LCL Looks at the Industry
Health Benefits of Olive Oil
A Taste of the Orient
Man's View of Valentine's Day
Cooking with Herbs
Worried about Osteoporosis?
Expert Panel: Whole Grains
The Future of Low Carb
Fiber: Not Just for Breakfast
Fixing a Low Carb Disaster
SIGN UP TO SUBSCRIBE
"Anyone who doesn't make mistakes isn't trying hard enough."
— Wess Roberts
You know, this isn't as easy as it looks.
I've been low-carbing for years now. Most of the time, I don't give much thought to the
recipe tweaking and ingredient substitution it takes to convert a standard recipe into
something that won't spike my insulin and make me grumpy.
But sometimes, those thoughtless substitutions are a little too thoughtless, and I'm left
with a disaster on my hands. Just last week I whipped up a batch of my acclaimed lemon
squares, tweaking along the way. I was really looking forward to the buttery shortbread
crust and the tart lemon custard topping. What I got instead was crumbly sawdust held
together by a thin strip of chewy lemony stuff.
Where did I go wrong? The answer was obvious in hindsight: the sugar substitute.
It may seem odd, but sugar, in baking, is a liquid. If you're baking something where
sugar is a minor ingredient, you can pick and choose among the available sugar substitutes
with only minor changes in texture in the finished product. But if the sugar, by weight,
is one of the major ingredients, substitute carefully, taking into account the volume that
the sugar makes up in the finished recipe.
In the case of the desert-lemon-squares, I had replaced 2 cups of sugar with 3 teaspoons of
concentrated liquid Splenda sweetener*. In my zeal to keep the carbs low, I hadn't given a
thought to how removing all that liquid (the sugar) would affect the outcome; the only other
major ingredient in the topping was eggs. I should have used pourable Splenda, or erythritol,
or a sugar-free syrup; or even a combination of two or three of them. As it was, putting my
tweaked ingredients into the oven for 20 minutes didn't produce anything except
disappointment — and lemon-flavored rubber.
But wait! This story does have a happy ending. Do you think this is the first time I've
been left with something close to inedible? While I'm touched by your confidence in me, I
have to confess that, even after nearly 6 years, this is still a trial-and-error process.
Some things just don't work the way I think they might, but I've managed to rescue any number
of baked-good "attempts" using what I think of as The Bread Pudding Method (BPM).
When I was a kid, my mom used to save the ends of the loaves of bread — we wouldn't use them
for sandwiches or toast, being picky that way — and freeze them until she had "enough". Then
she would roughly rip up the bread into a buttered casserole dish (about two-thirds full), stir
in a couple of beaten eggs, some sugar, and some milk (everything should be nice and soupy),
maybe tossing in some raisins as well. A quick grating of nutmeg topped it off, and then she'd
bake the whole thing (325 degrees) until it was set (40 minutes to an hour, depending on the size
of your casserole).
You can imagine that Mom's bread pudding was the ultimate comfort food treat, suitable for breakfast,
snack, or dessert. You may also be wondering what this has to do with the failed lemon squares.
Think of the BPM as an insurance policy for baking with expensive LC ingredients. It's difficult to
just toss something out when the texture is all wrong, or it's too sweet, or not sweet enough. All
of these conditions can be corrected using the BPM, because you can add moisture or sweeteners, or
balance out a too-sweet something by incorporating it into a pudding to which you add little or no
Some things to keep in mind:
The ingredients you add will add carbs, too; but since you're also increasing the volume of
your final product, you will most likely get more servings, too.
If you don't like custards or regular bread pudding, don't bother with an "attempted save"
unless there's someone else around who does. There's no point in throwing good ingredients after
bad if you won't enjoy the outcome.
You probably won't end up with something that's fit for company, but I'm betting it will
make a nice snack or breakfast treat.
There is no recipe, you'll just have to wing it. Don't leave out the eggs; you need the
protein to bind the custard. The type and amount of sweetener you add is completely up to you.
Do make sure you have enough liquid to make everything nice and squishy before you put it in the
Here's my relatively happy ending: Following the BPM, I crumbled the inedible lemon squares into a
buttered casserole dish. I added 2 beaten eggs, about a cup of heavy cream, one-half cup of water,
and one-half cup of sugar-free syrup, along with 2 teaspoons of lemon extract. Mix, bake, cool? lemon
"bread" pudding! Sure there are still some chewy bits of the original lemony topping stuff in it, but
that's OK. They remind me of raisins.
Now I have a question for you: what kind of recipes would you like to see? More desserts or baked
goods, or main courses, appetizers, or side dishes? Whether you have a specific request or a generic
one, send along an e-mail and I'll see what I can do. Thanks!
* The concentrated liquid Splenda I was using came from Nature's Flavors, and they have unfortunately
discontinued it. There are other options out there now. I haven't tried the others yet, as I still
haven't run out of the one bottle I bought at Nature's Flavors! A little goes a long way with this
Copyright © February 2005 Joan Hedman and Low Carb Luxury
Title photo Copyright © 2005 Neil Beaty and Low Carb Luxury