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Low carb baking - banana bread, clafoutis, etc

My boyfriend has recently read, and I've just started reading, Gary Taubes's Good Calories Bad Calories. We're both trying to eat a lot less grains and grain products. Not because of weight - I've never been overweight - but just generally for our health. I've been experimenting with baking using non-grain flours, like nut flours.

First, do you think a clafoutis would work using almond and coconut flour? I was thinking of making one for dessert tomorrow night when we have friends over.

Also, last night I modified a banana bread recipe I have. I replaced the flour with a combination of coconut flour, almond flour, and hazelnut flour. I also took out the sugar and just used a little bit of honey; the ripe bananas were so sweet that it worked beautifully. The whole thing came out really well. I'll post the recipe on my website in the next few days and add a link here. Only simple, real ingredients, like butter, vanilla, nuts, eggs...

Recipe from an earlier project, pear tarts with hazelnut and whole wheat flour, is here: http://web.mac.com/seattledebs/gofrol...

Any other ideas for low-carb, delicious, full-fat baking?

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  1. I have used almond flour a lot, but usually cut it with cornstarch. I can't eat wheat flour (celiac disease). Calfoutis is very forgiving in my experience, so I think it would work, although it will be less "light" with almond flour especially if you don't used blanched almonds. I often use Deborah Madison's version with pears and a crisp topping from VCFE.

    1. I have used CarbQuick mixed with nut and whole wheat flours in my baking. Carbquick has 90% less carbs than regular flour. Results have been quite good.
      You can find Carbquick here:
      http://www.tovaindustries.com/carbalo...

      www.SouthAmericanEscapes.com/blog

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jill Brazil

        i think the OP is trying to avoid grain flours, and according to that link, carbquick is primarily a wheat product.

      2. If you're doing this for health reasons, excess fats (from your nut flours) can also have deleterious effects on your health. There's nothing wrong with carbs in moderation.

        1. Jacques Pepin in 'The short-cut cook' has a clafoutis that uses cornstarch (1T) and ground almonds (1cup) in place of flour.

          1 Reply
          1. re: paulj

            Paulj,
            could you please clarify in your brownie cookie recipe

            how much unsweetened cocoa?

            thanks

          2. the nut flours are interesting. there's also macadamia.

            you might also look into other grains, such as amaranth flour, which though not necessarily that much lower in carbs, is a very nutritious (gluten free) grain. don't know how low carb you're looking to go, but there's spelt flour, oat flour, bran to up fiber and lower effective carbs...

            there's also flax flour, which would contain lovely omega-3's

            sub soy flour (2/3 cup) and wheat gluten (1/3 cup) for 1 cup flour

            a recipe for nut flour muffins... http://www.lowcarbfriends.com/recipes... you can add any spices, like cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice or ginger etc. as well as flax seed

            a page of nut flour based recipes
            http://www.lowcarbnexus.com/LCN_nut_f...

            Brownie Cookies
            2 1/2 cups almond flour
            1/2 cup Splenda® granular
            2/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
            10 oz soft butter
            2 eggs
            2 tsp almond extract
            1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum -- (or guar gum)
            1 1/2 tsp baking powder
            3/4 tsp salt
            4/2 cup chopped walnuts

            Cream the almond flour, Splenda, and butter.
            Stir in eggs and vanilla. Add xanthan gum, baking
            powder, salt, and nuts.

            Drop by rounded teaspoons onto a cookie sheet.

            Bake at 350F for 15 minutes.

            Other Ideas: Use unsweetened coconut or orange
            zest instead of nuts. Sub orange, peppermint, or
            raspberry extract for vanilla. You can also use this as a cheesecake crust.

            Citrus Cookies
            2 1/2 cups almond flour
            1/4 cup Splenda® granular 8 ounces soft butter
            1 egg
            4 tsp lemon extract
            1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
            1 1/2 tsp baking powder
            2/4 tsp salt
            3/4 cup lemon zest

            Cream the almond flour, Splenda, and butter.
            Stir in egg and lemon extract. Add xanthan gum, baking powder,
            salt, and lemon zest. (You can also sub orange extract and zest for the lemon.

            )

            Drop by teaspoons onto an ungreased sheet

            Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes. Store airtight to retain chewiness.

            Zucchini Muffins (you can sub oat flour for wheat bran if you want, but the wheat bran has high fiber)
            http://www.lowcarbfriends.com/bbs/low...

            1. I found this info:
              grams of carbs per one cup of flour:
              amaranth 80
              almond meal 24
              buckwheat 81
              chickpea 56
              cornmeal 97
              green pea 9
              millet 88
              peanut 19
              quinoa 117
              rice 127
              soy 30
              teff 88
              wheat 95

              So I would think about trying soy and bean flours, too.

              P

              17 Replies
              1. re: PamelaD

                bean flours require some finesse - they're best when combined with others, because they do tend to have a "beany" taste. but once you get the hang of it, they can be great substitutes for grain flours.

                and regarding the information on carbs, i'm always skeptical of dry ingredient measurements by volume as opposed to weight...especially flour. each of them has a different chemical composition and structure, so they're not necessarily comparable cup for cup. some are much heavier/denser than others.

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Do you have a or know where I can find a listing of what a cup of these alternative flours should weigh? I am trying to move to weighing for all my bakign to make it more consistent, but haven't found this information for gluten-free flours.

                  1. re: jsaimd

                    gram weights for 1 cup:
                    almond meal 112
                    amaranth flour 135
                    arrowroot starch 128
                    buckwheat flour 120
                    chestnut flour 100
                    cornmeal [yellow] 138
                    corn flour [yellow, whole grain] 117
                    cornstarch 128
                    flax seed meal 130
                    garbanzo [chickpea] flour 120
                    garfava [garbanzo + fava] flour 157
                    hazelnut flour 112
                    mequite flour 146
                    millet flour 120
                    pea flour [golden] 116
                    potato flour 160
                    potato starch 192
                    quinoa flour 112
                    rice bran 134
                    rice flour [brown] 158
                    rice flour [sweet] 120
                    rice flour [white] 158
                    sorghum flour 136
                    soy flour [defatted] 100
                    soy flour [full fat] 84
                    tapioca starch 120
                    teff flour 130

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      You are awesome! Thanks!

                      EDIT: One more question. When "translating" recipes from wheat flour to alternative flour, do you find it best to approximate weight or volume in the flours. I have my tricks and can turn out a good pastry crust but I adjust those on the fly. Haven't had as good of luck with cakes...

                      1. re: jsaimd

                        start by approximating volume, but keep track of the weight as you go. so if you're replacing one cup of WW flour, measure out one cup of your GF flour and use that amount, but weigh it and write it down with the recipe. this way when you do hit a ratio that works, you have a record of the correct weight and you can use that going forward.

                  2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    but is it any better to compare them on by weight? Which properties match when you substitute by weight but don't when you use volume? Water absorption? Texture? Binding ability?

                    paulj

                    1. re: paulj

                      it makes a huge difference when working with gluten-free flours, for all the reasons you mentioned - structure, moisture, texture...

                      the structure of GF baked goods is much more delicate than those made with traditional flours, and a few grams of flour, binder, or raising agent can sometimes make a huge textural difference. you can wind up with gummy baked goods or hockey pucks if you're not careful. GF goods also have a tendency to collapse if the ratios are off...fine if you're making dense, fudgy brownies or a molten chocolate cake, not so great for muffins, quick breads, etc.

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        You're telling me. I recently made my first attempt to make gluten-free agave-sweeened cupcakes. I didn't use a specific gluten-free recipe but tried to adapt a recipe I had. My cupcakes all collapsed.

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          Yes I have about 2 dozen chocolate "pucks" (supposed to be cupcakes) in my freezer I keep saying I'll repurpose... I didn't like the recipe much either. I was using the Rebecca Reilly book for the first time and found that I think I will just keep adapting my recipes, because everything I have made from there has been subpar.

                          1. re: jsaimd

                            grind them in the FP, combine with a little melted butter or oil, and use as a crust for a cheesecake or pie.

                          2. re: Miss Needle

                            i feel your pain. all my baking is gluten-free now, and i bake strictly with agave [and maple syrup when the flavor is required].

                            it's twice as challenging because in addition to the gluten issue you're also replacing dry sugar with a liquid - that's why i've never bothered to just modify an existing recipe. it's easier to just create my own from scratch. i have 7 or 8 GF cookbooks, plus a gazillion GF websites bookmarked, and i've never once found a recipe that i like as-is.

                            sure, it took me hundreds of hours and countless sub-par batches to get this stuff right, but judging by the disbelief on NON-celiac people's faces when i tell them my stuff is gluten-free [and diabetic-friendly to boot] i'd say it's been worth it.

                            i'm sorry your cupcakes collapsed. did you use guar or xanthan gum? and which flours?

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              Yeah, it was my first attempt. They were still edible, though. I used Pamela's baking mix (which contains xanthan gum) and tried to modify The Cake Bible's yellow cake recipe. As Pamela's contains leavening agents, I halved the baking powder. I also made proper substitutions to the liquid element as I used agave instead of sugar. I think my error was in the baking powder. Perhaps I should have used more. Well, I will try again. My husband still liked them (or at least he pretended he did). : )

                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                that's why i never use pre-made mixes. you just have no idea how they've calculated the raising agents.

                                my advice would be to make your own flour blend, and then follow basic GF guidelines for adding gum & leavening. of course, here's where my earlier rule about measuring by weight goes out the window because these guidelines apply to volume. sorry - no one said this was gonna be easy!

                                1 tsp. xanthan or guar gum per cup of flour for cakes
                                2 tsp. xanthan or guar gum per cup of flour for breads or pizza
                                1 tsp. or no xanthan or guar gum per cup of flour for most cookies

                                one caveat: i personally think these guidelines call for too much gum. i've had much better luck with about half the standard amount, otherwise things like muffins & cakes can tend to turn out, well, gummy :) but i also measure them by weight, not volume - a few grams of guar gum really can make a difference.

                                as for the baking powder, be careful - believe it or not, too much will actually cause your baked goods to sink/collapse and they'll be dense & heavy. use a scant teaspoon per cup of flour.

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  Thanks so much for the great advice! When I bake, I never measure dry ingredients by volume -- always by weight. I was just totally off on my ratios -- perhaps I added too much baking powder. I will try again, this time making my own mix.

                                  GHG, I remember in a post saying that you were working on a business with your own gluten-free baked goods. When you're ready, please let us all know!

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    always happy to help - i hope my advice results in success in your kitchen :) please keep me posted.

                                    and you're so sweet to remember about my business. i'm moving back east next month, and looking for a kitchen [and funding!] in the NY metro area. i'll be sure to let my fellow hounds know when it's up & running.

                              2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                I agree with the GF recipes. So, do you translate using the weight of the wheat flour or the volume as a guide to "substitute" roughly your GF blend. I feel very comfortable figuring out which blend will work well, but often find I have to adjust on the fly the amount.

                                1. re: jsaimd

                                  see my earlier response to your question a few posts up. i typically don't do substitutions because i create recipes from scratch.

                                  but start doing it by volume, keep track of the weight each time, and eventually make the transition so that all your GF recipes reflect weight instead of volume.

                    2. Great suggestions so far! I think I am going to try that clafoutis tonight. I'm debating between 1) pear, 2) pear & blood orange, or 3) blueberry, with some blueberries from my freezer. I'm serving a brisket, winter squash, and salad. Any votes for clafoutis variety?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: seattledebs

                        I vote for blueberry. For the flavor and color contrast.

                      2. While I would question the wisdom of replacing carbs with fats for "health" reasons, I'd also suggest using oats. I realize that they contain carbs, but oats are considered a low-GI food, and may help reduce cholesterol. They also make a great addition to crumbles and other baked goods.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Kagey

                          oat flour is nice to work with, and oat bran is a great way to boost the fiber content in baked goods. fine for healthy people, but we celiacs & gluten-intolerants can only use certified GF oat products as most traditional oats and oat flours are contaminated by wheat & gluten. fortunately they're becoming easier to source - and much less expensive - now that bob's red mill is producing them.

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            Is the Bob's site a good source for recipes using alternative flours? They have a lot of recipes, but I haven't tried any.
                            paulj

                            1. re: paulj

                              i'm definitely not the one to ask - i don't bother using anyone else's recipes anymore. they do have some listed on the site, but when i've looked, none of them have ever screamed "bake me."

                              they might be a good starting point for a GF newbie though. i think most are submitted by customers, so i'm guessing the people who create & submit the recipes have had success with them, and they're probably not too complicated.

                              if you do try, i'd love to hear how they work out for you.

                        2. That list of weight comparisons is really interesting.

                          To follow up on my original post, the clafoutis I made was too much of an improvisation based on other recipes, and it turned out too dry. I'll try again. The banana bread recipe I promised is:

                          Experimental Banana Bread
                          (1 loaf)

                          3 overripe bananas
                          1/3 cup butter
                          1/4 cup virgin coconut oil (ie unrefined, hard white stuff)
                          1/8 - 1/4 cup honey
                          1/2 cup hazelnut flour
                          1/2 cup almond flour (you can use any nut flours here)
                          1/2 cup coconut flour
                          2 eggs
                          generous dash of vanilla
                          1 t baking soda
                          1/2 t baking powder
                          1/4 t salt
                          2 handfuls walnuts or other nuts

                          Preheat oven to 350. Cream together butter, coconut oil, and honey (you can use all butter instead of coconut oil, and reduce the honey or use another sweetener). Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl or piece of wax paper, mix together the flours, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add this mixture to the other slowly, stirring gently by hand, not over-mixing. Add the nuts at the end.

                          Pour into a greased or parchment-lined loaf pan, and bake for about an hour. Serve warm with cream, or let it cool. It keeps well.

                          seattledebs
                          www.gofrolic.org

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: seattledebs

                            Seattledebs, do you think you could use all coconut oil instead of butter? And where do you get coconut flour?

                            1. re: icecreamgal

                              icecreamgal, you can certainly use all coconut oil, but be aware that unless you use a deodorized product, your banana bread will have a distinct coconut odor and flavor...especially if you're using the flour as well!

                              you can buy coconut flour at some health food stores, or on the web at a few sites.

                              1. re: icecreamgal

                                Bob's Red Mill makes coconut flour, although it is very expensive. I won't be using a ton of it for that reason. One of those standard Bob's size packages is about $6 at my co-op here in Seattle. I bet Whole Foods or your local co-op/natural foods store carries it or could get it.

                                This was my first time baking with coconut oil, so I'm not sure. I don't think the coconut flavor would be bad; I even have another recipe for banana bread that calls for coconut to be added. However, when I was beating the butter and coconut oil together, the coconut oil was a little more stubborn. I had to push apart some chunks with my fingers. All coconut oil might be a pain. Plus, I like butter, both for flavor and consistency.

                                1. re: seattledebs

                                  you can melt the coconut oil to make it easier to work with, but you have to work quickly - it re-solidifies rapidly.

                            2. Forgive me for questioning, but I wonder if the very premise behind your question is not mistaken.

                              I, too, have Taube's book, and my impression was that a lot of the evidence looked over by those that set the public alarm about the dangers and evils of fats was the clear and abundant evidence that implicated the simple carbohydrates as a source of the "diseases of modern society": HBP, atherosclerosis, diabetes, overweight, and heart disease.

                              It was not carbohydrates in general, but the increase in the diet of the simple carbohydrates.

                              So per my understanding of his book highly processed white flours would be out, but not whole-grain flours or grains.

                              So if you are trying to cut back on grains or grain flours, I cannot see what Taube's book would have to do with it...