I hate to build this up too much, but these might be the best keto-recipe yet! Nora agrees, but she is also very persuadable. They taste great, look fun, and are easy to make–an all-round great addition to our keto-friendly line-up.
I’m trying recipes out of The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking by Peter Reinhart and Denene Wallace. My sister, Jen, sent it to us after she got a review copy for her nutrition education work, Nutrition in Action (you can find the book for a great price from the Nutrition in Action website! Linked above). Free cookbooks are a nice perk of her work and I’m thrilled that I get the benefits too! In exchange, I try out the book and give her a review. This is the first of a few recipes that I will post.
When I opened the cookbook for the first time I knew it would be a great resource because the recipes are nut-meal based. That is the key to uniting low-carb and gluten-free cooking. It sure helps that the cookbook is also sugar-free! The main recipe modification required for keto-cooking is using heavy cream instead of milk. I also tend to omit the sugar substitutes for Nora, or use some of her saccharine Cytra-K for a little sweetness. I’ve made just a few of the recipes so far, and they have been a hit! I’ve made Nora-versions of some recipes and a few some for myself, like the biscotti recipe. For myself, I sub in reduced levels of real sugar. I have more recipes to post in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.
It also helps to have my new stand mixer. I burned out my hand mixer on one of the bread recipes in this book, paving the way for Ted and the kids to give me the stand mixer for my birthday. The instructions for most of the recipes in this cookbook allow for hand mixing, but with big sticky dough it’s wonderful to have the right tool for the job. Some of the recipes require an electric mixer to adequately aerate the dough to make a soft and airy loaf of bread or cake. I was a little surprised about how excited I was to use it. It makes keto-cooking much easier and more enjoyable.
On to the pretzels! This recipe does not call for milk or sweetener, so I did not have to make any of those substitutions. The authors discussed their attempt to make these as much like traditional “Philly” soft pretezels as possible, which required an odd ingredient: “butter sprinkles.” I was skeptical. I found them in the grocery store one day, and they do not qualify as “real food” in my opinion. They had some carbs, and I wasn’t sure that I was willing to include them in this recipe. Didn’t people make real soft pretzels before “butter sprinkles” existed? I’m not going to take the time to do the research to answer that question, but I did have to decide how to work around them in this recipe. I’m glad that I made great pretzels with my “butter sprinkles” substitute ingredient: real butter. Imagine that.
And for another bit of reality, it’s also impossible to replicate the texture of real soft pretzels without gluten. As with all gluten-free baking, you have to accept a new but good texture and taste as a substitute for the gluten version. The cookbook authors came up with a very good texture and taste here with some clever ingredients. These are soft but not crumbly, but also not chewy like traditional soft pretzels. One key ingredient in many of these recipes is xanthan gum, which is a soluble fiber. Does not add to the net carbs (yippee!) but it does improve the texture. If anyone wants to experiment with these recipes, I have about 1 pint of xanthan gum from the Bob’s Red Mill package, but I’m using about 1/2 tsp at a time. I’m happy to share.
The pretzels taste pleasantly of sunflower seeds, even though that is not the main ingredient. The yeast is added purely for the flavor–it is not the leavening agent with these ingredients. It adds a bit of carbs, but is worth it for that satisfying slightly-yeasty taste. And oh, they are pretty! Note that the plate in the picture is just a little saucer, so it makes just a little pretzel (see picture of Nora with pretzel above for scale). I made them 1/2 of the size called for in the recipe as an appropriate portion for Nora (see below). I actually cut the whole recipe in half, then made 12 pretzels out of it as in the original recipe, so ended up with 1/2 sized pretzels.
I served a pretzel with cheese dipping sauce, made of 12 g of cheddar cheese and 15 g (1 T) heavy cream. Pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds and you have cheese sauce. The pretzel itself is 1.57:1 ratio; with the cheese sauce it is only about 2.5:1, so more fat is needed on the side to get up to Nora’s 3.5:1 ratio requirement. However, it was no problem to get there when included with everything else in her lunch.
110 g Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal
25 g sunflower seeds, finely ground
25 g sesame seeds, finely ground
4 g baking powder
0.5 g Bob’s Red Mill xanthan gum
1.5 g salt
16 g Strauss European-style butter, frozen
50 g egg
4 g active dry yeast
15 g warm water
12 g egg
0.5 g baking soda
8 g water
Salt to taste, or see other topping options below.
Preheat oven to 350° for soft pretzel or 375° for a crispier topping.
Measure the sunflower seeds and sesame seeds then grind in a spice grinder or coffee grinder until fine like flour. Combine with almond meal, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt. Cut the frozen butter into tiny pieces that are still whole. Combine well with the dry ingredients; try to keep the butter bits solid but well distributed throughout.
Put the weighed egg in your stand mixer bowl or another large separate bowl and whisk. In another small bowl, measure the warm water and dissolve the yeast into the water. You don’t have to wait for it to bubble up because it is not the main leavening agent. Add the yeast mixture in with the egg and combine well.
Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir by hand until well combined or mix on low to medium speed for less than 1 minute. Scape down the sides of the bowl and mix again briefly. The dough will be thick but sticky.
Lightly oil a silicone baking mat or parchment paper on a baking sheet. You can also lightly oil a small bowl to measure portions of dough. I found that once I started working with the dough, it wasn’t too sticky.
Weigh 20 grams of the dough and roll into a ball, making 12 balls. Technically, you should have 20.9 g of dough each if you weighed everything correctly, but I’ve found that I lose just a bit of dough in the mixing process and it’s safer to shoot a little low when I measure out portions so that I don’t end up with a much-too-small ball at the end. This way, the actual food will also have slightly fewer carbs than you plan for, putting you on the conservative side of measurement error.
Roll each 20 g ball of dough into a rope about 10-12 inches long on your oiled baking sheet. I found that the dough was fairly easy to work with. If it breaks a bit, just mush it back together. Then form the pretzel shape out of each rope as shown. Place them on the baking sheet. They don’t have to be spaced too far apart because they won’t spread much.
Whisk up the egg wash. The cookbook authors suggest adding baking soda to get the traditional alkaline taste of lye. I adjusted the recipe to make just enough egg wash for the whole batch. If you distribute it approximately equally, the nutrition information is accurate and you should have no egg wash left over. Again, you will lose a bit of egg wash to your pastry brush and pan but that will only make your nutritional estimate appropriately conservative.
Sprinkle with course salt if you have it. I just used sea salt because it was all I had and my kids love salty foods. You could also add other toppings, including them in your calculations, such a sesame seeds, poppy seeds, herbs, etc. I added 1 g of grated parmesan to several of the pretzels, as you see in the picture. I will add that into Nora’s meal calculation when I serve it. You could add cheddar or any other topping you can imagine!
Bake for 6 minutes, then turn the pan and bake for another 6 minutes or until the pretzels are evenly browned. Remove from oven and transfer immediately to a wire rack to cool. They are excellent served warm!
I’m going to explore modifying the recipe again to include some of the brown rice protein powder that I have in my pantry. These would be a nice vehicle for including a little extra protein, and with the cheese sauce could be the only protein Nora needs in a meal.
These could also be the basis for a sweet-and-salty treat. The buttercream recipe posted on the Charlie Foundation site is excellent. When I made it for the keto-gingerbread house; I flavored it with a ginger-spice tea that was delicious.
Topping these with buttercream icing would easily pop it up to a 3.5:1 or 4:1 snack close to 150 calories (that’s off the top of my head, but very doable). The top of my head was wrong! The buttercream recipe is 4:1 at best (I got mine up to 5 to 1) so you need over 20 g of frosting per pretzel (which are around 20 g themselves), which is just plain ridiculous. A better bet would be the caramel sauce or decorating icing from ketocook.com, which are methods of serving pure fat. I’ve been putting 8 g of the buttercream frosting on pretzels for a big snack for Nora, along with 1.5 T of cream in tea to get 3.5:1. She loves them so much she demands another immediately, although I have to deny that request. She did have another with her dinner last night though!
As I’ve said before, it’s a great time to be a keto-kid.
US Measurements for our gluten-free friends. I will give you the full recipe here, not the half-recipe that I used above (so if you try to compare this with the grams above, this will be double):
2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup sunflower seed flour (grind then measure)
1/2 cup sesame seeds flour (grind then measure)
2 Tbsp butter or coconut oil, very cold and chopped into tiny pieces
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp salt
2.25 tsp (1 package) instant or active dry yeast
2 Tbsp warm water
1/2 egg (or less, you will have leftovers)
1/2 Tbsp water
1/4 tsp baking soda (optional)
Other toppings: course salt, sesame seeds, cheeses, etc.
Makes 8-12 large soft pretzels, or 24 small Nora-sized pretzels : )
Follow directions above.