I can cook. I cooked my first full meal for my 10th birthday. I was guided by my late maternal grandmother who is one of the best cooks I’ve known. I chose the menu: steamed fish, stewed beef, white rice and vegetables. Those were some of my favourite foods. Grandma was patient with her young apprentice, and I remember acquitting myself fairly well if I may say so myself! My desire to learn to cook never waned, and I was able to give full expression to this desire when I left home for university. In those days we didn’t have Google or YouTube or Whatsapp for instant easy access to recipes and methods. But I had Grandma. I’d ask her how to do this, and how to do that, over the telephone and then go do it. Since then, I’ve become a pretty good cook. But baking has always intimidated me.
Baking vs Cooking: Science vs Art
To be quite honest, baking feels like more of a science than an art. During cooking you can observe, taste, smell, stir, adjust….art! But baking has always felt like precise measurements and proportions are mandatory. Placing the product in the oven feels so final too! And so I’ve never really played in the baking space at all.
I did cake mixes and cookie mixes. Occasionally I dabbled with pastry making. One particularly memorable foray into the world of baking was Christmas dinner several years ago. Sigh. I struggled with trying to recreate Grandma’s legendary ripe banana pie. I love flaky, buttery pastry, and so I decided that I had to add more butter to the flour in order to achieve this. I didn’t have a kitchen scale. Remember that I’m a cook…we cooks instinctively know how much to add. We don’t measure. We operate by intuition and we fly by touch! Scale? No need for that! So I tried to make my pastry with measurements by measuring cup. And the extra butter that I was sure would give me the final product I desired. I left my buttery pastry ball in the refrigerator overnight. Well the next day, guess what happened… What happens to butter left in the fridge? It gets hard. So did my pastry ball. Read the whole sordid affaire right here.
Why I went Keto…
So I convinced myself that I am not a baker and bought the sweet treats I desired rather than creating them. Then two years and some months ago I decided to lose weight. I decided to do this by eating keto and reducing my carbohydrate intake significantly. It has been the most effective and least painful way for me to lose weight and gain control over my food. I got to eat meat and green veggies and dairy. Yum! But the availability of sweet treats that are low-carb here in Jamaica is practically non-existent. I looked also for low-carb bread, but to no avail. I was left with no option but to learn to make the bread and desserts that I needed in order to not feel deprived. Deprivation is the surest way to fall off any diet, and I was determined to lose weight. So I inhaled deeply, and got to work.
Keto Desserts: Oh Yes I did!
There are no shortage of recipes for low-carb foods out there. Google! I started with a no-bake cheesecake. Easy right? Yup! And you know what, it was good! It didn’t have the texture of traditional cheesecake, but it was sweet and creamy and it hit the spot. My courage grew, and I attempted a cheesecake that you’d have to bake. And guess what…IT WORKED!
My confidence grew some more. My family started looking forward to Sundays, the day when I’d experiment with making some sort of keto dessert. I joined several online low-carb groups and relied on feedback from members for winning dessert recipes. One of my favourite low-carb support groups is the Caribbean Keto Tribe on Facebook. One of the tribe members shared an easy recipe for keto ice cream! I tried it and lo and behold, ICE CREAM !!! She also shared a recipe for mini cheesecakes. To this day, it remains one of my go-to’s. The more I tried, the more I realised that baking is not really as mystical and as difficult as I had made it out to be. I became familiar with how low-carb ingredients behaved and tasted…the alternative sweeteners, the almond and coconut flours, leavening agents and so on. And with this growing understanding, I became increasingly confident in my ability to change flavours and experiment.
From no-bake Keto Treats to Keto Bread!
Bread. This was an adventure. I began the search for an acceptable low-carb bread substitute. Most low-carb breads are eggy. In the absence of the traditional wheat flour that is used to make regular bread, eggs are a critical ingredient in low-carb breads made with almond and/or coconut flours which are low carb. I tried several recipes. Coming out of those trials, I was able to develop my own recipe which was a hybrid of a few of these recipes. My low-carb bread is not at all eggy and is great when you simply want to have a sandwich. Imagine that! Me, a non-baker, developing a great low-carb bread recipe! This was the start of a small business I started, Kelly’s Keto Cooking. I shake my head in wonderment everytime it hits me that my first product was a baked bread, a recipe that I developed by myself. I went on to adapt that recipe to create a sweet, coconutty, spiced version that I christened “brun” (a play on bread + bun) which is a credible substitute for traditional Jamaican bun or rock bun. It’s delicious with cheese, butter or sugar free jam. My brun remains my best seller in my line of low-carb foods.
Keto Christmas Dinner!
Christmas is nigh. This is the time of year where sweet treats abound. Parties, family get-togethers and so on ensure that there are many opportunities for us to indulge our sweet tooth. But this is not so good for those of us managing our health by eating low-carb. Some people opt to indulge, and that’s their choice. I opt not to. And you already know my mantra: Say No To Deprivation! Last year, I put together some options for creating a festive, delicious low-carb Christmas dinner. I actually hosted a 100% low-carb Christmas dinner last year. Even my guests who don’t eat low-carb, enjoyed dinner! They lapped up the cauliflower fried rice, seafood pizza (yup…low carb pizza!), braised oxtail, roasted chicken, garlic-herb baked ham, jerked pork, callaloo quiche and salad! We had keto cheesecake topped with real whipped cream for dessert. Soooooo good!
Keto Christmas Sweet Treats
So allow me to share with you some of my current go-to low-carb sweet treat recipes. You know they’re easy, because yes, I’m a lazy cook, and two, remember that I’m a baking novice. It’s gotta be simple to do and it’s gotta be made with accessible ingredients.
Basic Keto Baking Rule: What makes a typical dessert “keto” or “low carb” is what we use in place of traditional baking flour and what we use as a sweetener. All the other ingredients (cream cheese, eggs, butter, flavourings and whipped cream where necessary) are already low in carbohydrates.
KETO BAKING SHOPPING LIST
The sugar substitute can be found in the section of the supermarket that carries products for diabetics.
We use coconut or almond flour instead of regular flour. They’re found in the section catering to healthy alternatives. There is one corporate area supermarket that sells almond flour in small retail friendly packs with a relatively low out of pocket spend
The cream cheese and whipping cream are found in the dairy section of the chilled products area, near where the cheeses are kept.
The flavours & unsweetened coconut flakes can be found in the baking aisle.
Finely grated fresh coconut is ideal!
KETO TREAT RECIPES FOR YOU
Peanut butter cookies
Made with only 4 ingredients, it doesn’t get easier than this! I actually make my own peanut butter. I am guaranteed that it is sugar free, and its too easy. I just dump roasted, lightly salted peanuts into my food processor and pulse until the peanuts are transformed to creamy butter. That’s it. Check out the recipe here:
This is one of my favourites. Once I perfected this basic recipe, I experimented with different flavours and toppings. I actually add a little sweetener to my crust so it tastes more like a cookie. I’ve added blueberries, topped with whipped cream and berries, and I’ve added shredded coconut and rum and pineapple flavours for a pina colada like twist.
Cupcakes with Frosting
These are really very good and easy to make. Just as I did with the keto mini cheesecakes, once I perfected the basic recipe, I started playing with flavours and frostings. Pineapple flavour and shredded coconut were perfect modifications here. I made a cream cheese butter frosting that was a winner.
Keto Ice Cream
I captured this unbelievably simple recipe in this blog post. Have a look and go wild. It’s just heavy dairy cream, low-carb sweetener, a little salt and your flavour of choice in a jar. That’s it. The basic recipe is vanilla, but you can add unsweetened cocoa powder to make it chocolate. You can add berries for a fruity twist. Coffee makes it wonderful too! Add nuts, coconut or semi sweet chocolate for added texture and interest. Oh…rum is good too 🙂
Abby’s Favourite Keto Treats
My sister Abby and most of her family also eat low-carb. Like me, she has been experimenting with baking in an effort satisfy her desire for a sweet treat the low-carb way. She recommends these recipes. I haven’t tried them yet, but if she says they work, they work!
Chocolate chip cookies. Blueberry scones (I’ve been dreaming about this one topped with freshly whipped cream!) and cinnamon rolls!
Merry Keto Christmas!
I think this year I’ll make coconut flour cupcakes with a rum butter creme frosting and I’ll have a brun handy for Christmas day breakfast (imagine a slice lathered with butter, some ham and a creamy Irish coffee…coffee with a splash of rum and some heavy cream and low-carb sweetener!)
No I don’t have a credible low-carb version for traditional black Jamaican christmas fruit cake. I haven’t really tried, since black fruit cake has never been a favourite of mine. Maybe one day.
So which two desserts will you try for yourself this year?
Draw some sorrel with your favourite spices (ginger, cloves, pimento, ginger) and sweeten it with your favourite low-carb sweetener. Sip slowly with or without a splash of rum over ice and indulge with one of the sweet treats. Cheat? For what?