Eating low carb and having your cake too, can sometimes prove to be difficult. However, it does not have to be the case. Learning how to properly convert your high carb recipes, to a healthier low carb version, can be possible. When it comes to baking, it’s important to realize that using low carb flours will not garner you the same results.
All-purpose wheat flours will always be finer and lighter. This does not mean that you cannot produce delicious low carb options. My advice is to try out low carb recipes before you venture in converting your own favorite recipes. Once you are comfortable with these grain-free flours, begin to experiment.
Choose Your Flour Wisely
This is where things can get quickly confusing. There are many low carb choices and it can get overwhelming when you are new to low carb baking. In order to keep things simple I am going to discuss a few, and my personal go to choices.
It’s been my experience that almond flour or a combination of almond and coconut flour works well for most of your cake and muffin recipes. Knowing the difference between almond flour and almond meal is key. Almond meal is ground up almonds with their skins. Almond flour is made by finely grinding up almonds without their skins, using blanched skinless almonds. For most of your baking, you want to use almond flour. Almond meal will prove to be too heavy and grainy for most of your baked goods.
Golden flax meal can be substituted for part of your almond or almond-coconut flour mix. Golden Flax can be trickier to use since it is the heaviest of your low carb options. Because it is a heavy option it will require even more eggs. Extending baking time by up to half an hour is also necessary. This will insure that the baked good is fully cooked, since golden flax takes a bit longer to cook.
Hazelnut Flour although pricier than almond flour, can be used effectively and substituted for almond flour very nicely. Some people prefer this flour because it tends to be less grainy and produces a finer product. Especially good in cookies and sponge cakes.
If you can’t consume nuts, Sunflower Seed Flour can make a great alternative to almond flour.
Know Your Ratios
Although almond flour alone will be your gold standard when swapping regular all-purpose flour, it can get pricy. Which is why replacing part of your almond flour with less expensive coconut flour makes sense. When using a combination of almond and other flour the best ratio is 3:1 almond flour to coconut flour or flax meal.
Understand Your Sugar Substitutes
Here again, there are many choices. In the end it will come down to personal preference and taste. Some people have no problem with artificial sweeteners like Splenda. Others may opt for natural options like erythritol, xylitol and stevia. Have fun experimenting and find out what works best for you.
Do realize that all sugar substitutes do not work the same. Some recipes require the dense properties of a bulk granulated sweetener like baking Splenda or erythritol, while other recipes will do fine with liquid sweeteners like sucralose or stevia.
Gluten and Starch Alternatives
One of the things I miss most about traditional baking is how predictable gluten and starch are in a recipe. The gluten in traditional flours gives baked goods structure and it helps bind them together. Trying to replicate these qualities with flours that have no gluten can be a challenge. A solution is to add whey protein or binders like xanthan gum, glucomannan or psyllium husk. These binders can help with structure. It only takes a little of these to get some of the benefits.
Converting Your Recipes
It is possible to convert just about all your favorite baked goods, with the exception of bread recipes. Bread rises using yeast and yeast needs gluten to rise. None of your low carb, grain-free flours have gluten in them. When deciding to convert a recipe, simply replace the volume of flour in the original recipe with the volume of almond flour or combination. Adding ¼ tsp more of baking powder helps in rising the heavier low carb flours effectively. A good rule is to double the amount of eggs called for in your original recipe.
Replacing Your Milk
At 12 grams of carbohydrates per cup, regular milk just isn’t low carb friendly. When a recipe calls for milk, your best choices are unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk. You can also use heavy whipping cream mixed with water to get a milk like consistency.
I encourage you to have fun experimenting. Although, there is a learning curb when baking low carb, soon it will become second nature. Knowing that you can have treats that allow you to stay within your carb limits will be a great motivator. Pick out a few good low carb recipes you want to try. Follow them carefully and note what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t turn out exactly. The best way to learn your way around a low carb kitchen, is to get in there and learn for yourself.