The recipes on Cut the Wheat, Ditch the Sugar utilize ingredients that do not promote excessive blood sugar spikes and/or insulin production and therefore are suitable for people who are diabetic or are following low carbohydrate diets. My recipes are wheat and mostly grain free because starchy carbohydrates–even ones that are not technically classified as sugars–are still converted to glucose in the body, promoting the need for excess insulin production. If you are attempting to live a reduced carbohydrate lifestyle or have diabetes, my recipes will help you stay on track without having to give up your favorite foods.
In order to achieve these nutritional goals, I use alternative flours and sweeteners in place of real sugar and wheat products. The results work favorably when you know what to expect, so understanding how these products work in baking will help you to achieve better results.
You will notice that my number one pick for a wheat flour replacement is almond flour. Almond flour is blanched almonds that have had their skins removed and have been ground into a fine powder. It easily makes up the bulk of a recipe and adds a mild nutty flavor that is neutral enough to be made into both sweet and savory products. Almond flour has a high fat content, so while it measures close to cup-for-cup with wheat flour, you will need to reduce the amount of fat in a recipe when you are subbing almond flour. Adding too much fat to an almond flour based product will make the product feel soggy.
Almond flour should be stored in the freezer to prevent it from going rancid. I buy five pound bags of it either from Honeyville or Wellbee brands. Wellbee also offers a two pound bag. While you can usually find Bob’s Red Mill almond flour in retail stores, I don’t recommend using it. While it’ll do in a pinch, it is not ground as finely as Honeyville or Wellbee brands, so your results may be a little bit more crumbly and have a less desirable texture. However, if you’re in a bind, Bob’s Red Mill will work better than nothing.
Many blogs use coconut flour as a bulking flour, but I tend to use it more as a drying agent to help to draw moisture out of almond flour or other ingredients. When mixed with almond flour, it can produce a product that isn’t soggy and has a more genuine mouthfeel that feels closer to wheat flour. I use this brand, but the brands are less important with coconut flour in my opinion.
Coconut flour has a nutty, sweet flavor that tastes like coconuts, but is still mild. It can be used in small quantities in savory recipes, but is best suited in sweet recipes if it is being used as a bulking agent.
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is derived from birch or corn. Birch xylitol like this one is preferred to corn-derived xylitols, but there is non-GMO corn xylitol available as well.
Xylitol has 60% of the calories of sugar, so it is not calorie free. However, pure granulated xylitol boasts a glycemic index of just 7, making its effect on blood sugar negligible. Xylitol is the main ingredient in one of my favorite sweeteners, Ideal. Ideal is a mixture of xylitol with a hint of sucralose to make it as sweet as sugar. Xylitol alone is slightly less sweet than sugar.
Xylitol is widely available and has a low incidence of abdominal discomfort with overconsumption, which can be a problem with other sugar alcohols. In addition, xylitol discourages dental cavities, so it is great for your teeth.
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol similar to xylitol. It is also naturally found in plants. Granulated erythritol is a favorite among bloggers as it has a zero glycemic index, meaning that it has no effect at all on blood sugar. However, it does have some drawbacks.
The main drawback with erythritol is that it has a cooling effect when it mixes with fat due to the fact that it is exothermic. This isn’t just a cold mouth feel, although that’s annoying too–but an actual, physical cold that can be detrimental in many culinary applications. Mix a spoonful of pure erythritol with some room temperature butter and taste it. You’ll feel a cold sensation on your tongue. If you repeat the experiment and make it a cup of erythritol and a stick of butter and blend it together in a metal bowl, you’ll actually feel the bowl itself get cold. Obviously, if you’re working with a fat such as coconut oil, this can be very bad because the coconut oil will form small, solid “droplets.”
Erythritol is also more prone to re-crystallization than xylitol is. That means that if you make, say, brownies with it, when you go back go grab one the next morning, you’ll likely feel the erythritol crystals as they’ve reformed and the product may have an unwelcome “crunch” that is similar to what undissolved sugar would feel like.
In certain applications, though, erythritol is great. It is better suited in recipes with higher liquid content and lower fat content, such as syrups, sauces, dressings and beverages. However, it can be blended with other sweeteners to reduce its drawbacks.
On the bright side, erythritol does caramelize like sugar, whereas xylitol doesn’t as easily. It is also the safest sweetener for blood sugar due to its zero glycemic index.
Some commercial blends of erythritol include sweeteners like Swerve and Truvia, which combine the erythritol with other sweeteners such as oligosaccharides and stevia (rebiana) extract.
Stevia is an extremely sweet extract of a natural plant. It is much loved among bloggers and dieters alike, as it is natural and readily available. Some brands of stevia have a bitter aftertaste, so your best bet is to stick with either a stevia glycerite or a granulated form like Stevia in the Raw. Stevia in the raw contains a bulking agent that is mildly caloric in large quantities, so it’s best used in moderation. However, it is also highly dissolvable, which is great for applications like frosting, where it can be dissolved easily in a small amount of water to create a super sweet syrup.
Whey Protein Isolate Powder
I have recently begun using whey protein isolate in my cake and bread recipes. This product helps to add protein into recipes and also assists in the texture.
Jay Robb whey protein is my favorite because it is made from grass fed, hormone and antibiotic free cow milk and is sweetened only with stevia. This protein powder can be added to just about anything to up the protein content. It has 26g of high quality protein per scoop (3 1/2 T) and only 1g of carb.
Xanthan gum is a critical ingredient in many of my recipes. It adds a stretchiness and pliability to baked goods that is similar to what would be achieved with gluten. It can also be used to thicken soups, sauces, dressings and more.
Xanthan gum is the natural biproduct of bacterial fermentation of certain plants and plant materials. It can be easily synthesized in a lab and is therefore readily available and affordable.