If you miss baked goods, then be prepared to either get to bakin’ in the kitchen or pay an exorbitant amount of money for prepared low carb items. If you plan on trying it out on your own, then you will need to shell out a few bucks in the beginning. However, you will have what you need on hand for when the baking bug strikes.
For the beginner baker, I would suggest starting with a few simple recipes requiring the least amount of ingredients. Luckily, the internet (and or Pinterest) are filled with all kinds of recipes for low carb baked goods. My experience has taught me (and I will share this with you) to curb expectations. I know that doesn’t sound good; but, please hear me out. Low carbohydrate baking is meant to be a substitution for the items that you have been enjoying for years. They are NOT the same. If you go into this expecting the exact replication of your beloved chocolate cake, pizza crust, wonder bread, or whatever high carbohydrate, hip spreading disaster you have been eating for years – be prepared to be disappointed. Not to be Debbie Downer, I think most of the items I have tried my hand at baking have been wonderful. But, I never expected them to be exact replications. How can they be? You are using almond flours, coconut flours, xanthan gum (or guar gum or arrowroot powder), whey or egg white protein powders, sugar alternatives, etc.. All I am saying is ~ go into it with an open mind and open palette.
I have also found many of the wonderful and very talented, low carb bakers in the community have been pretty far removed from enjoying the normal high carb items they are trying to replicate. Sometimes, the items are just missing the mark for what they are trying to achieve. Not on purpose, it is a reality because they either will not or can not taste test the original items and are going by memory. Not to mention, once you have been eating low carb for a decent amount of time, your tastes change. Having your tastes change is not a bad thing. It just happens.
Now that I have given the “dire warning”, let us move on to the basics you will need to start out on your low carb baking journey. Low carb baking has been around for a long enough time that people have caught on that you more than likely need to mix flours to get the desired texture for your finished product. Most (unless you really get into using some obscure low carb baking ingredients) low carb baking is naturally gluten free. You have to get creative with your flours & ingredients in order to mimic the role gluten plays in your finished product. The same goes with sugar substitutes. Mixing them helps to mimic the taste of sugar and (in some cases) the properties of sugar in the baked goods.
Let’s get going on Pantry Stocking!
- Almond flour: almond flour is blanched, skinless almonds that have been ground into a fine flour. (Almond meal is a whole different animal and not the same thing I am writing here) Wellbee’s and Honeyville make very good and very fine almond flours. Theirs are soft, fluffy, and produce fine baked goods. (My local grocery store – Kroger- carries Bob’s Red Mill in the health food section, though I have not used it) A strong suggestion is to store all nut flours and nut products in your freezer. Unless you bake daily.
- Coconut flour: coconut flour is the dehydrated meat of the coconut that has been ground into a fine flour. (My local Sam’s Club carries a huge bag of Organic Coconut flour at a reasonable price. It is pretty readily available in most health food sections in grocery stores) Coconut flour is a thirsty flour. When using it on its own, don’t be surprised to see extra eggs and extra liquids to accommodate its highly absorbent nature.
- Whey and egg white protein powders: these additions help give your flours body. I always keep plain whey and vanilla (sugar free) whey protein powders on hand. You can start off with only one of preference as they are mostly interchangeable in the majority of recipes. Plant protein powders do not provide the same properties in baked goods.
- Xanthan Gum: xanthan gum is a starch free thickener. It is used for texture and body. A very, very small amount goes a long way. Using too much can give foods a slimy texture – we are talking uses of 1/8 to 1/4 tsp amounts in goods. A small bottle will last you quite a while. You can use Guar Gum instead, if you prefer. Some people use a 1:1 ratio when subbing, others suggest a 1.5:1 ratio.
- Sugar alternatives: I’m lumping these together. People naturally gravitate towards their preferred sweeteners. Erythritol (and blends) – is anywhere from 60-80% as sweet as sugar. Your blends (Swerve, Natural Mate, Lakanto, Truvia, etc.) have other non-caloric sweeteners mixed in to mimic sugar. *Erythritol has a cooling effect in your mouth. You have to taste it to understand what I am talking about. It can be off-putting at first, but you get used to it. I usually add liquid stevia and or liquid sucralose to try to offset it* Xylitol probably is the closest to resemble sugar in taste and texture. However, it is not completely calorie (carb free). There are numerous studies that have been done with xylitol and its effect on reversing tooth decay. However, it is extremely toxic to dogs. I rarely use it since we have our little buddy around at all times waiting for a dropped treat. Stevia (liquid) – stevia does not add any bulk in baked goods. Therefore, it is more often than not used in liquid versions at just a few drops or small measurements. Sucralose – people love to turn their noses up to Splenda (as it is now commonly known). That is fine and their (your) prerogative. Because of its predecessors, Aspartame and Saccharin, it is one of the most studied non-nutritive sweeteners on the market. I feel very comfortable using it in its liquid form. (I do not use the powder as the common bulking ingredient – Maltodextrin – has a higher GI than table sugar) When I use it in combination with any of the other above sweeteners, the taste most closely resembles sugar. Not to mention, 1 drop is equal to 1 tsp of sugar. Therefore, it is used in extremely small amounts.
- Liquids: I’m lumping these together, as well. These are low carb liquid alternatives to milk. Almond Milk (unsweetened), Coconut Milk (unsweetened in carton), Hemp Milk, Heavy Whipping Cream (HWC) or Cream
- Gluten Free & Aluminum Free Baking Powder: Baking powder is a leavening agent. You use considerably more baking powder in low carb baking than traditional baking. Argo and Bob’s Red Mill are pretty easy to find baking powders that are GF & AF.
- Fats: These will be substitutions for vegetable oils (too high in Omega 6). Unsalted butter, Coconut Oil, Macadamia Nut Oil, Palm Oil, Lard, & Olive Oil (if it’s really olive oil!) I use mainly butter, coconut oil, and palm oil (and MCT oil but not in baking).
There are the main unconventional needs for your low carb baking pantry. Of course, you still need your vanilla extract, cocoa powder, bakers chocolate, etc.. I will add some honorable mentions as you might see these pop up when researching recipes.
- Psyllium Husk Powder: It can be tricky to use in baking. However, if you get it right, your product can have very close resemblance to bread in the manner that they will have more stretch rather than cakey texture.
- Chia Seeds: Can be used as an egg replacement. They are extremely absorbent and can help with thickening your end product. People will make jams and puddings using chia seeds, as well.
- Oat Fiber: Oat fiber is not to be confused with oat flour or oat bran. Oat fiber is just that – fiber. The fiber content in it zeros itself out in the carbohydrate count. It is used (at small doses) to add bulk & body to baked goods. Also, it is relatively inexpensive. Like coconut flour, it is thirsty.
- Trim Healthy Mama Baking Blend: This baking blend is low in carbs, high in fiber, relatively high in protein, and low in fat. I find that it is a little thirsty, but adding extra liquid helps. (As a side note, the Trim Healthy Mama Diet is a great way to maintain your weigh tloss if you are not looking to stay in ketosis longer than it takes to lose weight. Summed up – you have higher carb -not too high- with lower fat days alternated with lower carb higher fat days.)
- Glucomannan Powder (konjac root powder): This can be used in place of xanthan gum in some cases – especially gravies and sauces. It is predominately fiber.
- Golden Flax Seed Meal: You might find quite a few recipes calling for it. I have used it mainly in cracker recipes. I, personally, use it in very small doses as I find the taste too strong. Even though the golden, versus the regular, is supposed to be milder in taste. I cannot tolerate the taste of too much of it and mix it with other flours.
- Peanut Flour: Assuming there are no peanut allergies in your household, peanut flour has a wonderful, light texture in baked goods. The majority of the fat has been removed; so, it has relatively lower fat content compared to nut flours & meals.
- Instant Coffee: If you love chocolate and baking chocolate desserts, adding instant coffee helps to boost chocolate flavor.
- Coconut Cream: Make your own by refrigerating a can of full fat coconut milk (turn upside down and leave) overnight. The fat will rise to the top leaving the water on the bottom. By storing upside down in the fridge overnight, the cream will be at the bottom and all you have to do is pour off the water once you open it. Coconut cream can be used in place of whipped cream and sour cream as a dairy free option. (Do not expect the same taste. I mean – it is coconut after all)
I think I have provided a pretty good rundown on low carb baking essentials. There are always other items. The first eight suggestions should certainly get you going. If you are looking to get into baking, I would suggest doing an internet search for recipes. See what interests you and read people’s feedback. Perhaps then, start building your pantry based upon a handful of recipes that you might want to have a hand at baking.
Later today, I will post my Foodie Friday recipe ~ Eggs Bernadette!