Tips For Baking At Home

By: Stephanie Larkin

Eat healthy. Avoid sweets and processed foods. Cut back on fats. Watch your carbs. Once upon a time, those words of advice were only given to dieters looking to take off some added pounds. These days, though, all the major health organizations are telling us that following these rules can make us much healthier.

Unfortunately, for those of us with a sweet tooth and those of us who love to bake, those bits of advice also seem to sound the death knell for decadent desserts. With just a little adjustment of your recipes, you can bake low sugar snacks that taste just as good as the traditional high fat, high calorie and unhealthy treats. Here are some tips for baking at home with less sugar.

Basics of Baking Lighter at Home

These are the big three rules when it comes to baking healthier at home.

  • Reduce the amount of sugar used in your recipes. Unfortunately, that's sometimes easier said than done. Some recipes depend on sugar for more than just taste in a recipe. You may have to experiment with different sugar substitutes when baking until you get it right. In general, of all the sugar substitutes on the market, Splenda granulated, which is made for baking, is most easily substituted in a one to one measure for sugar in a recipe.
  • Reduce the amount of fat used in recipes, but keep in mind that some recipes need a minimum amount of fat in order to succeed at all. The biggest trick to learn in reducing the fat content is to substitute another moist ingredient for part of the butter, oil or shortening called for in the recipe. Popular choices include fat-free sour cream, light cream cheese, orange juice or applesauce.
  • Make smaller servings more satisfying by adding fiber to recipes. Instead of chocolate, add fruit, or use whole wheat flour for part of the flour. When you increase the nutritional value of the dessert, it's far easier to be satisfied with smaller portions - and fewer calories.

There are lots of other little tricks to enhance flavor and make low sugar baking fun.

  • Use flavor enhancers like lemon zest in fruity dishes. The tang brings out the fruit flavor and heightens the flavors of whatever ingredients you use.
  • Vanilla, butter and nut flavorings can add the taste of butter and nuts without adding the extra fats.
  • Cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger and nutmeg intensify flavors and enhance sweetness in a dish.
  • Experiment with spice combinations to create a fresh, new flavor.
  • Substitute strong, cold coffee for part of the liquid in chocolate recipes to bring out the chocolate flavor.
  • Top cakes and cupcakes with fruit or fruit spread, or substitute pureed fruit for frosting between layers in a cake.
  • When baking cookies using a sugar substitute, flatten each cookie slightly before baking. This will help the cookies to spread enough while baking.
  • Add a little extra vanilla when you reduce sugar in a recipe. It accentuates the sweetness.
  • If using fruit juice as a sweetener, reduce the juice to a third of its original volume by boiling over high heat. It will concentrate the flavors and the sweetness.
  • Use dried fruits in muffin and cake recipes to add a burst of sweetness in every bite. Chop the fruits into very small pieces to distribute the flavor more evenly through the batter.
  • Mashed, overripe bananas are a great shortening substitute, as is applesauce. When buying fruits, buy them individually instead of in plastic bags. The flavors are more intense when the fruit hasn't been packaged in plastic.
  • When baking pies, try this tip: sprinkle a small amount of sugar on the pie crust before filling it with unsweetened fruit. Spray the top crust with cooking spray, then sprinkle with a little sugar. No one will ever miss the extra sugar in the filling.
  • When reducing fat and sugar in baked goods, try baby food bananas, pears, prunes, sweet potatoes or carrots. The typical addition is applesauce, but you'll get richer, sweeter flavor from other fruits.

Low fat and low sugar recipes may not brown properly. Sugar substitutes and other sweeteners do not darken with heat in quite the same way. Here are some ways to add color to your baking when using sweeteners and less sugar.

  • A small amount of molasses provides color, as well as moisture and deep sweetness.
  • Sprinkle cinnamon or nutmeg on top of a cake or cupcakes before baking.
  • Use a small amount of dark brown sugar with fruits to add intense color.
  • When baking with sugar substitutes and sweeteners, reduce the baking time. Get your cookies and brownies out of the oven before the look done. They'll continue cooking while they cool.

Baking with Less Sugar

Sugar substitutes such as: Splenda Sugar Blend are blends of a sugar substitute that incorporate some sugar for better baking. If you can't use sugar substitutes, here are some other suggestions for reducing the sugar in your recipes.

  • Add dried fruit puree in soft chewy cookies to replace some of the sugar and some of the fat.
  • You can reduce the sugar by up to a third in most drop cookie recipes without appreciably affecting the recipe.
  • Use chopped dried fruits instead of candied fruit peels in holiday recipes.

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About Author:
Stephanie Larkin is a freelance writer who writes about topics pertaining to food and cooking often discussing specific products such as Baking Pans.

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