Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review: The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking

I found this lovely cookbook a while back and found it compelling enough to blog about. The authors provide recipes for low carb, gluten-free breads, rolls, pizzas, focaccias, crackers, breadsticks, pretzels, muffins, scones, pancakes, waffles, cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, and more. These concoctions are based on unique combinations of nut and seed flours. Most low carb recipes I’ve found on the Internet use almond, coconut flour, and occasionally ground flax seeds. This book will open you up to other possibilities such as hazelnut, sesame seed, and pecan to provide a more complex flavor and texture.

Book CoverThe authors give a great primer on why carbohydrates can be problematic for some people, in particular, diabetics. They provide lists of equipment, tools, and ingredients as well as baking techniques. I also like that they provide gram and ounce measurements. However, I found some of their volume to weight conversions off. I also had a bit of bad luck with their chocolate pie crust. I believe they specified way too much coconut flour, which made it very brittle. Nevertheless, the recipes in this book will inspire you to come up with new ideas for your own creations.

Truly low carb pretzels are not easy to find. I wanted to make some for an ice cream idea that’s been buzzing in my head. They came out pretty good, but please take my advice: Get real pretzel salt. I used salt flakes from a cheap plastic salt grinder and it was way too salty. I’m allergic to sunflower seeds, so I just doubled the sesame seed flour in the recipe and it worked out really well. Do keep an eye on your pretzels while baking in the oven since they can burn real easy.

Simple Pretzels


It simply isn’t possible to create a gluten-free, sugar-free pretzel that replicates the texture and flavor of an authentic soft pretzel, especially one dipped in lye, as is done in Pennsylvania Dutch country. Fortunately, it isn’t difficult to make a gluten-free, sugar-free pretzel that tastes fantastic. Plus, our version is made with baking soda, a safe, optional alternative to lye that provides a similar alkaline tone that we associate with pretzels. These are delicious with mustard (the “proper” way, as those of us from Philly say). The butter sprinkles are an unusual but essential flavoring ingredient; you can find them near the spices at almost any supermarket. Pretzel salt is available at many stores as well, but you can also use coarse sea salt or kosher salt.


2 cups (8 oz / 227 g) almond flour
½ cup (2 oz / 57 g) sunflower seed flour
½ cup (2 oz / 57 g) sesame seed flour
2 teaspoons butter-flavored sprinkles
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs (3.5 oz / 99 g)
2¼ teaspoons (1 package) instant or active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water (about 95 °F, or 35 °C)

Egg Wash

1 egg
1 tablespoon water
¼ teaspoon baking soda (optional)


½ to 1 teaspoon Maldon salt, coarse salt, or pretzel salt
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F (177 °C), or for crispier pretzels, preheat the oven to 375 °F (191 °C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat, then lightly mist the surface with spray oil.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the almond flour, sunflower seed flour, sesame seed flour, butter-flavored sprinkles, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt and whisk until well mixed. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. In a small bowl, stir the yeast and water together until the yeast dissolves, then stir the mixture into the eggs (no need to wait for the yeast to bubble, because it’s only for flavor, not leavening).
  3. Add the flour mixture to the eggs and stir with a large spoon for 1 to 2 minutes to make a thick, playdough-like dough.
  4. Mist a work surface with spray oil and transfer the dough to the oiled spot. Divide the dough into 8 to 12 equal portions and form each into a ball. (You may want to oil your hands to prevent sticking.) Gently roll each ball into a strand 10 to 15 inches long and ½ inch in diameter. If the strands split or fall apart, press them back together; if they’re too crumbly to hold together, put the dough back in the bowl and stir in 1 or 2 teaspoons of water. Form each strand into a pretzel shape, then place the pretzels on the prepared pan. They won’t spread, so you can position them fairly close together.
  5. Make the egg wash by whisking the egg, water, and baking soda together until frothy, then brush the mixture over the pretzels. Sprinkle the coarse salt evenly over the pretzels, then do the same with the sesame seeds.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate and bake for 12 to 18 minutes, until firm to the touch and golden brown.
  7. Immediately transfer the pretzels to a wire rack using a metal or plastic spatula. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Picture of a pretzel.

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