The Class Schedule for December is:
13, 16, 20, 23, 27, & 30
Healthy Holiday Cooking from the Food Network
See last week’s post about the cookie swap
Baking with Sugar Alternatives
Sugar helps make baked goodies puffy, golden brown and moist, but plain granulated sugar isn’t your only option. Whether you’re looking to cut calories, use less processed ingredients or simply change up the flavor, here are some options.
Don’t be fooled by brown and “raw” varieties of sugar — they’re just as refined as plain old sugar. You might see them called “turbinado” or “cane sugar.” Some of these varieties of turbinado and cane sugar may be slightly less refined, but not to a significant degree.They do have unique textures which make them good for light sprinkling on top of your goodies just before baking. Instead of the “white stuff,” try honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup or agave nectar for a more natural alternative. These options won’t necessarily cut down calories (they contain virtually the same calories and most affect blood sugar the same way as regular sugar), but each offers a different flavor to cakes, cookies, breads and muffins.
A combination of maple syrup and honey works best for muffins and cookies; typically swapping out even amounts to replace sugar in a recipe will work. Agave nectar is also okay, but it makes baked goods less tender and does have a noticeably different flavor. When using agave nectar, use the same amount you would if you were using regular sugar, but add an additional 1/4 cup flour to the mix.
Sugar substitutes are another option, but they won’t provide the same volume and tenderness as sugar or the options mentioned above. Some also have an unpleasant aftertaste when heated.
If you have a diabetic in the family, these replacements offer helpful sugar-free and calorie-free sweetness. But remember, most of these substances are chemicals and/or highly processed, so they’re best consumed in strict moderation. If you’re going to use them, be cautious with the measurements. Many artificial versions are much sweeter than sugar. Check the product’s package or manufacturers’ websites for measurements and use recommendations.
Here are some highlights on the most popular kinds:
- Saccharin (a.k.a. Sweet’n Low): Use it in baking but beware of the strong aftertaste.
- Sucralose (a.k.a. Splenda): Heat stable for baking; you can also replace half the sugar with Splenda or buy a blend of the two. Splenda also makes a brown sugar blend with 50% brown sugar, 50% sucralose.
- Aspartame (a.k.a. Equal or NutraSweet): Not recommended for baking; use this for sweetening beverages instead.
- Stevia: You can swap many of the new stevia products for equal parts of sugar in most recipes (always check packaging).
cut the fat in baking
Fat ensures that your baked goods are moist and tender, but you can dial it down and still make them delectable with a few basic swaps.
How Much Fat Can You Cut?
The easiest way to reduce fat when cooking is to just use less oil or butter. Since baked goods require very specific measurements, that can be trickier when baking. Sometimes cutting down added fat will work; other times you’ll need to replace some of that fat with other ingredients. When trying to re-invent your favorite recipes, it may take some trial and error. Instead of wasting batches upon batches of ingredients, I like to split a recipe into thirds and make adjustments to each mini-batch. Once you discover what works best, make sure to write it down for next time — and don’t be afraid to double-check your math!
Simple Swaps to Try
The typical ingredients that add fat to your baked goods are eggs, oil, butter, shortening, milk and cream. There are several easy swaps you can make, but be warned that they may change the texture slightly. In the end, these changes will cut back on the total fat and much of the less-healthy saturated fat.
- For cookies, replace half the butter with applesauce, egg whites or plain yogurt.
- Replace regular butter with equal amounts of healthier buttery spreads such as Promise or Smart Balance.
- Trade half the butter with pureed fruit such as mashed bananas, apple butter or prunes (prunes work best with chocolate recipes).
- Replace half the oil with applesauce.
- Replace each whole egg with two egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute.
- Replace cream with equal parts of evaporated skim milk.
- Replace half the cream cheese with equal parts of reduced-fat cottage cheese or part-skim ricotta cheese.
- Replace each 1/2 cup shortening with 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil.
- Replace equal parts sour cream with plain or Greek-style yogurt.
- Replace whole milk with 1% or 2%.