For more on the beautiful art of bread baking, check out my FUELED Wellness + Nutrition podcast here where I’m joined by expert baker Morgan Angelle of Bellegarde Bakery, and low-carb baker Carolyn Ketchum, founder of the blog All Day I Dream About Food.
We all have something. A weakness that can feel like it has a vice grip on our rational minds and our willpower. For some, it’s simple as chocolate or pasta. For others, it may be drinking, gambling, or shopping.
For me, it’s bread. Bread in all forms, all shapes, all sizes. I love it dipped in olive oil, topped with flaked sea salt, toasted and spread with coconut oil or creamy nut butter, or a twist on the obligatory avocado toast with freshly-grilled salmon added to create an open-faced salmon-avocado sandwich. I could go on, but you get the idea.
I am the grateful recipient of whole grain artisan sourdough bread, gifted to us regularly by my sister-in-law Tracey, who, like many, has continued her quarantine-fueled hobby well beyond the strictest stay-at-home phase.
As much as I love and appreciate good bread, however, I am also aware of my potential to go a little overboard. Not to mention, a diet centered on wheat flour, even whole grain wheat flour, isn’t exactly ideal. So while I unapologetically indulge when it’s worth it, I’m always looking for other ways to get my bread fix.
Which brings us to breads made with grain-free flours like almond flour and coconut flour. Not only are they more nutrient-rich compared to wheat flour, breads made with these grain-free flours are also a viable solution for people who can’t have (or choose to avoid) gluten.
Problem is, they’re often just not that great. Options for commercially-available gluten-free bread that is both nutritious and truly satisfying are woefully limited. In fact, there’s currently only one brand that I like both nutritionally and taste-wise: Base Culture’s 7 Nut & Seed is grain-free and gluten free, made with wholesome ingredients like eggs, almond butter, flaxseed, psyllium husk and almond flour.
Making our own gluten-free bread, however, is not nearly as cumbersome as one might think. It also ensures that we are using quality ingredients, not the typical tapioca, potato and rice flours found in many store-bought gluten-free breads.
Here’s a toolkit for baking grain-free, gluten-free bread, along with a few recipes to get you started. These breads will never be a replacement for traditional crusty sourdough bread or a flaky croissant, but in the world of gluten-free baking, they are pretty spectacular.
Key ingredients you’ll need
Alternative flours. There’s nothing wrong with using a variety of whole grain flours, but when you’re looking to really maximize nutrition, flours like almond flour and coconut flour are lower in carbs and naturally gluten-free, plus they’re also richer in protein, fiber and plant-based fats.
Unflavored protein powder (plant-based or whey). Not only does it help to make breads lighter and fluffier, protein powder also serves as a gluten replacer, providing structure and texture to baked goods.
Eggs. They contribute to the structure and height of baked goods, also helping to keep them from falling apart. And don’t be alarmed by the number of eggs that a recipe calls for – your bread won’t turn out ‘egg-y’.
Fat. Unlike traditional sourdough bread, pretty much all recipes made with alternative flours will also call for some type of fat, often coconut oil, butter, or avocado oil.
Psyllium husk powder. Yes, it’s the same stuff in Metamucil. Psyllium husk powder is rich in soluble fiber, giving products a more bread-like texture. Don’t use too much, or it can get gummy and weird.
Baking powder or baking soda. Because most breads made with alternative flours are more of a quick bread style, not made with yeast, these recipes typically call for baking powder or baking soda as a leavening agent.
Follow a recipe. There’s no need to experiment on your own, especially if you’re new to baking with gluten-free flours. Find a recipe that’s tried-and-true, one that’s been vetted out by friends and family, or has plenty of positive reviews online.
My go-to baking expert for all things low carb and gluten-free is Carolyn Ketchum, cookbook author, expert baker and founder of the blog, All Day I Dream About Food.
Some of my favorite bread recipes on Ketchum’s blog include her low-carb Pizza Crust that actually looks and tastes like the real thing. The secret ingredient is shredded mozzarella, along with coconut or almond flour. It’s surprisingly simple and incredibly delicious. This same dough recipe can also be used to create breadsticks, garlic parmesan knots and low-carb bagels.
Ketchup also features a Soul Bread that’s made with cream cheese and protein powder, resulting in light, fluffy sandwich-style buns and rolls, along with a Cheesy Skillet Bread that has a bit more of a cornbread texture, thanks to the coconut flour and cast-iron skillet.
Be careful with substitutions. Don’t replace equal parts almond flour with coconut flour, or vice versa. And definitely don’t swap out wheat flour for these alternative flour, without making significant adjustments to the recipe. Almond flour is a high-moisture flour with lots of natural oils, while coconut flour is very dry, soaking up any liquids like a sponge. They each behave in very different ways in baking, and therefore are not easily interchangeable.
Turn lemons into lemonade (or lemon scones). Unless you’ve used salt in place or sugar, or sugar in place of salt, says Ketchum, there are no un-salvageable mistakes in baking. If a trial run of a new grain-free, gluten-free cake recipe turns out dry and crumbly, use it for low-carb truffles or cake balls.
Focaccia bread that’s also good for you is now a reality, with this almond flour and coconut flour recipe by Carolyn Ketchum, cookbook author, expert baker and founder of the blog, All Day I Dream About Food. I’ve started keeping this focaccia on hand at all times, making a double batch so that I can freeze leftovers for a quick addition to any meal.
Rosemary Olive Oil Focaccia Bread
Makes 16 servings
1 cup almond flour
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup unflavored whey protein powder (can use egg white protein for dairy-free version)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling
Fresh rosemary for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and coat with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together almond flour, coconut flour, protein powder, rosemary, baking powder, salt, and garlic powder. Add olive oil, eggs, and egg whites and mix until well combined.
Stir in just enough water to form a sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto the prepared baking sheet and use wet hands to spread to a 9×12 inch rectangle.
Use your fingertips to dimple the surface of the bread lightly, then sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary leaves. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until the bread is golden on the edges and firm to the touch. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Per serving: 130 calories, 10 grams fat, 1.8 grams saturated fat, 240 mg sodium, 3 grams carbohydrate, 1.5 grams fiber, <1 gram sugar, 4.5 grams protein.
We want to hear from you! If you try one of these recipes or baking tips, let us know what you think. And we would love to hear your favorite recipes and strategies for lower-carb gluten-free breads and baking.
Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian + nutrition journalist in New Orleans, and founder of Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s articles + TV segments at www.mollykimball.com.