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We’ve been making a huge effort to cut out carbs from our diet. The one thing I have been really missing is bread. Not that we ate that much bread, but a sandwich every now and again is a nice treat so I have been trying to make carb-free bread and failing miserably until I came across a delicious keto bun at a local craft sale. It had a similar texture and crumb as flour bread, but made with almond flour and coconut flour. At the time, the lady would not share her recipe, so I made every recipe on the net trying to find her secret, sadly failing. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and I get an email from her out of the blue sharing her recipe! How serendipitous! It turned out that it was one of the first recipes I tried but obviously did not get it right so I had abandoned it. She had made a few adjustments to the original recipe and shared them with me, and I made further adjustments to make it my own. It’s easier to make than normal yeasted bread (really is more like quick-bread as you make it) and the result is quite surprising. It’s a lot more expensive to make this bread than it is to make regular flour bread (the recipe below is about $12 for 8 buns).

Those nooks and crannies are like real bread!

Most flour-free buns are usually eggy and super dense because of the nut flours used and the lack of leavening, but these buns are light and have a great spongy texture and fantastic crumb, they never disappoint, time after time! The original recipe had great texture but lacked the flavour that yeast imparts in real bread so I experimented and came up with this augmentation. If you don’t feel like messing with the yeast, just omit it along with the granules of sugar but keep the water the same. You will not be disappointed.

How many would you like?

The Worlds BEST Low Carb Buns

Makes 6 medium-sized buns. For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g Almond flour (see notes)
  • 30 g Coconut Flour
  • 33 g Psyllium Husk Powder, finely ground (see notes)
  • 10 g Baking Powder
  • 6 g Sea salt
  • 10 g Cider vinegar
  • 100 g Egg whites
  • 8 g Instant Yeast
  • a few granules of sugar
  • 280 g Boiling Water, divided
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Sesame Seeds

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F (170° C). Prep a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. Prepare a hand mixer ready to use and a timer.
  2. Combine the yeast with the sugar in 57 g of warm water (about 43° C or 100° F) and allow to froth.
  3. To a large bowl, add almond flour, coconut flour, psyllium husk powder, baking powder and salt and whisk to combine.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the cider vinegar, egg whites and proofed yeast and mix on low speed, for a short time, to combine evenly.
  5. Boil the remaining water (223 g). Pour the water all at once into the almond flour mixture and blend for 30 seconds to make a smooth dough (do not over blend).
  6. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions (mine worked out to be about 94 g) and roll into a smooth ball with generously wet hands. Slightly flatten each roll so it’s more like the shape of an English muffin (don’t worry, they rise enormously).
  7. Brush each bun with the egg yolk and top with sesame seeds and bake for about 50 minutes or until the internal temperature is 95° C (200° F).
  8. Cool completely on a wire rack, before slicing. Serve toasted or plain with your favourite topping.

Notes:

  • I use Anthony’s Premium Blanched Almond Flour which may be purchased on Amazon. I have heard that the Costco Kirkland brand also works, but I haven’t tried it. I will eventually try the finely ground almond flour Bulk Barn sells because Anthony’s is pretty expensive.
  • I use psyllium husk powder from Bulk Barn, but I grind it to a super fine consistency with my coffee/spice grinder.
  • 100 g of egg whites is more or less 3 large egg whites.
  • Many of these recipes call for room temperature ingredients, I have done both room temperature and right out of the refrigerator and they resulted in more or less the same buns.
  • When working with the dough, generously wet hands are imperative for a nice smooth crust.
  • Mixing the boiling water into the batter with a hand mixer for 30 seconds ensures that it’s entirely blended but not overworked.
  • For Christmas, I received a bottle of Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning and it is awesome on these buns!

Nutritional Breakdown:

Per 1 piece

  • Calories: 178
  • Net Carbs: 5 g
  • Protein: 7 g
  • Fat: 12 g

We had a little break from the Christmas rush on boxing day and we made our pilgrimage to Niagara-on-the-Lake. We love to stay at Harbour House because the rooms are nice, the people are wonderful and they have a few perks that we like to take advantage of: a lovely breakfast spread in the morning room, wine and cheese in the lobby between 4-5 every night, free shuttle service to any restaurant within NOTL! During our last night, we dined at The Cannery and I noticed they had a twice-baked soufflé on the menu so I immediately amended our NYE menu to include a twice-baked soufflé.

We had some friends over for New Year’s Eve and I decided to make a tapas evening. We had six courses but were too full so we only had five of them. I spread the evening out as much as possible so we ate from 7:30-10:30. The courses were:

  • Zucchini Fritters with Sriracha Aioli
  • Twice Baked Mushroom Soufflé
  • Coconut Shrimp with Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce
  • Crab Gyoza with Ginger Soy Dipping Sauce
  • Mussels in a White Wine Broth and Baguette
  • Cheese Course (this is the one we saved for the following day).

It was a nice way to spend the evening, just noshing and chatting away. We hadn’t seen these friends since mid-November so we had a lot to catch up on. But there wasn’t a lot of talking during this course. Just eating!

Twice Baked Mushroom Soufflé

Original recipe by Lorraine Elliot of Not Quite Nigella.

Makes about 500 mL (~15 oz)

Ingredients:

  • 15 g butter, plus additional for buttering ramekins
  • 15 g plain all purpose flour
  • 80 g shiitake mushrooms, sliced medium thickly
  • 40 g chestnuts, roasted and roughly chopped
  • 10 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 125 mL milk, heated
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 40 g goats cheese, crumbled

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C).
  2. Butter the ramekins well, all the way up the sides. Boil some water.
  3. Dry roast the mushroom slices in a non-stick pan so that they colour a little on both sides and much of their moisture has evaporated. Set aside.
  4. Melt the remaining butter in the pan and add the flour all at once. Cook the flour for a minute without burning it. Add the milk and whisk until smooth, it will be very thick.
  5. Chop the slightly cooled mushrooms and add them with the roasted, chopped chestnuts and roasted garlic purée to the roux and whisk well.
  6. Add the egg yolk and stir well to combine. Set aside to cool.
  7. Meanwhile, beat the egg white until stiff but not dry. Take about 1/4 of the beaten egg whites and stir it into the roux mixture to loosen. Fold in the remaining egg whites until well incorporated but not deflated.
  8. Divide the mixture into the prepared ramekins and bake in a bain-marie (this is why you were boiling the water) for 35-40 minutes or until tops are lightly golden (remember, they will be baked again).
  9. Allow to cool in the ramekins for about 5 minutes (they will deflate a bit), then gently loosen sides with a sharp knife and turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool until room temperature.
  10. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator until needed. If you are not going to use it for a few days, wrap each soufflé individually in plastic wrap and then bag in a large ziplock freezer bag. Freeze until required.
  11. To defrost, remove from the freezer the night before it is required and defrost in the refrigerator. The microwave is not suitable for this step.
  12. Lay the soufflés into individual ovenproof dishes and prepare the béchamel finishing sauce.

Ingredients for Béchamel Finishing Sauce:

  • 5 g unsalted butter
  • 15 g all-purpose flour
  • 250 mL milk
  • Pinch of thyme leaves
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • season to taste.

Directions for Béchamel Finishing Sauce:

  1. Melt butter in a small saucepan, add the flour and cook the roux without burning for about 1 minute.
  2. Slowly add the milk while whisking to create a smooth sauce, cook until thickened.
  3. Flavour with the thyme leaves and nutmeg.
  4. Pour over the defrosted soufflés in an oven-proof bakeware and bake about 25 minutes in a preheated 350° F (180° C), to heat it through.

Tex-Mex Seasoning

As you may well know, I am not a fan of buying ready-made seasonings. I always try to make my own and that way I can customize it to my own taste. This one is a perfect example. It’s wonderful on fish or chicken and it’s salted to my taste instead of the ridiculous amounts of salt in store-bought versions. The sugar is optional, I have used erythritol as well, works similarly and the taste is still good due to the flavours of the other ingredients.

This seasoning is particularly good on grilled meats, we’ve been grilling on the Big Green Egg all winter and loving it. The intense smoke infuses into everything we grill and it is awesome.

Tex-Mex Seasoning

Ingredients:

  • 10 g dehydrated onion flakes
  • 5 g granulated garlic
  • pinch of smoked sweet paprika
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 3 g cumin
  • 10 g brown sugar
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in your spice grinder and grind until onion and garlic are pulverized and the blend is a fine powder.
  2. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry spot.

I’m always trying to find ways to eat healthier and desserts are always a good place to start, particularly after the holidays when we may have overindulged (wink, wink). This is an old recipe from my friend Charles who isn’t blogging as much these days, it’s a lovely Swedish almond cake that is packed with almond flavour and texture. It’s almost like eating a marzipan cake!

There is that darn winter light.

 

Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free Almond Cake

Ingredients:

  • 225 g Erythritol, ground finely
  • 150g Almond Flour (ground finer than meal)
  • 50 g Coconut Flour
  • 60 g Butter
  • 2 Eggs
  • 125 mL water
  • 1 tsp almond flavouring
  • zest of one lemon
  • 30g Flaked Almonds

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Prepare your spring-form tart pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Add the Erythrital, almond flour and coconut flour to the large bowl of your food processor and process to combine well.
  3. Melt the butter and allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. Combine the eggs, cooled butter, water, almond flavouring and lemon zest and mix well.
  5. While processing the flours, slowly drizzle in the wet ingredients until well combined (it will be more like marzipan than batter). Press into the prepared cooking pan and sprinkle the flaked almonds evenly all over the top of the mixture.
  6. Place carefully into the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes. Take it out of the oven and set aside to cool before removing from the pan to slice up.

Notes:

  • Erythritol (or monkfruit) is not new, it’s been around since the 1800’s. Sadly it has an unfortunate name because it sounds like a horrible chemical. In fact, it is a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in fermented fruit and is 60-70% as sweet as sugar, but will not cause tooth decay or spike blood sugar levels and is only partly absorbed by the body but mostly discarded in the obvious ways. A Scottish chemist named John Stenhouse discovered it in 1848. The down-side is that it’s ridiculously expensive! It’s nearly $10 per kilo! (About $5 a pound!) Here in Toronto (traditionally more expensive than the burbs and smaller cities) sugar is $1.25 per kilo, $0.63 per pound so I can see why this might not catch on.
  • Erythritol is sold in crystal format, I prefer to grind it super finely in my coffee/spice grinder to avoid a crunchy texture. The strange thing about it is that although it does melt, it eventually goes back to the crystal structure. Your baked goods will be a little grainier than with normal sugar.
  • Some people don’t find erythritol sweet enough, so often it is paired with stevia but stevia has been known to have an aftertaste. 
  • You can use Erythritol 1:1 for sugar.

Happy New Year! These shrimp cakes are chuck-full of shrimp, in fact, they are more shrimp than cake! And they are packed with the fresh flavours of ginger, cilantro and green onions which work incredibly well with the sweet succulent shrimp! I had intended on freezing them, but they disappeared too quickly so unfortunately I have no idea how they would perform after being frozen. They really don’t take long to put together and they pan fry so quickly, you could make them up in the morning and hold them in the refrigerator until needed, then reheat them at 250F for about 30 minutes. These luscious babies are definitely going on my New Years Eve tapas menu.

Gluten-Free Vietnamese Shrimp Cakes

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 100-125 mL water
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 30 g coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 10 g fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 30 g green onions, finely sliced
  • 100 g celeriac, finely grated
  • 454 g Raw Shrimp, chopped roughly
  • Grape seed oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Whisk eggs with water and ginger.
  2. In another bowl, combine baking powder, coconut flour and sea salt and mix well. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix into a paste.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients (cilantro, green onions, celeriac and chopped shrimp and mix well.
  4. Heat grape seed oil in pan (about 1 cm deep). Using a 4 cm cookie scoop, scoop spoonfuls into the hot oil and press down to flatten a bit. Fry each side until golden.
  5. Serve warm with a spicy mayo dipping sauce (125 mL (1/2 cup) mayo with 15 mL (1 tbsp) sriracha sauce).

Notes:

  • You may use a blended gluten-free flour mix instead of just plain coconut flour, but I found the coconut flour flavour works really well here.
  • Don’t like frying? Try baking them in a 350F

No Knead Spelt Boule

You may have noticed that I’ve been radio silent for much of December and I apologize, we were in Arizona for about a month. Although not quite as warm as our last month in Arizona, it was a far cry warmer than home. I’m so glad I had lined up my blog posts because I literally had no time! I hope you understand. I’m back on schedule notwithstanding the holidays which are going to be busy. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas or whatever you celebrate and a happy and healthy new year.

I have long wanted to experiment with alternative flours in bread making and a few months ago, the opportunity arose, we were having my BFF from University for brunch and she is gluten intolerant but can tolerate spelt! I did a little research and discovered that spelt was a great bread flour and also discovered that WE LOVE IT! It has a light nutty flavour and a great bread texture. I would say it is more like a Ciabatta than a French stick. I slice it thicker for dinner, but for toast, I use my handy electric slicer for even 6 mm slices.

This is one sticky dough, but I experimented with varying quantities of spelt flour and always came back to the original. You may not want to proof it in your Banneton (proofing basket) unless it is very heavily floured, even so, one experiment stuck so badly, it took me nearly an hour to clean it out!

I used a proofing basket for this boule.

No Knead Spelt Boule

Makes one 981 g boule.

Please click here for the original recipe.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 565 g spelt flour
  • 450 g water
  • 56 g honey
  • 10 g salt
  • 4 g instant yeast (1/2 packet)
  • good pinch of cornmeal

Directions:

  1. Combine the ingredients with the exception of the cornmeal (not corn starch), in a large bowl and mix well. The dough will be a bit stickier than regular bread dough and a little firmer (you may need to put a little elbow grease into it to combine the flour entirely). Set aside covered for about 12 hours (this step is best done overnight or if you wish to start earlier, allow it to rest covered in the refrigerator).
  2. If the dough rested in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature. Prepare your proofing bowl with a little spelt flour.
  3. Shape the dough into a nice boule by pulling up the sides into the centre using a spatula and gather them tightly to form the bottom of the boule. Flip the boule so that the pulled area is now at the bottom and roll it into the proofing bowl so the pulled area is now at the top (this will make it easy to flip the boule into the hot pan so that the smooth area is on top). Sprinkle a little spelt flour on top and allow to rest, covered for 60 to 90 minutes.
  4. About 30 minutes into the proofing of the boule, pre-heat the oven with your 23 cm (9 inch) oven-safe cast iron dutch oven to 450° F (the original recipe suggests that you place the pot on a baking sheet to insulate it a bit more so that the base of the boule doesn’t burn).
  5. When the boule has risen, about double in size and the pan has been pre-heating for about 30 minutes, add a parchment circle to the bottom of the pan and sprinkle a little cornmeal over it. Gently roll the proofed boule into the pan. You may make some tension slices into the top so it breaks artistically, or you may let it break on its own. Bake for 35 minutes with the lid on, then remove the lid and bake for additional 10 minutes. The internal temperature should be 195° F to 200° F. Allow to cool and serve sliced with your favourite stew or just with butter.

There were several versions baked up until I got the best version.

Notes:

  • This is a very sticky dough. I added the parchment because no matter how much cornmeal I put in the hot pan, it stuck quite badly.
  • I tested this recipe with more flour and it made it too dense, so even though it is a sticky dough, it is the right amount of water and flour.
  • A larger dutch oven will yield a wider and flatter boule, like the first photo.

Spelt flour can become over-worked quite easily which will make a heavier, denser loaf. The no-knead recipe is a perfect way to get a light texture.

Late last summer, I did some prop shopping for a prop-stylist colleague who was swamped and needed a hand. It’s a lot of work, don’t get me wrong, the shopping bit is fun but there is a lot of schlepping! And you have to be extremely organized to be able to return some of the props that weren’t used! That being said, it’s a job I don’t envy, they earn every penny and then some. While I was waiting for a store to open, I stopped into an Italian cafe for a coffee and biscotti. The coffee was fine but the biscotti was atrocious, it was soggy! Imagine that. Such an unsatisfying treat. The worst. So I had to make my own! These definitely hit the spot!

Cranberry and Almond Biscotti Revisted

Makes about 30 biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 320 g AP unbleached flour
  • 4 g baking powder
  • 3 g salt
  • 340 g sugar
  • 125 g butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 7 mL almond extract
  • 150 g frozen cranberries, defrosted
  • 70 g almonds, toasted

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and mix well. Fold in the cranberries and almonds (I used whole)
  3. In the large bowl of your stand mixer, combine the sugar, butter, eggs and almond extract and mix for about 4 minutes.
  4. Fold in the dry ingredients until entirely combined (I did this using my whisk attachment so I didn’t break up the cranberries.
  5. Divide the batter in half and shape into relatively skinny logs on the parchment, leaving sufficient space between the two as they will spread during baking.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden.
  7. Remove logs from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice each log into 1.5 cm slices. Place cut-side down on the baking sheet (reuse the original parchment) and bake for 10 minutes, flip and continue to bake for 5 more minutes or until lightly golden. Cool completely.
  8. Store in an air-tight container or freeze. Serve with coffee or tea.

You’ll need to bake these a little longer because the cranberries are moist.

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