✓Low-carb ✓Gluten-free ✓Grain-free ✓Ketogenic ✘Contains nuts and dairy
THIS RECIPE CAN BE USED AS A GRAIN-FREE SUBSTITUTE FOR A HUGE RANGE OF BAKED STAPLES:
- Sweet or savoury muffins
- Burger buns
- Sandwich rolls
- Small loaf of bread for cutting slices
- As ‘dumplings’ added to a plate of stew or casserole before serving
This is a fantastic recipe which we have been honing over the last twelve months and now use all the time. It’s highly adaptable, easy, very quick and nutritious — all without using any grains, flours or starches. So, it’s suitable for gluten-free, grain-free, low-carb, ketogenic and high protein diets.
The secret ingredient
The main ingredients are super-simple and highly nutritious: eggs, cheese and ground almonds. The surprise ingredient there — which was a revelation to us — is the cheese. It not only acts as a binder, but replaces the butter or oil used in many recipes. Amazingly, it doesn’t leave the muffins tasting particularly of cheese, although the flavour is there if you look for it.
Goat, sheep or cow cheeses work well, as long as they are a hard cheese like a cheddar — basically, anything that you can grate should do.
If you want the cheese flavour to come to the fore, add a pinch or two of salt and use a strong cheddar or add some parmesan. If you want the cheese flavour to retire into the background, use a mild-cheddar or grated mozzarella.
It is easy to keep all the ingredients you need at hand, ready to go, in the fridge as they typically have a long shelf-life.
I recommend making the muffins first (as per the recipe below.) Once you have found out how easy it is, branch out into other shapes and variations.
The basic ratios
If you need to make larger or smaller batches the basic ratios are easy:
For each medium egg, you need 50 grams of cheese and 50 grams of ground almonds. simply multiply this up to get the quantity you need. In the recipe below, I use 3 eggs, 150g of grated cheese and 150g of ground almonds, which is just right for my muffin moulds, making either ten small or six large muffins.
Muffin Tins / Silicon Moulds
These are the two muffin moulds I use the most. Both are approximately 20cm x 30cm. Silicone moulds are very easy to use and the muffins come out perfectly if the mould is properly greased (I use lard or ghee).
Here are some of the other tins I have used for making burger buns, finger rolls and small and medium sized loaves. For a rock-cake look, placing dollops straight onto baking paper or a greased baking tray also works.
Basic Muffin Recipe
Ingredients — makes 6 large (75 g) or 10 small (45 g) muffins
- 150 g Ground Almonds
- 150g Grated Hard Cheese (Cow, Goat or Sheep)
- 3 medium Eggs
- 1 tsp Baking Powder (or ⅓ tsp baking soda and ⅔ tsp cream of tartar)
- Lard (or ghee) to grease the tin/silicone mould
- Weigh out the ground almonds and place them in a mixing bowl.
- Add the grated cheese and mix thoroughly using a fork or wooden spoon.
- Distribute the raising agent, avoiding clumps, and mix it in thoroughly.
- Add the three eggs and mix in thoroughly.
- If the mix is a little dry, add a little more egg, milk or olive oil.
- Take your silicone moulds or muffin tins and grease them. I find lard works very well.
- Spoon dollops of the mix into the moulds evenly.
- Place in the centre of a preheated oven at 200C (180C fan oven) for 20 minutes.
- When done, remove and allow to cool for a few minutes before turning out.
(If they stick to the mould, use a butter knife around the edge of each one to separate it from the mould.)
- Allow to cool on a wire rack (unless you want to eat them hot!)
- Once cool store in an airtight container in the fridge where they should keep for up to a week.
One large muffin (75g) (recipe above = 6 large muffins)
E: 283 kCal F: 23g C: 1g P: 18g
One small muffin (50g) (recipe above = 10 small muffins)
E: 190 kCal F: 15g C: 0.7g P: 12g
The basic recipe (above) produces muffins with a classically calculated ketogenic ratio (fat:carbs+protein) of 1.2:1
The recommendation for intractable epilepsy (and other conditions requiring a ketogenic state to be maintained) used to be 3:1 fat to carbs+protein, so on that basis these muffins would not be acceptable. Over the years, however, the research has showed that protein has a neutral effect on ketogenesis, so should not be included in the ratio.
Taking, therefore, the ratio of fat:carbs, and ignoring the protein, these muffins would have a ketogenic ratio of 23:1 indicating that they are highly ketogenic and suitable for a medical ketogenic diet.
With the following, you will need to experiment to get the quantities right.
At stage 4, add olive oil (1 tbsp) to the mix, along with chopped olives (or sun-dried tomatoes) and mixed herbs.
Add tomato paste, Italian herbs or chilli flakes. Try topping the muffin with grated cheese or add Parmesan to the mix.
Try adding the following to the mixing bowl (before adding the eggs)
- Fried lardons
- Chopped chorizo (available frozen)
- Grated carrot or courgette
- Fried chopped onion
- Diced cooked sausage
- Spring onions, finely cut
- Fresh herbs, chives.
- Chopped olives
Before placing in the oven, sprinkle sesame, poppy or pumpkin seeds on top of the muffins.
Add 2-6 teaspoons of glycine to the ground almonds before adding the cheese and stir in thoroughly.
Various ‘cake’ flavourings work well, including almond extract, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg or mixed spices.
Unless you are on a ketogenic diet, you can add a small amount of dried fruit to create a ‘fruit cake’. Add mixed spices and a splash of brandy, and you have Christmas muffins.
As a desert, try serving slices of a muffin soaked in a lemon drizzle and served with cream or ice-cream. You can make a lemon drizzle by dissolving 2-4 teaspoons of glycine in the juice of one or two freshly squeezed lemons.
Add 2-4 tsp of cocoa powder, 4-6 tsp of glycine and 1 tsp of vanilla extract to the mix along with the almonds. I found that the chocolate version was best if I used a mild grated cheese rather than a mature cheddar. The mild goats cheese was perfect. If you are unfamiliar with the subject of glycine as a really great sweetener please read our article about it here.
Additionally, add some broken pieces from a high cocoa solid chocolate bar.
The recipe for the muffins works equally well for making a small loaf. Instead of placing the mixture into muffin moulds, simply place the whole mix into a small loaf tin. The mixture rises to about twice its original volume during baking, so depending on the proportions of your tin, it may come out squat or tall.
The only modification to the muffin recipe is to reduce the oven temperature by 20C and increase the bake time by 10 minutes to ensure it cooks through without burning
Here is a loaf I made which sliced really well:
Each slice is only 5cm x 10cm — a bit smaller than half a normal slice of supermarket “sliced bread”. This is ideal for me, as it is much more calorie and nutrient-dense than grain-based breads. Also, this smaller size makes a nice little open sandwich, or accompaniment to a soup or boiled egg, or alongside a simple lunch of cheese and pickled onions.
I haven’t tried making a larger loaf, but should just be a case of multiplying up the quantities in the recipe.
Oxalates and Salicylates in Nuts
Nuts can be high in oxalates and salicylates. Excess consumption of oxalates can contribute to kidney stone formation, while high salicylate foods can exacerbate asthma, eczema and some migraines. If you are sensitive to either of these anti-nutrients you need to choose your nuts carefully.
Almonds – high in salicylates, high in oxalates
Ground almonds are relatively cheap and widely available. They are very low-carb (for a nut) and produce a succulent crumb. Far better nutritionally and gastronomically than any grain-based flour. However, they are high in oxalates and salicylates, so need to be avoided if you are sensitive to these.
Cashews – low in salicylates, high in oxalates
One alternative is ground cashew. I have tried this and it works well in the recipe above. Replacing the ground almonds with cashews will raise the carb content of the muffins significantly but could still be suitable for a ketogenic diet, with a marginal ketogenic ratio of 2:1. On the downside, although cashews are low in salicylates, they are unfortunately still high in oxalates.
Low oxalate nuts – low in oxalates, high in salicylates
Coconut, macadamia, pistachio and walnuts are all low in oxalates, but high in salicylates. Also, I have not tried these in the muffin recipe, but you can, and please send me photos and a ‘report’ on the results. I’d love to hear of your creative efforts.