Friday, February 22, 2013

Health(ier) Baking Substitutes

Mom's birthday cake!

  I don't know about you, but I'm always afraid to tinker with a tried and tested recipe. Why mess with perfection, right?

  Sometimes, however, we make things that could stand to be a little healthier. You know that chocolate cake that's to die for? Yes, it's delicious. But it'll also do some damage, nutritionally-speaking, if you have too much of it, too often.

  I know, you're probably skeptical. That it'll make your treat taste like cardboard. But there are countless ways to 'healthen-up' your favorite recipe, and I'm willing to bet no one will notice!

  Sure, there are occasions where you might not want to test these substitutes out. If it's just for myself, I have no problem testing out recipe tricks. I don't care if I mess it up just for me! But how many times do you bake a cake, or a couple dozen cookies, for yourself? So sometimes you have to take a few chances. (Try it on your parents!)

  On a few occasions, I've tinkered.

  Once, when I was baking my mom's from scratch layered chocolate cake for her birthday. Instead of all the butter, I halved the butter that the recipe called for, and used unsweetened applesauce to make up the other half.

Nothing better than chocolate chip cookies.
  It baked faster than it usually does, so I had to keep a close eye on it. If I had left it in for the called-upon bake time, it would have burned. Badly.

  So that's one caveat with using baking substitutes: you may have to alter the bake time since the consistency of the batter might be slightly different. But the cake turned out delicious, and no one was the wiser!

  Another time, I baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Instead of substituting applesauce for butter, I used nonfat plain yogurt. And I even tossed in some whole wheat flour in place of white flour. I found that the wheat flour made the cookies denser than normal. But other than that, I thought they tasted great!

  Here's the lowdown on the substitute tricks:

The Substitutes
  Butter: Use half the amount of butter the recipe calls for, and use applesauce, avocado, mashed banana or Greek/plain yogurt, to make up the other half. There are a lot of other flavors (chocolate, hello?!?) in the recipe that overpower any 'missing' butter. But again, pay attention to bake time!

  Eggs: Use half of a mashed ripe banana with ¼ teaspoon of baking powder in place of one egg. To lessen cholesterol, replace one egg with two egg whites.

  In Brownie Mixes: Use one can of black beans with one package brownie mix to replace the usual egg and oil requirements. Or replace flour requirements with black beans in a homemade recipe (cup for a cup).

  White Flour: Use whole wheat flour to add more fiber, or almond flour to add omega 3 fats and protein. (Almond flour is a heavier flour, so reduce requirement by ¼ cup.)

  Cream: Use evaporated skim milk which provides the same consistency.

  Sugar: Replace one cup of sugar with one ripe banana, or two tbsp of Stevia (a naturally occurring sugar substitute). When you us banana, reduce the other liquids in your recipe to maintain the right consistency.

What can we swap out?
  I don't know if I'd recommend using substitutes for everything in the same thing-- that could be recipe for disaster!

  Of course these substitutes don't make the cakes, brownies, cookies, pancakes, etc..healthy (I'm sure you already knew that, but just a reminder!) Just because there's less butter or sugar, you're not given free rein to eat as much as you want. The substitutes just make them a bit healthier!

  I know, some people, when they have sweets or treats, want to go all out. They want to splurge, and they don't care if it's healthy or not. If that's you, maybe baking substitutes aren't for you. But if you're willing to experiment, and are looking for a few ways to make those desserts a little healthier, try a substitute or two!

  See if you can tell the difference -- it'll be like a little game. And if no one likes your 'healthier' treats, feel free to blame it on me!

  What have you tried? What works, what doesn't?



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