Baking 911: Keto Edition
May 15, 2016 2:22 PM   Subscribe

To extend the 911 metaphor, imagine you're arriving at a scene where someone jumped off a three-story building because they thought they might fly. I am on a ketogenic (low-carb, high-fat) diet and was craving sweets, so despite being not much of a baker, I tried to adapt a cookie recipe by substituting ingredients. Now I've got a huge mixing bowl full of crumbly flour stuff, made from nice ingredients like cacao butter and coconut flour and many, many wrong turns.

This is the recipe I was starting from. Here are all the ways I deviated from it:

I substituted half the butter for cocao butter, which I swear to god I read somewhere was a good idea. I wanted the cookies to turn out white-chocolatey.

Because the cacao butter didn't soften after being left at room temperature, I microwaved the butters, which you will probably be unsurprised to read went directly from solid to liquid, and then mixed them as directed.

I substituted xylitol for the sugar-- not my favorite, but I was worried using liquid stevia would ruin the texture as opposed to using crystals.

Because the result was nowhere near light and fluffy, I stuck the mixing bowl in the freezer for a short time to try to resolidify the butters just a bit, then whisked until it somewhat resembled the desired texture.

The batter got harder to mix by the moment, though, as I added the vanilla, which I did not measure, and the egg yolk.

I substituted coconut flour for wheat flour and suspect I added too much. The dough turned out incredibly dry.

I then took a portion of the incredibly dry dough, stuck globs of it with little indents for raspberry preserves on a glass casserole dish, which some Judas told me was an acceptable substitute for a cookie sheet, stuck 'em in the preheated oven, and checked on them after the prescribed time. They had not baked at all.

So I thought, 'all the better' and scraped the floury stuff off of the dish and back into the bowl with the rest of the dough. I proceeded to look up how to remedy dry cookie dough. I tried adding oil (coconut, in my case) little by little as instructed, and no amount of it seemed to make a dent in the flouriness. I tried half a cup of water in desperation, and that made no difference either.

I finally decided that since I've done nothing but make things worse so far, I should set the whole thing aside and consult the internets.

I have a huge mixing bowl (should have started with a half- or quarter-batch, I know) of dry, crumbly, overwhelmingly coconutty stuff. Is there anything I can do with besides throw it away? Doesn't have to be cookies. I just hate to have wasted such costly ingredients.

Feel free to tell me where I went wrong, but please refrain from telling me how wrong. I'm aware that this entire misadventure is the result of my fuckups and mine alone. Thanks for reading my tale of woe.
posted by dee lee to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Stop. Just stop. Go to the original recipie, or find an already keto recipe and then follow the directions. No changes.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:25 PM on May 15, 2016 [23 favorites]

This is unsalvageable. If you're serious about eating this way, you basically have to give up on projects like this. None will come out well and none will be satisfying. I know this from experience.

Start blowing that money on non-food treats instead of imagining these substitution projects coming out well.
posted by paulcole at 2:27 PM on May 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

If you want to try baking with non-standard ingredients you've got to use established recipes developed by people who know what they're doing. I learned this while vegan. Baking is science and it's complicated. You're going to have to throw this stuff out.
posted by something something at 2:37 PM on May 15, 2016 [17 favorites]

Best answer: Don't despair of the folks who are being harsh here. It's easy to see the word 'flour' and suppose that every flour will behave like regular flour. Now you know from experience that that's not so. Coconut flour in particular is incredibly thirsty. It absorbs moisture, remains dry after cooking, and usually can't be made to taste like anything other than coconut. (Stay away from Red Lobster-style cheddar biscuits which use coconut flour as a base. There are lots of keto recipes which will seem like a great idea, especially when you're really craving carbs, but almost all of them are terrible in execution, even in the hands of a skilled baker.)

So. There are uses for coconut flour, but this isn't one. I agree that you need to junk this. If you're craving cookies or pastry, use unsweetened peanut butter as your base and make flourless peanut butter cookies with an artificial sweetener, or make peanut bread for sandwiches. They are both easy recipes.
posted by zeee at 2:38 PM on May 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: This is not going to work out. Throw out your bowl and remember that baking is an exact science (unlike cooking) and keto baking even more so. There are great keto recipes for baked goods at I Breathe I'm Hungry, All Day I Dream About Food and Healthy Indulgences (no links since I'm on my phone), that I've had good luck with. Expect to buy some almond flour (coconut flour on its own is too dry as you've discovered) and probably some xanthan gum.
posted by peacheater at 2:40 PM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


What about crumbling it onto a parchment lined baking sheet and cooking on low until dried out and using it as granola like substance.

Or toss it.
posted by JPD at 2:40 PM on May 15, 2016 [9 favorites]

In the future, maybe try finding some low carb paleo recipe? One with almond flour etc.? Even those are hit and miss.

For now, since they've already solidified, I'm wondering if these would work as no-bake cookies to satisfy your current craving. (Are they too crumbly to make into bars? With that jam you mentioned on top?) I wouldn't store them for too long due to the egg yolk. (It looks like 2-4 days in the fridge would be okay.)
posted by salvia at 2:41 PM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just want to thank you because the quality of your writing seriously improved my day :))

I thought it might make crackers, so maybe spread it thin? I also like the granola idea.

If coconut flour is that thirsty, yes, add whatever liquid is appropriate before baking?
posted by jbenben at 2:46 PM on May 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Coconut flour is significantly more hydrophillic than wheat flour. You can google suggested substitution proportions, but suffice it to say that an attempt to rescue this would require 4-5 dozen eggs (and much more water than half a cup) because of how much coconut and wheat flour differ in liquid absorption. This doesn't account for any variables the cocoa butter and xylitol would throw into the mix.

Don't throw good money after bad. Search for recipes specifically suited to your diet, and when doing substitutions in the future, only experiment with one structural ingredient change at a time. Only after that batch has come out well should you consider altering a second ingredient.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 2:47 PM on May 15, 2016

Best answer: I say this with love, and a memory of all the bags of wasted almond flour I have watered with my tears: let this one go.
posted by notquitemaryann at 2:50 PM on May 15, 2016 [13 favorites]

Might make a good fruit crumble topping with a little ghee, but some people have fruit (this would be great with berries) on paleo some don't. Not sure if that works with keto diets though.

You may have to put this down to a lesson learned.
posted by wwax at 2:56 PM on May 15, 2016

Is it tasty as it is but just a weird texture to eat straight? What I would do is get something super sticky, like mashed dates, and just mix it in until you can form little bars out of them. Wrap them in cellophane and refrigerate.

(No guarantees you're not wasting dates, too, though. I cook like you do -- I keep adding things that sound like they might fix the mess, then as long as there's nothing poisonous I eat the result and like it because I made it All By My Self. This sounds like a tasty experimess to me!)
posted by xris at 3:14 PM on May 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

I too hate the idea of wasting expensive ingredients and it's not like these are ruined in any objective sense (burned, rotten). They're just in an unpalatable form. Before I just threw it all away I would at least try adding enough water to loosen up the dough. Coconut flour does need a ton of moisture. You could test it with a small portion first to which you could maybe also sacrifice like a single egg in the name of science. Water at least is free, what could it hurt to try.
posted by bluebird at 3:27 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

If it tastes good, here's what I'd suggest:

sprinkle it all over a _heavily greased_ cookie sheet or glass baking pan. Bake it at 400-425 until it smells yummy and you're sure the egg yolk is all cooked (it should get hot). If there were any sugar or real flour in it, I'd say lightly brown it, but that's probably never going to happen. Here, the goal is just to cook it enough that the egg isn't raw and the flavors come out.

Now, you have some crunchy crumble you can mix with other dishes, or just eat with a spoon.

Mix with rolled or instant oats, add some hot water: hot breakfast!

Sprinkle on yogurt.

Mix some with peanut butter to make little peanut coconut bites.
posted by amtho at 3:58 PM on May 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

Just echoing: ingredient subsitution seems like it should be pretty easy, but it isn't. You really need to have a good grasp on ingredients as belonging to multiple categories. E.g. wheat flour is not just a flavour thing, it also is (relatively) low on the hydrophilia scale, but very high on the structure-building scale due to gluten.

Like, you know that joke about comments on recipes online? "I looked at your recipe for rice pilaf but I didn't have rice so I substituted barley. No sultanas so I substituted dried cranberries. We didn't have any white wine so I used Grand Marnier... (etc) anyway it was gross, this recipe gets zero stars." That's kinda what you did here. I'm not being harsh, it's just funny that it worked out that way. (And I won't pretend for a moment that I haven't had similar kitchen disasters).

The reason your substitutions didn't work is that baking is a matter of chemistry as much as it is a matter of physics; you need the right kinds of things in the right proportions to get anywhere. Crepes, pancakes, cookies, cake, brioche... these all have the same ingredients. The proportions are mostly what differentiate one from the other, because the fats and starches and so forth interact in different ways.

Your best bet is to find cookbooks and websites that have already done the heavy lifting here. Substitution at this scale is difficult even for pros, and it takes a lot of knowing the concepts behind why e.g. creaming sugar into butter works and how plus a lot of trial and error to get there.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:08 PM on May 15, 2016 [12 favorites]

Baking is a cruel mistress who requires exactitude. Toss it. Artificial sweeteners tend to behave better in situations where sugar wouldn't be contributing a lot to the final texture, so, I guess think custards and such. Cheesecake can be a great vehicle for fake sweet and a simple ricotta, lemon juice, and Splenda mixture can quickly satisfy a sweet craving.
posted by Foam Pants at 4:17 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

When there's only six ingredients in a recipe, all six of them are gonna be pretty important in how it turns out. I think fffm is right, try to find recipes where others have already done the research on substitutions.

However, if you want a better idea of how standard baking works, I like Ratio by Michael Ruhlman. He includes a lot of ideas on how to modify basic recipes that would still be applicable if you started with someone else's low carb recipes, and you might get a better of sense what you can and can't substitute for future experiments.
posted by yeahlikethat at 4:46 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Add eggs, maybe to just a portion of it, to make macaroons.
posted by waving at 4:54 PM on May 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

To add a quick note on to fffm's excellent answer, if you are going to experiment with substitutions, aside from the considerations already mentioned, I would highly recommend only doing one ingredient substitution at a time. Even better if you can do a partial substitution, like half regular white flour, half coconut/whole wheat/whatever flour.

I'm definitely sympathetic to your plight, though. Having to scrap food/ingredients (especially expensive ones) is very frustrating!

Although not a direct answer to your question, I'm going to share a recipe for my healthy-ish breakfast cookies that I've found to be very adaptable:

3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1.5 cups oats
3 tablespoons flaxseed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup butter (melted and allowed to cool)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon almond butter (or peanut butter)
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
chocolate chips

Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl; mix well. Melt butter and add to separate mixing bowl along with brown and white sugar. Mix in egg, then almond butter, then greek yogurt. Add in dry ingredients, followed by chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.

This started loosely based off a recipe that used a banana instead of greek yogurt (half cup for both). You could also substitute raisins for the chocolate chips. I've varied the amount of flax seed (in both directions) without issue, although I usually cut down on the flour slightly if I go above 4 tablespoons of flax. I've also left out the almond butter when I ran out, and if you needed a bit more binding, you could definitely increase the amount. The original recipe also had a different amount of sugar, and maybe only brown sugar. If anything, this recipe tends to be on the drier side, so I bet you could try some liquid stevia for sweetening, especially since the butter is melted completely already, so you aren't trying to cream the butter and sugar together. I've also substituted coconut oil for the butter, which worked quite well.

Anyway, the point is, I've made this recipe a lot and found it to be very forgiving, so it might be a good basis if you want to try experimenting.
posted by litera scripta manet at 5:05 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I feel your pain. Keto cooking has led to some disastrous results for me as well. Thankfully, there are a ton of surprisingly good keto recipes, where people much more talented than I have figured out all the crazy substitutions necessary. I'm not sure it's possible to have not heard of these sites while doing keto, but just in case my favorites are CaveMan Keto (with a dedicated dessert section) and I Breathe I'm Hungry (dessert section).
posted by cgg at 5:44 PM on May 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I had a similar situation when first baking with coconut flour. It is... tricky and very absorbent, kind of. What I did was put the mix in a frying pan and added: broth, garlic, onions, peppers and tried to make an Indian or Moroccan inspired dish of sorts. I added some spices and I'm sure you can add some almonds and grilled chicken or something and it should taste okay. I have had some coconut curry type dishes before and was trying couscous for the first time so that's maybe where I got the idea to try and salvage my fluffy coconut mess. It tasted pretty good and my SO at the time actually liked it too.

It's probably not going to look pretty, but it's still edible. It doesn't seem like your concoction would do well as a dessert, maybe try to give it a second chance as a side dish or entree. Turn that sweet mess into a savory delight. Couldn't hurt and probably won't taste terrible and you won't have to just throw it out. Maybe try to turn it into a soup?
posted by lunastellasol at 9:41 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm late to this party, but wanted to agree with the people who are telling you to find actual keto recipes and follow those. I've been at this for years, and there is no substitute for wheat and sugar in simple baking. You have to completely recreate all the recipes from the ground up. So when you start out, find the people who've done the heavy lifting. Read all of the comments in internet recipes. Make small batches. Use coconut flour only in recipes specifically written for it. Xylitol is a lousy sweetener by itself. And low carb cookies are nearly impossible to get right. Hell, cream cheese spritz cookies are hard to get right even using the original recipe.

Just bin the mess you've got. It really would take at least a couple of dozen eggs to make any headway. Not an exaggeration.

Easy Keto treat: Mix equal amounts of butter and peanut butter (or melt together in microwave); add cinnamon, ginger, clove or allspice to taste; add sweetener to taste (recommend Truvia, liquid suralose, or splenda). Eat. This is a nice quick cookie dough butter that does wonders for satisfying sweets cravings.
posted by monopas at 2:07 AM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Google Fat Bombs. That's the answer to your Keto Sweet Tooth.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:32 AM on May 16, 2016

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