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

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

I made 1:1 bread, and it is de-leeecious!

If you have celiac disease or an actual gluten sensitivity, then this post is not for you. If you avoid gluten solely because of some dieting fad, you're losing out. This is good bread. This is bread that's better for insulin-resistant people. This is... high-gluten bread!

Disclaimer: I am neither a nutritionist nor a doctor, I just play around with bread.

This is pretty much my standard bread recipe, but substituting part of the flour with pure gluten - available as "seitan base", for instance this one on Amazon. This is somewhat more expensive (the price/g of protein is about the same for flour and seitan base), but it has a 50:50 carb:protein balance. Normal bread is more like 7:1, bad news for anyone with insulin problems. If you want to try this with your own favorite bread recipe, substitute about 1/4th of the flour with the seitan base and another about 1/6th with flax flour. Other proportions will work, too, I'll show you how to calculate it below.

The recipe is made for using a LeKue silicon bread bowl, which allows kneading and baking in one bowl (though I usually use a baking pan to get a nicer shape). I found regular kneading to be a horribly sticky mess on my rather hairy hands, and for some reason my bread always turned out very crumbly. By using the LeKue, I've been able to increase the amount of water without making the kneading an impossible mess - this also makes the bread more moist. This particular variation of bread ended up less moist than usual, though, and would have been kneadable by hand.

50g seed mix
275g regular flour
125g seitan base
100g flax flour
3 tsp salt
25g cake yeast
350 ml lukewarm water
2 eggs
2 tbsp canola oil

Heat some water to boiling. Pour the seed mix into a small bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Set aside. Alternatively, the seed mix can be roasted carefully on a skillet.

In the LaKue (or a large bowl), mix all the remaining dry ingredients. Dissolve the yeast in the water, add the other wet ingredients, and mix well. Then mix dry and wet ingredients well and knead it for 5-10 minutes. Cover the bowl with a towel wetted with hot water and leave it for an hour in a warm place, such as an oven with just the light on.

Once the bread has risen, grease a large bread form (or just use the LeKue, if you don't mind the funny shape). Knead the bread some more, drop it into the form, and put it to rise under a warm moist dishtowel for about half an hour.

Once the bread has risen, remove the dishtowel and turn the oven to 200C with the bread in it and go do something else for an hour. Take it out, place the bread on a cooling rack, and let it cool down for at least half an hour before eating (if you can).

I later tried using hemp flour instead of flax flour, and regretted it. The bread came out a greyish-green color and with a slight crunchiness to it.

Here's my calculation of the carb:protein balance. A simple spreadsheet like this can be used for any food, if you want to up your protein. These proportions worked for me, you can certainly vary it to some degree, though I cannot say what would happen with, say, using only seitan base.

Seitan basis0801250.0100.0
Flax flour3.9401003.940.0
Eggs (1L=65g)0.812.61301.016.4
Seed mix9.327.3757.020.5

Monday, 8 May 2017

Bullet Journal Statistics April 2017

Yikes! Another month gone by! But at least my bullet journal is still active and I get stuff done much more than before it. My at-work one isn't doing as well, but still helps me remember little random things that are not on larger plans.

April saw nothing worse than 10 days of procrastination. I marked a total of 64 tasks done and 8 cancelled, none migrated. 32 of the tasks got done the same day they were put on - hey, that's exactly half! That's more than I really expected, since many tasks get added later in the day than I can act on them.

I think I have a better system for making this chart now, but it's still tricky to get right.

As for monthly tasks, I completed 6 straight off the task list, scheduled 3, and the remaining 15 got moved to May. Not a good record. I should get more used to looking at the task list, somehow.

The tracking of daily tasks worked so-so. I marked the watering column blue and it got used, but the exercise things did not see much use. I've changed exercise this month to something simpler, and so far am doing ok on them.

I did 11 topic pages, including the "happiness list" from Solve for Happy. I now use about 30 pages per month, so this notebook will last for another 2 months or so, for a total of half a year.

I got a new pen from Kautbullinger, a Schneider using a Slider 755 XB "Viscoglide" ink cartridge. It moves very smoothly and makes it more of a pleasure to write.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Bullet Journal statistics for March 2017: When Statistics Go Bad

Statistics: You're doing it wrong. Except if you're a professional statistician, in which case any wrong-doing would be expected to at least be intentional.

I've been tallying my tasks with a simple chart like this:

This is a compressed version of the markings in the diary. For each day, I tally the number of tasks done, migrated, or cancelled, plus the ones that got postponed. I think of it as a "wind diagram". It is a rather nice representation, for it not only pretty but also self-correcting: If any of the +N columns have a number, there must be a number as least that large down and to the left. The difference is the number of tasks of that postponement that got finished that way. It also allows me to correct mismarkings, such as when I miscount the number of dashes in a postponement marker (marked with a *). It's also very simple to make, only requiring looking at one day at a time and counting marks.

The "Abs" column is just a summation, while the "Rel" column shows the difference between the postponements - the number of tasks that have gotten done after that many days of postponement.

What I did wrong in February was not subtracting the postponed done tasks from the number of immediately done tasks. Thus where I claimed to have done 71 tasks the very same day, I had only done 37, little more than one per day. How very emberassing.

With this knowledge, my March statistics look less nice but more true that those of the last post. I finished 98 tasks, but only 48 got done the same day, less than the 71 I claimed in February (and no, I did not finish 110 tasks in February). I migrated only one task, but cancelled an outrageous 15 tasks! Some of them were done by other people (delegate!), some were the victim of changes of plans, but some I just postponed until they were not relevant any more - something I used to do a lot.

In March, I also introduced a new concept: skipping days for tasks that cannot be done on a given day. For instance, I cannot make a doctor's appointment on the weekend around here. Copying over these items needlessly is annoying. So I leave such an item undone instead of marking it with the postponement arrow, but to avoid forgetting about it entirely, I add an up-arrow to the next day. This indicates that there are leftovers on earlier days to migrate later. Obviously, I don't want to do this for more than a few days or it becomes a bother to look back every day, but then anything that should go further out should just go on the month overview. I still count these as being postponed for those extra days, to not confuse my wind diagram.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Bullet Journal Statistics for February 2017

Another month has passed, and it's time to look back at how my bullet journal is doing. February was unusual for me being sick for a while, and for +Mickey Blake  going to the US starting on the 9th. Unsettles my daily rhythm, such as it is, and means I have to take care of +The Frida Diaries myself. Still, I survived, and got some things done. Let's see how March becomes unusual:)

A total of 110 daily tasks were handled, including carry-over from last month, but not including carry-over to next month. Of these, 71 (65%) were done the same day, and 14 (13%) got done the day after. However, this time I postponed tasks for much longer, partly while sick, but also afterwards. One tasks got done after 7 postponement, and one after 8 (required going to the other side of town with Frida in tow)! My arrow system gets annoying enough when I have to write so many dashes that I eventually get it done:) I'm happy to see that the long-postponed tasks don't tend to then get cancelled.

I had 6 tasks that I cancelled and only one that I migrated to a higher level.

My Monthly Tasks didn't move that much, of 23 tasks 4 got done, 3 got cancelled, and the rest moved on to March.

So far, March looks better, with three tasks already done, but you never know. The monthly tasks are decidedly my weak spot, and I should figure out how to get them included more.

For the month overview, I started some checkbox columns. The most successful one is for watering plants, which I now have pretty regularly every third day, and the plants are much happier for it. I used to think of every third day as my goal, but I most definitely slipped. Other checkbox columns are regarding exercise (had a short streak of success) and training Frida (occasionally done).

My bullet journal for work (separate notebook for work-life balance) is behaving similarly, but has also allowed me to track how much time I spend working, turned out to hover around 9 hours a day without me realising it. No wonder I felt fairly exhausted.

I've started sometimes adding some boxes at the bottom of a right-hand page, for things I know I can't do immediately, but don't want to go into the Monthly page. Typically, I will have the coming two days there plus "future". The "future" box is a bit dangerous, though, since I don't necessarily look back there when I get to the future.