Bake It Better
It’s said that life is too short to skip dessert, but for many health-conscious eaters, that saying doesn’t always ring true. It may help, however, if the desserts you’re indulging in feel just a touch healthier. The popularity of today’s food lifestyles, from the Paleo diet to veganism, have yielded creative renditions of traditional treats and sweets. Even if you’re not looking to totally change what you eat, it’s worth sampling some of these baking trends.
Eliminating animal products means baking staples like butter, eggs and milk are out. But tasty substitutes, from coconut milk to soy yogurt, allow you to bake cookies, cakes and candies with surprising ease. Skip the milk and eggs in your favorite muffin recipe and try almond milk and coconut oil instead, or make creamy, rich ice cream by replacing eggs and cream with frozen bananas.
The Paleo diet is based on the philosophy that modern mankind should be eating like early humans—which means no grains, dairy or processed foods. But baking without grains can feel impossible. (No flour!?) Here comes the humble almond to the rescue. Almond flour can almost always replace all-purpose processed flour, but many Paleo bakers blend it with flours from tapioca, arrowroot and coconut depending on the desired flavor and texture. Try homemade gingersnaps with almond flour instead of white flour, and you may never go back.
Highly processed white sugar is on the no-no list for almost every health-conscious person. But there are plenty of sugar alternatives worth trying: stevia, applesauce, bananas, maple syrup, honey, molasses and more. Keep in mind that many of these substitutes aren’t calorie-free, but many can be used in smaller amounts or have other benefits (like fiber in bananas and antioxidants in honey). Try vanilla cake with a combination of molasses and applesauce instead of sugar, and you’ll have a healthier version with a more complex flavor palette.
The challenge of raw desserts is creating the chewy texture of cookies or the smooth consistency of brownies—without the heat of an oven. Raw eaters skip all processing and cooking, so even traditional no-bake cheesecakes are often out because of ingredients like cream cheese and flour. So what does work? Use a food processor to blend dates, cacao powder, nut flour and a pinch of salt, and you’ve got delicious, chewy, raw brownies.