dough that was then wrapped and put in the fridge. They came out quite nice (I forgot to get some Zitronat, so they were lacking that lemony taste), but definitely softer than the usual ones. Now I like a softer cookie and eschew the efforts to make them as crunchy as possibly, so this was very much my thing, but your mileage may vary. Over all it was a success that I will repeat and refine next Christmas.


This is a modified recipe based on God Mad (no, nothing to do with a Divine Hulk), 6th edition. I'll only write the recipe with my replacements and modifications, for the original, get the book. Note that this recipe takes some planning, so read carefully before commencing.
  • 125 g butter
  • 100 g xylitol in crystals, e.g. Xucker
  • 100 g sugar syrup - I used Goldsyrup, which has a fairly high fiber content
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cold water
  • 100 g almond flour
  • 100 g gluten (e.g. Seitan Basis)
  • 100 g flour
  • 200 g sunflower seed flour
  • 1 tbsp Mickey's 5-spice (3 parts cinnamon, 2 parts cardamom, 1 parts each nutmeg, cloves, and allspice)
  • 100 g finely chopped almonds
Gently melt together the butter and sugars and bring them to a boil. Dissolve the baking soda in the water. Take the butter-sugar sauce off the heat and stir in the dissolved baking soda. (I accidentally stirred the baking soda directly in, didn't seem to hurt.) Let cool until luke-warm, roughly 1/2 hour in the fridge or outside in winter, longer inside.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix together well, by hand or machine. It should form a tough slightly sticky dough. Roll the dough into 5 cm thick rolls, wrap these and put them in the fridge for 1-2 days (yes, days).

Preheat the oven to 200C. Slice the dough in thin slices (1-2mm) and place them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake for 6-7 minutes atop the oven.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Low Carb Pebernødder

Everybody has their particular cookies that they just must have for Christmas. For me, the cookies are the Danish traditional pebernødder ("pepper nuts", known as Pfeffernüssen in Germany) and brunkager ("brown cakes"). With our recent dietary changes, these cookies presented a challenge. Between these and the sugar cookies, I have baked quite a lot this Christmas, and our buckets of almond flour are getting emptied at a surprising clip. With the l-carb shop offering almond flour for as little as €12/kg, I can afford to go through some - that's at least a better price than the €30+ seen in some shops. Here's the recipe for pebernødder - the brunkager must wait till tomorrow since they have to rest for several days.


This is my mother's recipe, with low-carb replacement marked in bold:
  • 500 g flour (replace with 200 g flour, 300 g fine almond flour)
  • 1 tsp ammoniumcarbonate (hjortetaksalt, in Germany Hirschhornsalz) - use 1 1/2 to 2 tsp
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 125 g butter
  • 250 g sugar (replace with 250 g xylitol in crystals, e.g. Xucker)
  • 2 eggs (I used 4 small eggs)
  • Zest of one organic lemon
Mix the dry ingredients, add the butter and crumble it together, then add the eggs. If the dough is too dry to form a ball, add a bit of canola oil. It should form a solid ball, not be sticky. Wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 200C. Roll dough into several 1 cm thick rolls - you may need to use some more regular flour to keep it from sticking. Cut the rolls into 1cm bits and place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until slightly brown.

These are not crunchy in the way they would be with all regular flour, but they have a nice almondy taste added. Do not try to replace some flour with flax seed flour or sunflower seed flour (sunflour?), the taste of those flours is too savory.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Succesful high-protein sugar cookies

Low Carb Sugar Cookies

(based on the Better Homes and Gardens recipe)

Makes about 40 cookies

120 g butter, softened
100g xylitol in crystal form (e.g. Xucker)
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla extract
140 g fine almond flour
10 g coconut flour
10 g gluten
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
zest of one lemon (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 180C. In a medium bowl, blend together butter and xylitol, then add egg and vanilla. In another bowl, mix the remaining ingredients, then sift them into the wet ingredients and blend well. (The dough will start out looking dry, but will come together shortly.) On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough, flipping it repeatedly and dusting with more flour to keep it from sticking. Apply your favorite cooke-cutters and place the cut-outs on a baking sheet, not quite touching each other. Bake for 9 minutes (or until the cookies start to brown) in the top part of the oven.

The gluten can probably be replaced with more coconut flour. Not sure what non-glutinous substance could be used to keep the dough from sticking when being rolled out, but alternative shaping methods include hand-rolling little pieces and pressing them flat, or rolling the dough in a 3cm cylinder, chilling it, then slicing off pieces.

Would be worth trying with even more baking soda or also adding baking powder, to get more poof to them, but this is already twice the amount of the original recipe.

With 0.4g of effective carbohydrates per cookie, these have a 1:4 carb:protein ratio. Eat them up, yum!

Before baking. Mutilated stars are due to the dough sticking to the countertop where there wasn't enough flour
After baking. Only a very slight expansion has taken place.
I'm quite pleased with the result. The thinner ones got browner, as did the ones towards the back of the oven - I should find out what temperature is right with air circulation.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Pebernødder, first try

Going further on my quixotic quest for a low-carb flour replacement, this time I threw myself at a classic Danish Christmas delicacy: Pebernødder (pepper nuts). These are traditionally made not to sit in a tin, but to be put in braided paper hearts and hung on the Christmas tree (next to the live candles) for all to nosh on as they please.

This is my mother's recipe:

500 g flour
1 tsp ammonium carbonate ("salt of hartshorn" or "baker's ammonium")
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp pepper
125 g butter
250 g sugar
2 eggs
Zest of 1 lemon

Mix dry ingredients, blend in the butter, then add the eggs. If the dough is dry, add a bit of oil (just not olive oil). Let stand in the fridge for at least an hour, then roll into 1cm-thick sticks, cut into short pieces, and bake at 200C for 8-10 minutes.

When rolled out, the dough should be moist and pliable, only barely flaky. After baking, they should be soft and have a distinct poofed-up appearance (due to the ammonium carbonate gassing out) then become slightly crunchy as they cool down.

Simple, yes? Just replace the sugar with Xylitol and the flour with an appropriate mix of almond flour, coconut flour, and gluten, and Bob's your uncle. Alas, of course, it's not that simple. And Eric Stronginthearm is your uncle.

Here's the mix I did to make a half portion (fully expecting this to not come out perfect on the first try):

200g almond flour
25g coconut flour
25g gluten
1/2 tsp ammonium carbonate
1/2 tsp baking powder (because flour replacement usually calls for extra leavening, but the ammonium carbonate already gives a very powerful taste)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp pepper
65 g butter
125 g Xucker
2 egg
~2 tbsp canola oil
(Didn't have a lemon to zest)

I added the second egg after the dough came out like dust after adding the first egg and the oil. Then I let it rest in the fridge, but it still came out pretty dry and definitely not rollable. I did half of them by just cutting the dough and pressing it, then added 1 tbsp peanut butter to half of the rest, and added 12 g gluten to the rest (that would equal 75g gluten total for the whole amount of dough). The first ones were really quite dry. The ones with peanut butter were definitely closer to appropriately moist (they should come out somewhat moist and poofed up from the oven, but crisp up as they cool down), but were rather strange with the peanut butter taste. The higher-gluten ones were the closest to the regular ones, almost possible to roll out (I always have trouble rolling the regular ones anyway),  but didn't poof up nearly as much either.

The first batch, dry and sad
Somehow the spices didn't come through very much at all, which is odd. Usually these are quite noticeably spicy, especially the ammonium carbonate taste right out of the oven.

The mix for the high-gluten version ended up with 300g flours and double the eggs, which can explain why the spices don't come through as much. But they also utterly failed to poof. Were they handled too much and got too dense to poof? Was the extra flour and egg compared to butter and ammonium carbonate making it too dense? Only another try will tell.
The second batch: Peanut butter version on the left, gluten version on the right
For my next attempt, I think I shall try half-and-half almond flour and gluten. Almond flour behaviour still eludes my understanding, and there's something about the behaviour of starch that's hard to replicate.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Almond flour isn't just almond flour

Looking around on the internet for how much almond flour to use instead of regular flour, I kept finding big variations, from 1:1 replacement to 1:2. Since baking is fairly finicky with the amount of ingredients, this confused me. But when I grabbed an extra bag of almond flour at the local grocery store (yes, there are specialty flours at the grocery store here), I noticed a difference in consistency and decided to take a closer look.

Here's a close-up of the two flours using a macro lens. On the left is MeaVita Mandelmehl, on the right Borchers Premium Mandelmehl. In both cases, I've used a blunt instrument to gently distribute the flour to better see the difference.

The flour on the left, the MeaVita brand flour, is in much larger chunks than on the right. The MeaVita flour also feels more moist, though I don't know if that's a direct effect of the size or because more oil has been extracted from the Borchers flour.

It is, however, obvious that the two flours would not behave identically in baked goods. I haven't yet done systematic tests, but I would expect the Borchers fine flour to soak up more water and also to for a finer and less crumbly dough. I have no doubt that the Borchers is a better replacement, though I cannot yet speak to how the proportion should be.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

An excellent high-protein deep-dish pizza dough

Based on Bobby Flay's Chicago deep-dish pizza dough; throwdown recipe, I replaced the 5 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour with 1 cup of seitan base, 1 cup of flax-seed flour, 1 cup of whole-wheat flour, 1 cup of all-purpose flour, and 1 cup that I'm not sure what was now, either more all-purpose flour or more flax-seed flour. Either would work, I'm sure. Notice that this is slightly less flour than the recipe calls for, that was on purpose, as the seitan base can make it rubbery if there's not enough water.

The dough came out awesome. It rose like crazy and had a structure to die for. Combined with a spicy tomato sauce, pepperoni pizza, and cheese, this was a balanced pizza that blew us away.

Balance: If the last cup was regular flour, it was 3:2 carb:protein. If it was flax-seed flour, it would be 1:1. Yes, you can have your protein pizza and eat it, too.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Bread of the day: Sunflower seed flour and extra water

I've been baking more 1:1 breads recently, and I'm have nearly consistent success (unlike the English muffins and pancakes, which came out weird). There is some variations depending on the flour in question, so I am going to do short write-ups of what works and what doesn't. Some things have definitely worked, like this bread, which I think was done with flaxseed flour:

Today's bread is also a regular loaf (what Danes would call "franskbrød"). Ingredients:

125 g. seitan base (a.k.a. vital wheat gluten)
100 g. sunflower seed flour (flower flour!)
375 g. flour (about 125 g. of which may or may not have been whole wheat, our boxes were mixed).
2 teaspoons salt
50 g. seed mix
21 g. fresh yeast
375 ml lukewarm water
2 eggs
about 50 ml oil

The procedure was the same as in the original bread post. The dough was quite moist, not really coming together in the normal dough lump. It didn't rise nearly as much as the great successes, but somewhat:

In the end, it turned out ok, springy but a little denser than normal. I guess I under-kneaded it somewhat - just because it has lots of gluten doesn't mean it doesn't need kneading.

I'm strongly suspecting that the different types of flour have in particular differences in water absorption. Another bread I made got so dry I had to add more water. Thus I need to write up my results.

Until now, I hadn't found any other recipes for baking with seitan base. But I ran across one page that mentioned it by another name, "vital wheat gluten", the name that Bob's Red Mill uses for it. And with that, there are at least some hits, but mostly they use it to turn normal flour into bread flour (adding ~ one tablespoon VWG per cup of flour), which is silly - they could just get bread flour. May be I'm alone in the