December 7, 2022

Yes or no?

The company labels it ‘keto,’ but controversy surrounds this boxed baked confection mix like bees surround honey. Like many other highly touted snacks and treats, unwary customers will bake up a whole pan and then scarf down several large squares, thinking they’re still being keto safe. Of course, the company claims it’s keto friendly. And online stores such as Amazon also claim it is a good fit for the keto diet. But that being said, there are websites that say just the opposite – that because of its high sugar and starch content, it can’t possibly be considered keto kosher. At most, a person on the keto diet could have a very small piece of it once a week to stay within the parameters of the official diet. 

It always pays to ignore the title of the product and the brand name and go straight to the ingredients to decide for yourself whether or not a product meets keto standards and guidelines. Brownies can certainly be keto-friendly if their original ingredients are adjusted properly. No sugar. Nut flour or nut mea basel. Low-carb dairy. With those kinds of ingredients, it’s possible to enjoy a large hunk of a brownie without any keto-conscience guilt. 

Brownie business

History suggests that people first introduced brownies to the American sweet tooth around 1895. It was at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago. Their kitchen staff was often bombarded with requests for box lunches that people could take with them on the train on their way home from the famous caravansary. But there were complaints that the cake slices included would crumble to pieces on the bumpy ride home. So the chefs put their heads together. They created a cake-like dessert that would be dense enough and small enough to fit in a box lunch. One that would not fly to pieces on the choo-choo. The result became known as brownies since, from the get-go, it was considered mandatory that they are made with chocolate. The recipe soon spread into the farthest reaches of the Midwest so that lumberjacks in the U.P. and farmers down in Iowa could enjoy them. 

By the turn of the century, no self-respecting housewife on the Great Plains would admit to ignorance on how to make them in her cast iron stove. Flour companies like Pilsbury and King Arthur got on the bandwagon with brownie recipes of their own since it normally takes a lot of flour to make a pan of brownies.

The East Coast and the West Coast did not take to brownies at all until the mid-1960s, when Alice B. Toklas brownies, heavily laced with marijuana, became a ‘thing’ at parties. 

The fat fight

Iced brownies and fudge brownies became a staple at church potlucks and company picnics in the 1950s, and so did nascent anxiety about their impact on waistlines. With so much butter and sugar going into one pan of brownies, dieticians issued dire warnings. They said that brownies were no longer man’s best friend. Perhaps it was a commie conspiracy to turn Americans into ambulatory blobs of flab. And so began the American brownie’s low sugar/low carb phase. While in Europe and Asia, rich, decadent brownies flourished (known as petit gateau in France and Kleiner Kuchen in Germany.) In the United States, it became fashionable to tinker with the recipe. People began eliminating everything that tasted good and then advertise it as fat-free, dairy-free, sugar-free – and basically flavor-free. These early prototypes of keto brownies were dutifully eaten by the diet-conscious masses but certainly not enjoyed. 

But with the rise of artisan bakeries and better technology, by the 1990s, it became possible to produce a tasty low-carb/no-sugar brownie. One that didn’t taste and chew like cardboard. These new dairy-free brownies were just waiting around for the keto diet to catch on. So they could explode in popularity. Right now, keto-friendly baking products constitute a significant share of the market for companies like Pilsbury et al. The big food companies no longer fight against the current of calorie consciousness, instead embracing the concept that less is more. Less sugar and less starch are more healthy. 

At first, there were a lot of artificial ingredients used to decrease the sugar and wheat flour amounts without impacting the flavor. Such as potassium bromate, acrylamide, and sodium benzoate. But American consumers were uneasy about ingesting brownies that contained a lot of synthesized hocus-pocus. So gradually, all-natural ingredients were tested and put into place to create the modern-day keto-friendly brownie. One that you can eat in moderation without regret or heartburn.

To reiterate: the only way to thoroughly follow a total ketogenic diet is to carefully read the proportion of ingredients. Read every package of baked goods or baking mix you purchase. To rely on the word of a food company or grocery chain, is to lean on a bent reed.