Birthdays when I was a kid were awesome because in my family you got to choose what we ate for dinner and dessert and you could choose *anything*. You could go out to eat or order in (which we almost never did normally) and choose to eat anything you wanted. Some people ordered in Chinese food or subs or pizza. I had a particular sandwich restaurant I loved (which is now closed, shame) and we would even order appetizers there (very special to me as a child). The youngest forced us to McDonalds for many, many years. But dessert was always, always homemade, because my mom was an amazing baker. One year she made these sculpted piano cakes (recipe from Jacques Torres, I think) for my birthday, complete with keyboards made of white and dark chocolate and raspberry sauce for drizzling. So, birthdays for me have always been wrapped up into this impossible extravagance that somehow becomes possible, magically, for 24 hours.
All that being said, a birthday is just another day. A magical day but a day. Normally, Michael and I would probably just skip the diet for a day and eat whatever we wanted – but we’ll be traveling soon and we’ve made up our minds not to worry about the diet for that week. So, we decided to stay keto for his birthday last week. Dinner was Italian Sausage with onions, bell peppers and mushrooms and this breadsticks recipe. The breadsticks turned out pretty good – we cooked them on foil and they stuck mercilessly, but once they cooled for a few minutes, it was easy to pull off the foil and eat the breadsticks. They were surprisingly breadstick-like. I spiced up Contadina canned sauce (3 g net carb per 1/4 cup serving) with a couple fresh garlic cloves, oregano, crushed red pepper to serve on the side. It was a well-received meal.
For dessert, I made this recipe: low carb salted caramel brownie cupcakes. I made the brownie cupcakes a day ahead of time and despite my worry about the recipe (so many eggs! so little almond flour!) the cupcakes turned out great. I used King Arthur super finely ground almond flour (which I recommend for baking recipes) and the grain of the cupcakes was really good for such dense, chocolate-y little beasts. This recipe will make it into my dessert rotation. The salted caramel became an issue though – which I should have figured out before even making it.
I use Erythritol, plain Erythritol as my sweetener. The author uses Swerve. Swerve is mostly Erythritol but they add oligosaccharides (ie, starch, like Maltodextrin) to make it behave more like sugar. The problem with Oligosaccharides and Maltodextrin is that they do spike blood sugar and insulin. Hence, why I choose to use Erythritol (no blood sugar or insulin spike at all) instead of Swerve or Granular Splenda in recipes.
So where does this affect the salted caramel? Plain old Erythritol will not brown (it crystallizes instead). Oligosaccharides and Maltodextrin will brown. I put my butter and my erythritol in a saucepan and heated it and heated it. It kept forming a skin (crystallizing), so I couldn’t even tell if it was boiling. After a while, I figured the solution must be hot as hell. I touched it with a fingertip because I am a glutton for punishment. It burned like a bitch. I put my finger under cold water and then found my infrared thermometer. The solution was 259 degrees Fahrenheit. I figured that was as caramel-y as I was going to get and took it off the heat. I still finished the recipe and used the “salted caramel” in the icing but it was kind of a bust. Cupcake recipe good, icing recipe only really works if you’re willing to use a sweetener with a starch (and possibly spike your blood sugar/insulin levels). The cupcake still looked pretty, though:
And we had a solid keto birthday dinner and dessert for Michael’s birthday. There was also an enormous Pokémon banner and streamers and fun presents. The cat stole and ate so many ribbons, and then barfed them back up for us. All in all, it was a good experience and proof that we can do a birthday right, even on keto.