Our honeymoon in Southern Italy consisted of three major food groups: pasta, wine, and limoncello everything. As we twisted and turned through the harrowing drive from Sorrento to Conca Dei Marini, across the dramatic natural setting below steep cliffs along the coast, I couldn’t help but notice all the little specks of yellow and deep green painted on every facade and planted along rocky terrain. I whispered to the driver, “Puo abbassare il finestrino, per favore?” And with the slightest crack in the window, the fragrant aroma of citrus and sea smacked me in the face like a wet lemony towel. It was in that moment, I knew, I was in love.
Back home and 15 lbs heavier from our glutton-filled adventure, it was time to shed the vacation weight and begin training again. A true baker at heart, I wanted to preserve those romantic dessert-filled memories of limoncello gelati in the piazza, delizia al limone from Pasticceria Pansa, shots of homemade limoncello from our villa’s owner, even the lemon peel olive oil pressed from his own vineyard. I wanted all of it without the extra bodily baggage.
Here comes the story of our journey into keto, a very low carb, high fat diet that shares many of the same principles with the Atkins diet and similarly low carb diets we are all too familiar with. My husband and I started the year with the decision to go on a 30-day diet famously promoted on the Joe Rogan podcast called “The Carnivore Diet.” As the name suggests, you only eat meat. That’s it. No pastries, no desserts. Fast-forward 30 days later and 10 lbs lighter, we were able to incorporate a few items back into our meals including nuts and some sugar alternatives. This is called the “High Protein Ketogenic Diet” with the intent to eventually move into a “Mediterranean Diet,” a blue-zone approach to eating. For me, this opened an opportunity to go back to baking without all the added sugar.
After one taste of this refreshing treat, we are – what the kids say – shook. They’re absolutely to-die-for and you’d never guess they’re sugar free. Though we can’t fly back to the Amalfi coast during these crazy times, we can at least enjoy a slice of it and relive the moment.
Not all sugar substitutes are created equal. For this, I opted for Lakanto Monkfruit, a calorie-less fruit sweetener with a high dextrose taste perception; pre-blended with Erythritol, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol by-product of fermentation. It’s delicious and an easy find at Costco. Both the sweetener and almond flour are regularly stocked items and conveniently sized for our test kitchen experiments. Butter and olive oil are interchangeable for this recipe, so feel free to play around with the ratios. I stuck with all Kerrygold salted for this one, but a lemon scented olive oil would easily work wonders. There’s always a secret to my recipes and this one is probably one of my favorites. Lemon sugar is a pastry chef’s #flavortown, #baam, #5-shots-of-vodka, #tastemaker and happens to work perfectly with the sugar alternative. If you don’t have mascarpone, a staple in my fridge, cream cheese works just as well. Baking times will vary from 25-35 mins, and surprisingly, I made mine in the air fryer. Probe it, if it reads 190f or the toothpick comes out clean, it’s ready. The glaze is best when made right before you’re ready to use it.