Everything you need to know about cloud bread

Cloud bread sounds like something out of a fairy tale, but it is quite real and it's all the rage right now in the health food world. And for good reason! This bread packs a protein punch that you won't find in traditional breads. If that doesn't impress you, the next nutrition fact surely will: it has no carbs. Yes, our prayers have been answered and a bread without carbs has finally been created! But before you swear off bread forever, you may want to look more closely at this mystical food. While it may lack carbs and calories, it may not help you lose weight or be a natural substitute for bread. Let's face it: when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Is it healthier than bread?

Cloud bread is made of cream cheese (or cottage cheese), cream of tartar, and a sweetener. It's a fairly simple recipe, but you can mix in other herbs and spices to up the delicious factor. This bread is grain- and carb-free, among other healthful benefits. For those suffering from celiac disease (the inability to process gluten), this may seem like a health godsend. It has about half the calories of traditional breads, but there are many downsides to this bread alternative. Cloud bread may be carb-free and low-calorie, but a single serving of it can have up to 6 grams of fat and 45 milligrams of sodium. The high fat can be attributed to the cream cheese included in many of the recipes. It also has little or no fiber; for comparison, you can expect around 3 grams of fiber in a slice of multigrain or whole wheat bread.

Different diets

While we may have just burst your cloud bread bubble, we assure you that this bread does have its place in certain diets. Paleo, carb-free, high-fat, and gluten-free diets can all benefit from the versatility of this bread. Like regular bread, it can be toasted and used in almost every way bread is used. But if you're thinking of trading in your loaf of Wonder Bread for this hyped-up trend, it's important to keep in mind that cloud bread doesn't actually taste like the standard bread you've been raised on. The dough is made by whipping egg whites, so its texture is closer to a chewy meringue fresh out of the oven. It is delicious! But it's also very different from your local bakery's loaves.

How to use it

Cloud bread can be baked in loaves or individual rounds; your baking time will vary depending on how you shape the dough. If you opt to bake small discs of cloud bread, making individual pizzas is an easy snack. After making your bread, top with tomato sauce and shredded cheese. Pop the assembled pizzas back in the oven until the cheese has melted. While this is a zero-carb snack, the bread and toppings both include cheese, so make sure to go easy on the dairy for your other meals.

If you're having dinner guests who are gluten intolerant, offering cloud bread breadsticks is a great way to make them feel more comfortable at the table. Simply shape the dough into long sticks instead of circles and top with fresh herbs. They may not be smothered in butter like Olive Garden breadsticks, but your guests will appreciate the alternative.

Punch up the flavor

Cloud bread (also called "oopsie bread") has actually been around for a while. The recipe was featured as a bread substitute for followers of the famous Atkins diet, but renewed excitement for the recipe makes sense. In addition to being easy to make and practically carb-free, cloud bread is easily customized. The bread's mild taste lends itself to the addition of bolder flavors: try stirring earthy spices, like ground cumin or curry powder, into the egg yolk-cream cheese mixture before folding in the whipped egg whites. (Avoid adding ingredients to the egg whites to prevent the beaten mixture from deflating.) Bring a hint of smoky essence to the rolls with the addition of chipotle chili powder or smoked paprika.

For dessert or breakfast dishes featuring cloud bread, include a dash of vanilla or a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg in the batter. Sprinkle the tops of cloud bread with almond slices, chopped nuts, poppy seeds, or sesame seeds right before baking for an crunchy finish. Sprinkle on coarse salt or cracked black pepper to bring out savory notes. For a bright citrus blast, stir freshly grated orange or lemon zest into the batter before baking.

Alternatives to cream cheese

For anyone watching their fat intake, cream cheese might be a stumbling block in the cloud bread recipe. One ounce of the fresh cheese (which is about 2 tablespoons) has 5 grams of saturated fat and 8 total fat grams. A simple way to reduce that fat count is to switch out the cream cheese for Neufchatel cheese. Neufchatel has 1/3 less fat than cream cheese. This recipe uses Greek yogurt which, with its creamy texture and tangy flavor, is another great substitute. To reduce fat even further, go for 2 percent or nonfat Greek yogurt. For a dairy-free version of cloud bread, omit the cream cheese altogether and instead use the thick cream from a can of coconut milk. Chill the can overnight first and make sure that you don't shake it; then you can easily scoop out the cream after opening. Other cream cheese alternatives include cottage cheese (which the original Atkin's diet recipe calls for), ricotta cheese, sour cream, and mascarpone.

Lunch and dinner

Cloud bread is a natural for sandwiches. Use the bread at room temperature or you can warm or toast it in the oven or in a countertop toaster oven. To make a grilled cheese sandwich, melt butter or heat olive oil in a pan and then add two bread pieces and brown each piece on one side. Place cheese between the browned sides of the two pieces of bread and then cook the sandwich, turning once, until the cheese is melted. Try these recipes for no-carb burger buns and hot dog buns. Both pizza and focaccia cloud bread can handle a variety of toppings. Unlike wheat-crust pizza and focaccia, which are baked along with their toppings until the bread cooks, the trick to making cloud bread versions is to bake the crust (bread) first without any sauce or toppings. Once the bread is ready, the pizza can be assembled and returned to the oven until the cheese and sauce are bubbling and the toppings are heated through. Any toppings that need extensive cooking (like roasted mushrooms, sausage, or roasted tomatoes) should be prepared beforehand.

Make a lower-carb dessert

Making shortcake using cloud bread is almost a no-brainer; the bread has a light, airy texture that's very similar to shortcake. Sweeten the bread by using vanilla yogurt in place of cream cheese or if you prefer, add a little extra honey and the scraped seeds of a vanilla bean to the batter for deep flavor and a beautiful speckled effect. Top the cloud "shortcakes" with fresh, macerated strawberries or peaches and top with a dollop of whipped cream. As an alternative, sandwich a creamy filling for whoopie pies between two pieces of the bread.

How to make it

The recipe for cloud bread is enticing to try because of its simplicity. You only need three eggs (separated), 3 tablespoons of softened cream cheese, 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar, 1 tablespoon of honey, and two drops of liquid Stevia. That's it! There's no leavening, waiting, or yeast activating.

In a small bowl, mix the egg yolks, honey, and cream cheese. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg whites and cream of tartar until you have stiff peaks. Fold the two mixtures together and carefully scoop the bread dough onto a lined cookie sheet, forming 10-inch rounds that are about an inch think. Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes, then enjoy the bread warm or freeze to use on a later date.

Cloud bread baking tips

You'll usually find recipes for cloud bread baked into individual rolls, but you can also make the bread in loaf form. Once baked, you can slice the loaf just as you would any homemade bread. It will take longer (about 60 minutes total) to bake a full loaf of cloud bread than it does to bake the individual bread pieces. Try making the bread in muffin tins for a biscuit-like effect. Whether you're making rolls, biscuits, or a loaf, watch the progress in the oven. If the bread begins to brown unevenly, rotate the pan. Fresh from the oven, the individual breads can be somewhat crisp, but after cooling and storing in a covered container, the bread takes on a softer texture. Store cloud bread refrigerated or freeze it. Reheat refrigerated breads in the oven. Thaw frozen cloud bread before warming.

Is cloud bread for you?

If you are an avid bread eater and lover, cloud bread isn't for you. While the taste and texture of this bread is delicious in its own right, it cannot compare to the heel of an Italian loaf or a crostini made from a French baguette. If you're having guests who don't eat gluten, this is the perfect snack to whip up: it's simple to make and will certainly impress your diet-restricted friends. But if you're looking for a replacement to use while you're dieting, this fluffy bread may do more harm than good. You need to remember to alter your diet and keep it balanced, which will absolutely be necessary with the influx of fat you'll be taking in. We suggest simply monitoring your carb intake more closely and indulging in a slice of whole wheat toast for breakfast.