A few weeks ago, I discussed the very new topic of Healthy Baking. As I said in my previous post, I’m not fully comfortable with the term or the concept, and so therefore I am still navigating the “scary” waters
I also mentioned that my friend Dena T. (who is about to move to Israel) has so patiently reviewed her ideas on how to substitute and create healthier baked goods for her family. She reassures me that while “healthier” treats do taste different, they are good nonetheless. (I look forward to proving this to be correct but I’m not making any promises yet!) With all baking, she does warn that there is a learning curve that comes along with it. Sometimes you have to play with a recipe till you get it the way you like it…
Sooo without further interruption, here are the notes from Dena on how / what to substitute in your baking.
A) Eggs: Always use good quality eggs in all cooking! Good quality means PASTURED eggs – this means that the chickens are able to really roam free and are nourished well (think grass fed beef but for chickens).The healthy omega content in these eggs is very high and NATURAL – not synthetic and added! Cage free are a scam. It means that the chickens are stuffed till they barely move in a barn just not separated by cages. SCAM!
(Duby’s Notes: Yes, there is much to learn about the quality of our eggs. WE don’t realize it, but eggs are cleansed and washed in chemicals and the chemicals seep through the shell into the egg. I also would like to point out that the nutritional value of Chickens is VERY different when a chicken is unable to roam freely. It’s hard to believe, but if they aren’t allowed proper exercise, they have higher cholesterol, higher fat content – and this is automatically transferred to us when we eat these little guys.)
B) Oil: I love coconut oil for baking – lovely, sweet, rich flavor plus it is SUPER healthy – boosts immune system along with healthy omegas.
(Duby’s Notes: My doctor was JUST telling me I should consider trying coconut oil. He claimed once I use it, I’ll never want to stop because it really has a good flavor. I haven’t tried it yet, but definitely a good idea. Of course, Olive Oil is also an excellent choice.)
C) Flour – you can use sprouted flours or almond flour or any ground nuts. There’s also coconut flour. Be wary of "gluten free" flours as they can be highly processed. The key is to avoid PROCESSING! With nut flours you cannot substitute cup for cup from a flour recipe, so it’s best to either eyeball it or use a recipe that calls for nut flour specifically.
(Duby’s Notes: I LOVE using ground nuts in place of regular flour. I’ve used it to bread chicken cutlets, fish and I’ve also used almond flour for a pie crust. Was marvelous. Nut flours can be expensive so when I didn’t have any on hand I actually made my own from my fresh almonds. Once, in a pinch, I ground up Wheat Berries I had on my cabinet to use on chicken cutlets and it was SO good!!!!
One of the most important things that many of us don’t know (and sadly I only learned about this recently) is the understanding of Sprouted grains and nuts. Using whole grains is one thing, but sprouted grains takes it to a whole new level, and really this is the healthiest way to eat breads, grains, nuts and seeds. Why I never heard of this up until last year is a mystery, but that’s for another discussion. What “sprouted grains” are and its importance is a blog post in of itself and I hope to discuss that at a later date. In the meantime, feel free to google it )
D) Sugar – I (Dena) am a firm believer in HONEY. Raw honey is best, but even the processed honey – I believe, in my opinion – is still better than any artificial sweetener or highly processed scam sweetener (aka agave – which is just as bad as HFCS – and stevia, which I’m very wary about). Honey has been around FOREVER. It’s tried and true. Substitute almost the same amount as sugar called for, just reduce by about 1/4cup or so. I eyeball it. Especially since I also use oil, I tend to also use a bit less oil than the recipe calls for when using honey. Worse comes to worse you can always add in more of your "starch" (flour substitute)
(Duby’s Notes: ok, this is a big one. There is BIG talk today about the different kinds of sweeteners. And one by one it is being proven how detrimental they are for our health. It came as NO shock to me that aspartame caused cancers. Agave nectar as Dena said was / is a big rave amongst health communities but sadly, it’s not that great either. However, while I don’t have scientific proof, I highly doubt that Agave nectar can be considered just as bad as HFCS (you’ll have to do your own research on that). The problem with honey though (and this is where I slightly disagree with Dena here) is that Honey causes blood sugar spikes just like sugar does. Raw honey is definitely better than regular sugar so that would be the best option in cooking / baking. However, please be aware that honey should not be used in excess.
Also, Dena didn’t mention it, but I have read that Stevia – the natural PURE stevia is not a bad option as a sweetener HOWEVER from what I have read its hard to find the REAL stuff and not the boxed processed crap.)
Having said ALL of that – lets still remember that we’re baking here. If we take out ALL the fun stuff, we’ll end up with broccoli! I guess when push comes to shove, a cookie is still a cookie – which means it WILL have flour and sugar and stuff that makes it yummy, no?)
E) Vegan: If you are vegan an alternative to eggs is applesauce and bananas.
All of these natural ingredients are DELISH so healthy baking does NOT mean you compromise on taste!
I really appreciate Dena taking the time to go over all of this with me and I am sure all the readers are grateful as well.
On another excellent note – – Dena gave me a few recipes that I can try with the healthier ingredients and see how they taste. I will be posting these recipes next week and when I get my butt in the kitchen next, I will let everyone know how they came out!