Bread without carbs. If dreams define generations, this may be the defining desire of the 21st century. A carb-free bread would be the ultimate way to have your cake, eat it too, and ingest none of the fraught calories, or glutens, or sugars. Maybe this is why something called “cloud bread” yields thousands of results on Pinterest and Google. It offers the impossible: a guilt-free bread in the age of the Paleo Diet.
What Is Cloud Bread?
Cloud bread claims to be a high-protein bread alternative. It’s made by whipping egg whites and cream of tartar to achieve the soft, fluffy texture of a meringue. This mixture gets folded into the egg yolks, along with some sort of full-fat dairy product—like cottage cheese, cream cheese, or yogurt—and often a little bit of sweetener. Then the batter is spooned or piped into round disks on a rimmed baking sheet and baked. When the disks first come out of the oven, they have a crisp, melt-in-your-mouth quality, not unlike meringue. But allowing them to fully cool yields a chewier, slightly breadier texture.
What Are Cloud Bread’s Health Claims?
Cloud bread contains half the calories of a regular slice of bread, and, depending on the recipe, has little to no carbohydrates. (Many recipes contain about one gram of carbohydrate per round of cloud bread.) It’s gluten free, as well. So, this bread works for those who are on Paleo, gluten free, or ketogenic diets, or stuck in 1997 and still rocking the OG Atkins diet.
While cloud bread may seem extremely high protein—being made of essentially only protein containing ingredients—it actually contains about the same amount of protein as a regular slice of bread, just without all the carbs to go along with it.
On the internet, people use cloud bread for a myriad of purposes: as buns for their burgers, as a vehicle for pizza toppings, to roll around hot dogs, to make eclairs, and as bread for sandwiches. It can be baked in big batches ahead of time and stashed in the freezer. A quick pop in the toaster revives the “bread,” and it can be topped with turkey, peanut butter, or your preferred sandwich filling, and popped in a plastic bag for school or work.
What does cloud bread taste like? And is it actually delicious?
No, not really. Our food director Rhoda Boone described it as, “A little worse than a rice cake.” Food editor Kat Sacks said she could see eating them if you were “really, really desperate for something resembling carbohydrates.” It’s not like cloud bread tastes bad, exactly. It’s got an inoffensive light, airy, bland eggy-ness about it. You’d never spit it out. It’s just not delicious.
When developing a recipe in our test kitchen, despite increases in baking time and varying oven temperatures, it proved difficult to get a piece of cloud bread that wasn’t slightly wet in the middle. However, the basic formula was much improved by adding herbs and spices—check out our recipe for Cloud Bread here:
Get this recipe:Cloud Bread
Cloud bread also points to a certain ingenuity of the Pinterest community. A group of people all suffering through the same health restrictions, coming up with clever workarounds for something that can serve the same function and offer the same convenience as bread—even if it’s not as good. Deliciousness may not exactly be the point here. My suggestions for these kinds of substitutions—zoodles, and toasts made of sweet potato, and pancakes made of banana, and cloud bread, of course—are that we maybe stop thinking of them as the thing they’re replacing. If I have a crusty loaf of beautifully crumbed sourdough in mind, and I eat a piece of cloud “bread,” I’m going to be disappointed. But if cloud bread exists entirely outside of the world of bread, maybe I’d appreciate it more.
For now, I don’t think we’ve achieved the 21st century dream of delicious carb-free bread, exactly. While the Pinterest scientists are hard at work devising more delicious options, there’s always the gluten-free Brazilian cheese bread, Pão de queijo. It’s more of a snack than a sandwich bread, but on the plus side, it actually tastes delicious.