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There’s something about fall that brings out the baker in all of us. Is it the promise of cooler weather and long afternoons spent in a cozy kitchen… or the highly anticipated return of pumpkin as a potential ingredient? We’re not sure. But if we’ve learned anything here at Jenny, it’s that baked goods don’t have to be fattening to be fabulous. If you’ve got a favorite confection, chances are you can create a healthier version by swapping out high-fat ingredients with sensible alternatives. Here are a few of our favorite subs and how to use them.
Better than Butter. Here’s the not-so-skinny on baking’s number-one offender: A single cup of butter has 1,600 calories and 177 grams of fat. Margarine and shortening are really no better; they’re high in trans fats, which can increase cholesterol even more than saturated fats. Fortunately, though, health-minded bakers have been experimenting with natural fat substitutes for decades, with decidedly delicious results. Some subs work better with certain kinds of recipes, so be conscious of your alternative’s flavor, texture, and most importantly, moisture content. Here are some basic guidelines to help you get started:
Fruit Purees & Butters. The healthiest and most flexible option, fruit purees replace fat and add a natural sweetness that enables you to experiment with cutting out some of the sugar in your recipe… hello, win-win! Applesauce is the mildest in flavor, and therefore the most popular; use it to replace all of the fat in cakes and muffins, and half the fat in cookies. If you’re making a chocolate or spice cake, mashed bananas will add a bit of their signature flavor. Pureed prunes, though not quite as readily available as some of the other options, are surprisingly versatile—use them in spice cakes, muffins, scones, cakes, brownies, cookies, and anything with a crumb crust. Apple and prune butter, since they’re already spiced, are amazing in fruitcakes and quick breads. VOLUME TIP: When replacing butter or margarine, start with ½ the total amount of fat and increase as needed. When replacing oil, start with ¾ the total called-for amount.
Mashed Veggies. Speaking of pumpkin, this seasonal squash and many of its cohorts are also excellent fat replacements—particularly in any recipe that calls for cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, or cloves. Sweet squashes like butternut and acorn are reliable subs, as are sweet potatoes; use them in muffins, quick breads, gingerbread, and fruit bars. With these ingredients, use ¾ the total amount and add more if the mixture seems dry.
Dairy & Eggs. If you’re not sensitive to dairy, try fat-free buttermilk or yogurt—it can be used to replace all the fat in most baked goods, and at least half the fat in cookies. Dairy subs are particularly effective in muffins, quick breads, cakes, biscuits, and scones. Stay away from reduced-fat margarines, as they can still contain unwanted trans or saturated fats. Start with half the recipe’s listed amount and go from there. And now that you’re on a roll, how about those eggs? All the fat and cholesterol is in the yolk, so replacing one whole egg with two whites will go a long way toward creating crave-able muffins without the muffin top.