HIGHER CULTURE: Enjoy Homemade Baking With Keto Apple Pie This Christmas

Keto "apple" pie. Screengrab credit: KetoFocus/YouTube
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Hello and a wonderful Advent and approaching Hanukkah season to you, readers! (Hanukkah starts Sunday.) You may have previously read my columns on the keto — sometimes known as low carb/high fat (LCHF) — way of eating. I’ve shared recipes for cooking pancakes, baking healthy, tasty pizza, or making a pan of brownies without hating yourself for the gluttony it often devolves into.

But what if the arrival of the Christmas holiday season brings cravings and memories of family gatherings of yore — memories that include relatives’ or your own homemade pies? My Grandma Lower (my late dad’s mom) was the best piemaker ever! She made all of the kinds you might be thinking of from your memories, too, including pecan pie. But my favorite has to be apple pie. Part of that has to do with remembering her showing me and my older sister Katy how to make them.

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, people who follow keto/LCHF stick to eating berries, as far as fruit. But, unfortunately, something like an apple simply carries too many carbohydrates (sugar). And some recipes call for several cups of white sugar. If you’re tempted like I am by the sales on fruit pies this time of year (I saw a national brand offering half-price recently), it’s super-tough to remember those things are laden with vegetable oils and bleached, white flour. Our bodies just aren’t able to recognize those things as food, unfortunately.

So, what’s the solution? Does someone seeking a healthier lifestyle have to just wave goodbye to apple pie forever? Nope!

How is that possible?


“Apple” pie FTW

You don’t use apples at all. Read that again. The cool magic trick is possible because our senses/pleasure sensors in the brain only care about the spices, flavors, and the textures in the foods we love. And that’s really where the memories are connected, anyway. You’ll find cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and sometimes ginger in these recipes. And heavy cream. You won’t know the difference.

In place of apples? Depending on the recipe, it’s yellow squash, chayote (a fruit in the squash family), or zucchini.

You’ll see all three mentioned in this first recipe from My Keto Plate blog, which also gives the option of using coconut oil in place of butter, if desired. Your call. Butter is tasty, though. As the site mentions, “A slice has only 6g net carbs per serving.” Compare that to the average piece, which is at least 40 grams!

Now, this recipe mentions xanthan gum, which is used as a thickener. You might see arrowroot mentioned in some recipes, too. Same reason. If you don’t want to get one more fancy ingredient, a tablespoon of coconut flour or a few spoonfuls of sour cream will work just as well. Another thing that stands out here is the suggestion to serve the pie with keto caramel sauce. Yeah, caramel. It’s just three, common ingredients, too. Check it out!

KetoFocus blog shares this recipe, adding in apple flavoring extract, for an added signal to your brain that it’s really “apple” pie. Nifty idea! This one weighs in at just about 10 grams of net carbs per slice. Watch them make it below:

Then this one from Big Man’s World blog focuses on using chayote, but really, any of the listed, vegetable ingredients will work, in a pinch. You’ll get a special, nutty crumble topping here, instead of a top crust. Plus — get this — it’s just three net carbs per slice.

I understand as well as anyone that there are times when you just want a taste of apple pie, but don’t need a whole pie. And shelling out the cash for those “single-serve” containers at the bakery area is not budget friendly, anyway. A handheld pie is the answer, Hip2Keto blog says. Think of these as the keto answer to Hostess snack pies from our childhoods. These will freeze like a dream, too, making a healthy treat just minutes away via a hot oven.


Can you say “Crustless”?

Now, what if you want to save money and just enjoy the best part of the pie experience? I’ve mentioned in several previous pieces that grain-free flours, like coconut and almond flours, are not cheap. And with the inflation hike, anything packaged is more expensive than it used to be. There’s a simple solution–don’t make a crust. Boom.

The ingenious, no-crust “apple” pie looks just like apple crumble in the article. But it is made from… eggplant. Stick with me here.

One heads up about the star ingredient (eggplant, it turns out, is a fruit): it’s in season from May to October (in California), so to be budget conscious, save the recipe for next spring to around Halloween time. While researching this piece, I also learned that not only is eggplant out of season, so are zucchini (AKA Mexican gray/Italian squash), which are only grown through November (see above link for more details on your region). So, plan ahead and freeze these pies beforehand.


Now, some of you might want a “pumpkin” pie

I got you. Completely by accident, which happens when writing, I found an alternative idea to these squash pies. It tastes just like a decadent pumpkin pie, but is made from–turnips. You read that right.

This recipe comes from a New England tradition, where there’s a special varietal of turnip called Eastham. But when I baked it, ordinary small to medium size turnips from the grocery store worked just fine.

I added a tablespoon of lime juice here, to cut some of the sweetness, along with three teaspoons of coconut flour, to add some thickness to the filling. The sugars, I replaced with a blend of stevia and erythritol (the brand I use right now is Truvia), but use your alternate sweetener of choice.

The first step is cooking the turnip pieces (I steamed mine). So, factor in that extra 20-30 minutes in your cooking time. Trust me–the finished product tastes very close to a pumpkin pie, especially if you top it with keto whipped cream. I was lazy, and just poured some cream onto my plate, along with a dash of sweetener.

Notice, like I pointed out up top, that the recipe even has heavy cream in it. And while this recipe suggests using a crust with this, I just greased the pan ahead of time, and it worked out just fine. Crustless pumpkin pie, ta da!

By the way: to test it out, I just halved the amounts of everything (with two eggs, instead of three) — and that worked out fine, too.



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