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I love to bake. I love to mix together flour and eggs and sugar and create a rich, creamy batter. I love to watch the batter slowly pour its way into a metal baking pan before popping it in the oven. I love the sweetness of the batter on my tongue as I lick the last vestiges off the rubber spatula. And I absolutely love the scent of baking filling the house.
The only problem with loving to bake is that I also love to eat what I bake, and sort of like Pringles, once I’ve popped, I can’t stop. Unfortunately, pigging out on baked goods loaded down in fat, sugar and calories left my waistline looking not dissimilar to that of the aforementioned pig.
So, I began a lifelong journey to find a way to make my favourite baked goodies without all the fat and calories, but with the taste still intact. Daunting? A bit. But when it comes down to it, it’s really all about having the courage to play around a bit, experiment now and then, and be ok with the occasional failed attempt.
I’ve done a lot of experimenting in the past few years, and I continue to do so. Yes, there have been some really dire results, but there have been brilliant ones, as well. Now I pass what I’ve learned on to you.
Reducing fat without effecting the taste is actually a lot easier than you might think. You can generally half the fat in any recipe without effecting the texture or flavor at all.
Take, for instance, the typical chocolate brownie recipe. The average recipe calls for between ¾ cup and 1 cup of fat (butter or oil). I actually revamped my recipe to only use ¼ cup of oil and they taste fantastic!
Another option is to use a low-fat spread suitable for baking in lieu of butter or margarine. They contain only a fraction of the fat and usually work just as well.
You can also use homemade non-fat vanilla or plain yogurt, or fat-free fromage frais to replace the fat. This will, however, change the consistency of the product, make it a bit more “chewy” or “spongy”. I do not recommend using olive oil as it does not work well in baking. (Here’s some olive oil dispensers you may like)
I never reduce eggs. Eggs contain good stuff like protein and help keep the goods moist, especially since you just deducted a good portion of the fat. However, if you are concerned about cholesterol, or just don’t have any eggs in the house, there are some alternatives. Applesauce is an excellent replacement, especially for recipes for fruity type items such as banana breads and spice cakes. ¼ cup of applesauce replaces one egg. Many stores sell egg substitutes, or you can just use the whites of two eggs to replace a whole egg.
Of course one of the easiest ways to cut down on sugar is to simply cut down! Instead of a full cup of sugar, use ¾ cup. You most likely won’t even notice. Even if you do, your taste buds will adjust and you’ll need less sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth.
You can also use sugar substitutes such a Splenda, or use half sugar and half sweetener. Likewise, in the US, there is a product available called stevia. This is an herb used for centuries by Native American tribes. It’s all natural and something like ten times as sweet as sugar. It works very well in lieu of sugar without the nasty side effects of the chemical sweeteners. You can also use other natural sweeteners such as honey or dates, but they are just as high, if not higher, in calories as sugar.
It all comes down to playing with your recipes and using a little creativity. I recommend starting with a simple recipe that you use a lot. Perhaps the blueberry muffins you bake every Sunday for brunch or the applesauce cake that is a family favorite. Start by decreasing the fat by 25% and see how it goes. Next time try replacing some of the sugar or decreasing the fat a little more. Eventually you will have recreated an old favorite that’s absolutely delicious yet better for your health.
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