Welcome, December and the holiday season! Want to try out something extraordinary but still traditional during these holidays? Then, why not whip up a batch of fascinating star-shaped Finnish Christmas pastries (joulutorttus) — naturally ketoized and gluten-free!
Fathead dough works wonders in these keto pastries, making them super low in carbs and very close to the traditional treats. When the regular wheaty and sugary pastries contain 15.4 grams net carbs per piece, my ketoized versions contain just 1.2-1.8 grams net carbs per pastry — or even less if you use zero-carb filling.
The traditional Finnish Christmas pastries use prune marmalade as filling. You guessed it: I’ve ketoized the marmalade as well, and you’ll get it as a bonus recipe. For the keto marmalade, you still use prunes for authentic taste, but the sugar content is dropped dramatically compared to the regular sugary version. When the sugary prune marmalade has 7.6 grams net carbs per tablespoon, my keto marmalade has only 1.8 grams net carbs per tablespoon. For one pastry, you need just a teaspoon or two for a fabulous flavor!
Read on to find the ultimate keto version for the traditional Finnish pastries that we gulp down humongous amounts during the holidays here in Finland.
How to make these ketoized Finnish Christmas Pastries
Even this recipe might sound exotic, it simply uses Fathead dough, aka mozzarella dough. For the filling, I recommend my sugar-free prune marmalade. However, you can use any sugar-free jam or marmalade that stands baking. And don’t despair if your favorite sugar-free jam or marmalade doesn’t stand baking: just bake the pastries first without filling and place a dollop of your favorite jam or marmalade in the center of the baked pastry. It’s still considered traditional! More filling suggestions you’ll find at the end of this post, in the Tips for Variations section.
Without further ado, and as there will be many progress photos showing you how to make the dough and especially make the fancy star shape, I try to keep the explanations concise and helpful. Anyway, since a picture is worth a thousand words, there will be many pictures rather than many thousands of words.
Well, still the final note before we get into the actual action: if you are not in a mood for making fancy star shapes, you can make half-moons by cutting out circle patterns from the dough. I’ll show you also that method.
So let’s first make the Fathead dough in a saucepan (you will soon learn why I prefer to make the dough in a saucepan rather than in a microwave!).
Take a small thick-bottomed saucepan and add 1 1/2 cups (350 ml = 150 grams) shredded starch-free mozzarella cheese or other neutral-tasting cheese.
Add also 2 tablespoons (1 oz = 30 grams) full-fat cream cheese.
Heat over very low heat, constantly mixing and pressing.
Now the cheeses begin to melt.
Just continue heating (use VERY low heat for the best result!) and mixing.
Eventually, or actually, in a couple of minutes, you’ll end up with a fancy-looking glossy and sturdy mass that looks almost like pale Play-Doh.
Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add 1 1/4 cups = 300 ml super-fine almond flour.
Add also 1 organic free-range egg.
Knead until smooth dough forms. (You might need to let the ingredients cool down a bit before putting your hands in; however, you usually don’t have to wait for long).
Here we go, smooth ball of dough.
Place the dough ball on parchment paper. Flatten with your fingertips.
Roll out the dough until about 0.12 inches (3 mm) thick.
Now, let’s make the star shapes. In Finland, we have handy cutters for making these particular pastries. However, as I expect you don’t have this handy cutter, I’ll tell you another way to create the stars.
Cut the dough first into squares, something like 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) in diameter. Use pastry wheel or knife. (My pastry wheel is broken so that’s why I use a knife which is not very sharp not to break the parchment paper.)
Now, cut a slit to each corner of the squares. Leave a bit less than a 1-inch (2.5 cm) area in the middle.
Next, take your sugar-free prune marmalade or any bake-proof filling you want to use.
Place 1-2 teaspoons of filling in the center of each slitted square.
Now, start folding the stars. Take one corner and fold it to the center on the filling.
Next, take another corner (keep your eye on the order!) and fold it to the center. Your goal is to fold every second corner to the center.
Just continue with the next corner…
…and the final corner, until you’ve got a beautiful star.
Continue with the rest of the filled squares.
With the help of a knife, remove the stars from the parchment paper and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Here we go.
As there is still some dough left, let’s make the half-moons. Again, roll out the dough until thin.
Take round shapes from the dough. This round cookie cutter is 3.5 inches (89 mm) in diameter.
Place 1-2 teaspoons filling in the center of each circle.
Fold the circle and press the edges tightly together that you’ll get a lovely half-moon.
Continue with the rest and place also the half-moons on the baking sheet.
Bake at 300 °F (150 °C) for about 20 minutes…
…or until the edges of the stars turn golden brown. Don’t let burn!
Let cool until warm.
Right before serving, dust with powdered erythritol for a beautiful presentation.
How I came up with this easy keto pastry recipe
Traditional Finnish Christmas Pastries are an essential part of Finnish Christmas celebrations. There are numerous commercial ready pastries, but people also love to bake them using puff pastry naturally made from wheat. Nowadays, the puff pastry contains ample food additives, margarine, and other nasty stuff.
As I haven’t eaten wheat and sugar for about 15 years now, I had to develop a satisfactory gluten-free keto alternative to the regular puff pastry to enjoy these traditional Finnish Christmas treats on a keto diet.
I had a love and hate relationship with Fathead dough. On the one hand, this special dough made excellent keto pastries (and is a satisfactory alternative to regular puff pastry), but on the other hand, I always burned my fingers as I was too impatient to let the cheese mixture cool after heating it in the microwave oven! These painful moments actually made me literally keep my fingers off the Fathead dough for a few years.
This fall, however, I got the idea to make a keto version of the traditional star-shaped Finnish Christmas pastries encouraged by our Ketokamu baking mix that I have developed. I remember I did some experiments several years ago, but they were more or less disastrous as the dough has to be very pliable for these particular pastries, and it’s not allowed to fall apart when folding the star shape. With the baking mix, I might be able to create pliable enough dough that holds well together, I mused.
Despite the painful memories of burning my fingers, I decided to dig up the Fathead dough recipe and experiment with it. I supposed the Fathead dough with the baking mix might be just the perfect dough for the pastries.
I made my first Fathead dough experiments with the baking mix in Greece (more about that in this post). Actually, I didn’t have any microwave oven but just a regular stovetop. To my big surprise, Fathead dough was quick and easy to prepare in a saucepan — even without burning my fingers!
When using low heat to melt the cheeses on a stovetop, the temperature doesn’t rise as high as in a microwave oven, so the dough doesn’t burn the fingers. Even better: Fathead dough turned out fantastic with our Ketokamu baking mix. That moment made me an avid lover of Fathead dough!
At home, I tried the Fathead dough for the Finnish Christmas pastries, and it worked so well that I made one happy dance after another. At first, I used sugar-free apricot jam as a filling, but it didn’t stand baking since it was thickened with pectin.
Anyway, now that I had found out that the Fathead dough works well for the Christmas pastries, it was time to develop a keto version of the traditional prune marmalade that we fill the pastries with. Well, I knew some tricks on lowering the carbs, but the biggest challenge was making the marmalade bake-proof, i.e., that it stands baking and doesn’t ooze around during baking.
I have some keto jam and marmalade recipes using gelatin as a thickener. Gelatin is an excellent and natural carb-free thickener and easy to use. However, I haven’t tried if jams and marmalades made with gelatin stand baking.
Well, that was to be found out. I made my first experiment of Sugar-Free Prune Marmalade using pitted prunes, lots of water, a moderate amount of sweetener, and some gelatin.
To my luck, the marmalade turned out gorgeously thick. Even better, it stood baking. Excellent!
My joy was indescribable when I took the first bite of the keto Christmas pastry filled with my Sugar-Free Prune Marmalade. I simply couldn’t believe how close to the authentic sugary and wheaty pastry this keto version had turned! All the childhood memories came in crushing as the flavors reached one taste bud after another. My Christmas is saved!
Immediately, I knew I wanted to develop a keto Christmas pastry version using traditional Fathead dough made with almond four as our Ketokamu baking mix is not yet available abroad.
Right away, I prepared Fathead dough with almond flour. After a few tweaks (basically increasing the almond flour), the pastries turned out excellent. I was totally thrilled!
I urge you to try this recipe — at least to know how traditional Finnish Christmas pastries taste. You even don’t have to feel guilty: this healthier keto version is gluten-free and has just one tenth of the carbs of the traditional pastry!
Here’s the recipe for you to enjoy:
- 1 1/2 cups = 350 ml = 150 g shredded starch-free mozzarella or other neutral-tasting cheese
- 2 tablespoons (1 oz = 30 g) full-fat cream cheese
- 1 1/4 cups = 300 ml super-fine almond flour
- 1 organic free-range egg
- 1/3 cup = 80 ml sugar-free jam or marmalade (check below the recipe for Sugar-Free Prune Marmalade)
1.Preheat the oven to 300 °F (150 °C).
2.Combine the mozzarella and the cream cheese in a thick-bottomed saucepan. Melt over very low heat, constantly mixing and pressing, until smooth, glossy ball forms.
3.Add the almond flour and the egg. Let cool until you can handle the dough.
4.Knead the mixture until smooth dough forms.
5.Place the dough on a piece of parchment paper. Flatten with your fingers.
6.Roll out the dough until 0.12 inches (3 mm) thick.
7.Cut the dough into 2-3-inch (5-7.5 cm) squares.
8.Cut slits to each corner of the squares. Leave a bit less than a 1-inch (2.5 cm) area in the middle (see the photos in this post how it should look like).
9.Next, take your sugar-free prune marmalade or any bake-proof filling you want to use.
10.Place 1-2 teaspoons of filling in the center of each slitted square.
11.Now, start folding the stars: Fold every second corner to the center, on top of the filling (again, see the photos in this post on how to do this). Press well.
12.With the help of a knife, remove the star from the parchment paper and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
13.Continue with the rest of the dough.
14.Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until the edges of the stars turn golden brown. Don’t let burn!
15.Let cool until lukewarm.
16.Right before serving, sprinkle some powdered erythritol on top for a beautiful presentation.
17.Store in the fridge for up to one week. You can carefully reheat the pastries before serving.
|Nutrition information (without filling)
|Per serving if 16 servings in total
- 7 oz = 200 g pitted organic prunes
- 1 2/3 cups = 400 ml + 3 tablespoons water
- 1/2 cup = 120 ml powdered erythritol
- 1 tablespoon gelatin powder
1.Place the prunes, erythritol, and 1 2/3 cups (400 ml) water into a medium saucepan.
2.Let simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until the prunes are completely soft. Keep the lid a bit open while simmering. Mix a few times during cooking to prevent the mixture from burning to the bottom of the saucepan.
3.Once the prunes are soft, puree them with an immersion blender or in a regular blender.
4.Combine the 3 tablespoons of water and the gelatin powder in a small microwave oven-proof cup. Let bloom for 5 minutes.
5.Heat the gelatin mixture in a microwave oven until the gelatin has dissolved. You can also pour the mixture into a small saucepan and heat the mixture until the gelatin has dissolved.
6.Pour the gelatin into the piping hot prune puree while constantly mixing.
7.Let cool down first to room temperature, then refrigerate until set, about 4-6 hours.
8.Once set, mix well and transfer into a glass jar.
9.Store refrigerated. Consume within one week.
Tips for variations
As this is a traditional recipe (well, a keto version of it), there are not too many changes you can make, otherwise, you deviate from the traditional aspect. That said, Finns — at least the Finnish media — love to invent fancy creations of these particular pastries. Usually, the dough is the same puff pastry, but the fillings and the folding techniques may vary. If you want to get fancy, you can use the following fillings:
- Any keto jam or marmalade
- Keto chocolate and nut spreads (Nutella-type)
- Keto candies (add before baking so that they melt nicely)
- Piece of sugar-free chocolate or very dark chocolate (add after baking in the center of a piping hot pastry so that the chocolate melts deliciously)
- Cream cheese-based filling like mousse or frosting (add after baking)
- Buttercream frosting (add after baking)
- Keto Lemon Curd (add after baking)
- Keto Plum Curd (add after baking)
- Drizzle sugar-free maple syrup or other keto syrup on top right before serving
As I said at the beginning of this post, those fillings that stand baking should be added after baking. In this case, you form the star shape, bake it, and add the filling to the center of the baked pastry.
Just in case you wonder if coconut flour works for the dough instead of almond flour: it doesn’t, at least not that well. My Fathead dough with coconut flour turned out pretty sticky and ended as a pie crust. Moreover, the coconut flavor was dominating, which is not good in traditional Finnish Christmas pastries.
This week proceeded smoothly with recipe developing and creating our Ketokamu advent calendar. For the calendar, I developed a keto Blueberry Cheesecake for the Finnish Independence Day that we are going to celebrate tomorrow.
I also developed a tasty hot drink using our Ellu electrolyte powder.
Last but not least, I made the traditional sugar-free chocolate advent calendar for my son. He insists having it every year — and I’m happy to make it!