Sunday, December 9, 2012

{Food for Thought} Better Baking

Christmas is around the corner, which means baking season is upon us! I'm not going to be able to do much this year since I should be am busy writing, but typically, this is the time of the year where you'll find me in the kitchen all day, prepping various refrigerator cookies, making 'crack' toffee, chocolate fudge, truffles, cookies, and pies. I love to bake, and bake a lot. I figure, if you are going to take the time to clean the kitchen afterwards, go ahead and make as big of a mess as you can!

We know home-baked goodies trump store-bought garbage any day. However, your home-baked goodies can also be chocked full of chemicals, just like that store-bought crap. So if you're willing to take that step in baking your own holiday treats, would you consider taking another step forward and using only wholesome, real, minimally-processed ingredients? Who wants to eat artificial flavors, red dye 40, yellow 5, transfat, GMOs, chemical sweeteners, and fake emulsifiers? Not me. Yuck.

If you're looking to make the healthiest treats in town (and by healthy, we mean highest quality, most wholesome ingredients; not the amount of fat it will pack on your frame! [because a treat is still a treat, not part of any diet regiment]), this might be a helpful list of 5 easy, and better for you substitutes ...

Whenever possible, choose to use unbleached flour. Chemically bleached flour may make your treats look prettier, but why ingest the unnecessary benzoyl peroxide or chlorine? If you are concerned with the texture of unbleached flour, sift before use.

Butter is better, unless you can't believe it's not butter. Never substitute with margarine. If you are concerned with cholesterol, you can replace equal amounts of butter with unrefined virgin coconut oil.

If your recipe calls for sugar, use sugar. Raw (cane) sugar and demerara sugar are my favorites. Never use sugar substitutes/ artificial sweeteners, even if they claim to be "all natural" (more about the term in a later post). This means, no Splenda, no Truvia, no aspartame, no corn syrup. If you concerned with the amount of sugar in your recipe, just use less. In my experience, you can always reduce the sugar (at least by a third!) without over altering the taste. You don't want your treats so sweet they hurt your teeth anyway.

Substitute oil with organic applesauce. This is the easiest way to trim the fat and calorie content from your baked goods. I use a 1:1 swap, and have always yielded great results in cakes, muffins, and quick breads.

Natural food dyes. Artificial food dyes are toxic. They are mostly derived from petroleum. You wouldn't consider eating gasoline or a plastic bag, so why would you want fake coloring in your food? Artificial food dyes have been known to be linked to cancer, ADHD, and adversely affect children's ability to learn. Food coloring is superficial. It adds absolutely no flavor or nutritional value to your baked goods. If you have to color your food, buy natural food dyes or make your own! Beets make a lovely red, saffron yellow, spinach green, and carrot orange.

So now, go forth and go bake!

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