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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Easy Tips for Healthier Baking

Easy Tips for Healthier Baking

At this time of year, bread is always an important part of any holiday meal, no matter which holidays you observe. Whether quick breads, yeasted breads, loaves, braided breads, flatbreads, sweet breads, or savory breads, they’re all delicious to me!

Though there’s nothing quite like grandma’s recipes, overindulgence during the holidays can be difficult to resist. Here are a few simple suggestions and substitutions to help ensure that your special holiday dough feeds your body as well as your soul.

Reducing Sugar
Reduce sugar by one-third. Instead of 1 cup of sugar use 2/3 cup. This works best in canned and frozen fruits, puddings and custards. For quick breads and muffins, use 1 tablespoon of sugar per 1 cup of flour. Add vanilla, cinnamon, or nutmeg to help enhance flavor.

Substituting white sugar for healthier forms of sugar can affect the taste, weight and texture of baked goods. Often times it is not a noticeable difference and very much worth the added benefits. It is best to experiment with different recipes to see what works and what doesn’t. Here are some easy guidelines for using a few popular sugar substitutions:

- Brown Sugar — In spite of their difference in weight, you can substitute brown sugar for granulated white on a 1 to 1 basis, and the most significant difference will be taste.
- Honey* — To use honey in place of sugar, use 3/4 cup for every cup of sugar, reduce the liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons to 1/4 cup and add 1/4 tsp of baking soda to neutralize the acidity of honey.
- Maple Syrup* — To use maple syrup in place of a cup of sugar in baking, use 3/4 cup, but decrease the total amount of liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons to 1/4 cup for each cup of syrup you use.
- Rice syrup* — Substitute 1 3/4 cup rice syrup for each cup of granulated sugar, reduce another liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons – 1/4 cup.
- Molasses* — Substitute 1 1/3 cup molasses plus 1 teaspoon baking soda for one cup of granulated sugar, then reduce another liquid in the recipe by 1/3 cup.

* When using liquid substitutions you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

Reducing Fat
Reduce fat by one-third. If a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of fat, use 1/3 cup. This works best in cookies. For cakes and quick breads, use 2 tablespoons fat per cup of flour. Reducing fat may give baked goods a denser texture; to correct this, you may increase the sugar in the recipe and/or beating the egg whites and folding them into the batter. Also try using pastry or cake flour.

Avoid substituting oils for solid fats like butter or shortening when baking cookies, cakes, and pastries; it will make the recipe greasy and dense. If you must do so, substitute 3 parts oil for every 4 parts solid fat, and consider increasing the amount of eggs or binder in the recipe.

Do not substitute light or diet margarines for solid shortenings or regular margarines in baking. Instead, use a smaller amount of regular margarine or shortening.

Eggs act as an important binding and structural agent in baked goods but there are many easy ways to substitute them out of your favorite recipes. One egg is equal to:

- 1 tbsp corn starch + 3 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp potato starch
- 1/2 mashed banana
- 1/4 cup mashed potatoes
- 1/4 cup canned pumpkin or squash
- 1/4 cup pureed prunes
- 1 Tbsp flax seed ground + 3 Tbsp water

Reducing Salt
Omit salt or reduce it by one-half. If recipe says to use 1/2 teaspoon salt, use 1/4 teaspoon instead. Do not eliminate salt from yeast breads or rolls; it is important for flavor and texture

Adding Fiber
Substitute whole grain and bran flours. Whole wheat flour can replace from 1/4 to 1/2 the all-purpose flour. If a recipe has 3 cups of all-purpose flour, use 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour. Oat bran or oatmeal can replace 1/4 of the all-purpose flour. Bran cereal flour can replace up to 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour.

Substituting Fruits and Vegetables
Some fruit and vegetable purees can be used to replace the sugary or fatty ingredients, such as shortening, oil or eggs, in baking recipes. Generally, 3/4 the amount of a fat can be replaced with a fruit or vegetable puree. You will probably need to reduce the sugar or liquid content if the puree is very sweet or moist. A few good fruit ingredients include:

- Applesauce — Applesauce can replace up to 3/4 of the shortening in many recipes. Add with the liquid ingredients and reduce the sugar in recipe if the applesauce is sweetened.
- Prunes or raisins — Pureed prunes can replace up to 3/4 of the shortening in many recipes; it works especially well with chocolate. Add with the liquid ingredients.
- Apple butter — Apple butter can replace up to 3/4 of the shortening in many recipes. Be sure to reduce the sugar in recipe if the apple butter is sweetened. Add with the liquid ingredients.
- Bananas (mashed) — Substitute measure for measure.

Note: When modifying recipes, it is important to remember that it may be difficult to substitute both the sugar and fat. Sometimes however, a substitution like mashed bananas can take the place of both sugar and fat.

If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.