Tuesday, August 06, 2019

keto bread with egg: first-ever (and likely last) attempt

Keto bread is a gluten-free bread substitute for dieters who crave bread. I'm tempted to put scare quotes around the word bread because, based on the results of my first-ever attempt to make a loaf of keto bread, the thing is more like banana bread—which is technically a cake—than the kind of bread that normal human beings eat.

I don't have an electric hand mixer, so I was unable to whip the eggs into a near-mousse the way you're apparently supposed to. Otherwise, it was simply a matter of following the instructions (recipe here), which weren't hard to decipher.

The results were... well, pardon the pun, but I'm still digesting the experience. The loaf cuts like bread, and to a limited extent, it even feels a bit like bread (but again: banana bread, except drier). Meanwhile, the crust isn't a happy, tasty layer resulting from a surface-wide Maillard reaction: it's more like what happens to eggs in a frying pan when you leave them un-stirred for a little too long.*

The bread was made with almond flour (well, almond meal, which contains almond skins), and along with tasting eggy, it tastes rather almond-y. I almost wish I were eating marzipan instead. In terms of texture, the thing is fairly solid; with few exceptions, the crumb doesn't evince any of the bubbles you expect from normal bread—except in a cake-y way.

I have yet to see how the keto bread will behave when I pan-fry a slice or two in butter. I'm hoping it'll be awesome, but I don't know how almond meal will react to a skillet's heat. I did try the sandwich thing by spreading some mayo onto two thin slices of bread and adding some American cheese. A sandwich made with keto bread is edible, but the bread's odd taste, with its echoes of marzipan, definitely dominates the experience. I suspect that one can "judo flip" the taste (i.e., make the taste work for you) by making a sandwich whose filling has a flavor profile that goes well with almonds and eggs—maybe something with fruit or peanut butter (although that introduces carbs unless you go for no-sugar peanut butter and leave out the fruit), or maybe breakfast sausage and scrambled eggs.

All in all, though, I think I want to try making an egg-free keto bread next. This bread is way too eggy, and might be a candidate for bread pudding. Pics of the bread follow. I suspect the bread looks much better than it tastes.

Stay tuned for pics of pan-fried bread, coming soon.

ADDENDUM: and here it is:

Can't say the toasted bread was any more impressive than the un-toasted bread. A bit crunchier, perhaps, but the basic taste was still the same. Overall, I don't find this "bread" very appealing. Admittedly, this may be because I'm still a newbie at making keto bread. But this first attempt didn't really fly with me, and rather than risking the whole egginess issue again, I'd rather move on to eggless keto bread.

(I might try redeeming the bread by pan-frying it in the spice mix that I use when making my Middle Eastern chicken.)

*Technically, the keto bread's crust is the result of a Maillard reaction: eggs are full of protein. But the result still isn't the same as what you get when baking normal bread.


Charles said...

[Part 1 of 2]

I can't say that I am all that surprised. For whatever the internet might say about xanthan gum being a substitute for gluten, I just don't see it. As I mentioned in my comments on your earlier post, xanthan gum is primarily a thickener, while gluten is not.

I can sort of see where people might have gotten the idea that xanthan gum could be a substitute for gluten. After all, flour is a common thickener for soups and sauces, and flour contains gluten, right? Well, if things like xanthan gum and agar agar can also be used as thickeners, maybe they can substitute for the gluten! No doubt you see the flaw in this logic, though. It's a bit like when athletes have a lucky shirt because they happened to win a major event while wearing said shirt.

The X factor for me was whether or not xanthan gum also had the stretchy properties of gluten; after all, the thickening logic being wrong doesn't necessarily mean that xanthan gum can't also be stretchy. I suspected that it might not be, though, and your experiment seems to bear this out. (And, incidentally, the recipe you followed only notes that xanthan gum is a binding agent.) The bread does indeed look pretty good, but it doesn't look anything like actual bread--even before I read your description, I could see that it was very cake-like. This is no doubt due to the lack of gluten in the recipe (and one other ingredient, which I'll come back to later).

I do wonder if there are not other factors coming into play, though. Looking at the recipe, I notice that there is no actual kneading of the dough. On the one hand, this makes sense, since there is no gluten to work. On the other hand, though, if you are using xanthan gum as a substitute for gluten and expecting it to act like gluten, maybe you should treat it like gluten? I have no idea if this will actually work, but it can't hurt to try (if you are indeed ever inclined to try this again). Unless this is more of a batter than a dough, in which case... yeah, I don't know.

I also wonder if the use of almond meal as opposed to almond flour made a difference. Whole wheat breads tend to rise less than white breads because the bran inhibits gluten formation somewhat, and I suspect that if there is anything at all similar to gluten formation going on here, the almond skins might be acting in the same way as wheat bran.

These suggestions, though, are premised on the idea that xanthan gum is a viable gluten substitute, and I'm pretty sure it isn't. So I don't know how much of a difference these changes would make. I suspect they might help improve the texture a bit, but they are not going to make it feel like actual bread.

Charles said...

[Part 2 of 2]

On a different note, that is an insane amount of eggs for that amount of "flour." I find it amazing that the author would claim the bread has "little to no eggy taste" with that many eggs in the mix. But eggs are a binder as well, and if the loaf really does need that many eggs, it makes me suspect that xanthan gum alone might not be enough to keep everything together.

And something that is missing from the recipe that I would expect to see in any bread recipe (as I hinted at above) is yeast. There is, in fact, no rising agent at all. I'm guessing that yeast is left out because it requires a sugar of some sort to activate, and sugars are obviously a no-no in low-carb diets. Believe it or not, though, but in addition to helping the bread rise, yeast also affects the texture of the dough. I discovered this once a long time ago when I was making a dough by hand, and I forgot to add the yeast. The dough did start to feel stretchy as the gluten began to form, but it also had a rather wet, slippery feel to it--rubbery rather than doughy. I noticed this almost immediately and realized that I had forgotten the yeast. After adding the yeast and continuing the knead, I saw an immediate difference in the texture. I don't know why this is so, but somehow the yeast reacts with the other ingredients to give the dough the proper texture, even before it starts pumping out gas to make the dough rise.

Anyway, bottom line is that you are never going to get a true bread-like consistency without gluten and yeast. You might be able to come close, but there is always going to be something off. A low-carb bread, on the other hand, well that might be a worthy experiment. If that's what you're really going for here, it might be worth trying a low-carb version with gluten. Unless you've been having epileptic fits, have suddenly developed celiac disease, or are attempting to avoid protein poisoning, I don't see why you would need to cut out the gluten, given the relatively small amount of protein it would add to the bread. Yeast is a bit trickier, due to the sugar requirement, but apparently there is something called "inulin," which is a fiber but is also eaten by yeast and thus can be used as a sugar substitute. A bread with gluten, yeast, and inulin, plus a mixture of low-carb flours to avoid an overly almondy taste, might produce something close to actual bread.

(And on a totally different note, the use of bold, italics, and underlining in that recipe for seemingly random words was really distracting.)

Kevin Kim said...

Yeah, it was definitely more of a batter than a dough.

Kevin Kim said...

Forgot to mention that one of the videos I watched showed the stretchy properties of xanthan gum by mixing some powdered gum with a little water, then slowly pulling the spoon out to demonstrate the goo's elasticity. That's still not the same sort of elasticity that you get from gluten, but it is, at least, an attempt at showing why xanthan gum is used in the first place.