For years, I have listened to my mother, the most wonderful baker I know, teach me that the secret to baking is measuring properly and using full fat, natural ingredients. And this is definitely true when baking the real deal on those special occasions. The only problem is that I don’t only want baked goods on those special occasions; I love chocolate cake way too much to wait that long (yes, even dietitians love chocolate). So although I always listen to my mother when I’m baking for that special, once-and-while treat, I have learned ways to make substitutions and change my favorite baking recipes into everyday treats.
Why have you done a good thing?
Although I love baked goods as much as the next girl, I know they are loaded with sugar and saturated fat, both which are linked with type II diabetes, gaining weight, and heart disease. By using substitutions, you can successfully reduce the amount of calories and fat in your recipe by 50-75%, and even turn some recipes into healthy ones! Try using these tips when baking your muffins, cookies, cakes, and brownies. Trust me, you won’t even know what you are missing!
1) Fat adds moistness, a tender texture, and flavor to baked goods. When modifying a recipe, trying substituting half of the butter for fruit and vegetable purees, such as applesauce, banana, pumpkin, sweet potato or pear puree. For example, if the recipe calls for ½ cup of butter, use ¼ cup of butter and ¼ cup of fruit puree. You can also use low-fat plain or vanilla yogurt (coffee yogurts give chocolate recipes a little something extra also). Similarly, use ¼ cup of butter and ¼ cup of yogurt. If your recipe calls for oil, substitute ¾ of the fat with fruit puree or yogurt. Also, when substituting for fat, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees and cook for longer as necessary.
**Note: Avoid substituting oil for butter or low-fat butter spreads in baking. Oil can make your product soggy unless properly reducing the amount of liquid. Butter spreads are not chemically designed to be at high temperatures and often produce funky results…
2) Substitute ½ flour for whole grain flour in your muffins and breakfast breads. This can be a great way to boost your fiber content. Experiment with different types of flours, varying from whole wheat flour to oat bran, chickpea, or quinoa flours. When using these flours, you may need to lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees and cook them longer.
**FYI, I personally do not use whole grain flours with my dessert items. I choose to get my fiber throughout the rest of the food choices, and keep dessert tasting like dessert.
3) Switch out sugar for honey or molasses. This is a great way to reduce your intake of refined sugars. Honey and molasses are more natural ingredients and honey especially has been shown to have many beneficial health effects, like anti-bacterial properties. You can substitute ½ cup of honey for a ½ cup of sugar. When using molasses, you may want use less of it as it is an overpowering flavor. When baking with either of these ingredients, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees and reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by ¼. For instance, if you are using 1 cup of milk, use ¾ cup of milk when substituting honey for sugar.
4) Avoid overbaking. Making healthy substitutions can cause baked goods to bake faster. Check your baked good frequently to see if it is done; set the timer for earlier than it says to do in the recipe. The toothpick test doesn’t always work in low-fat baking. Instead look for lightly browned edges that are pulling away from the center or for cakes to spring back when touched.
Try experimenting with these rules for your next baking endeavor. Look out for our next posting in a few days for a GREAT low-fat baking brownie recipe, that is sure to make your Valentine feel very loving.
--Amy Santo, MS RD