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How to bake, healthy?

Ok chowhounders, I got a question. My son was recently put on an organic, no dye, no hfsc, low sugar, no white diet. (Has to do with some behavior issues, and has made a ton of difference.) He is adjusting, but I am having issues. I love to bake and am not sure where to turn for recipes. Can I substitue wheat flour for white, or what? Can I just reduce the sugar recipe calls for because let's face it treats are usually too sweet anyway?
Do you have any fabulous cupcake, cookies, brownies recipes that fit the criteria?
My one friend offered me her sneaky chef dessert cookbook, but it's not a matter of incorporating more veggies (plus I have issues with 'sneaking' veggies)
Please help me with some great recipes, so we all can be sane and happy.

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  1. You can use nut flours. Look on low-carb and gluten-free sites for recipes.

    1. You can use whole wheat pastry flour very successfully in many recipes. It should work fine for cookies and tea breads. Some cakes not so. Just make sure it's pastry flour. As for sugar, I almost always cut it back by at least 1/3 in most recipes, just because I prefer things less sweet. But if that's still too much, in tea breads you can often use bananas or apple sauce instead. There are many recipes available on the web, and Jane Brody's old cookbook has a pretty decent selection of work-a-day low sugar recipes.

      1. I use White Whole Wheat Flour almost exclusively instead of regular white flour. Sold by King Arthur and others, it is 100% whole wheat but has a milder taste. I'd suggest you get a copy of King Arthur's Whole Grain Baking Book, a thorough resource for understanding and using other-than-refined grains/flours. There are loads of threads on whole wheat flour - just search this board, clicking on "relevance".

        Cut back on sugar, and/or replace part of it with Splenda (not Equal, which doesn't hold up at high heat) and.or brown rice syrup or agave nectar. These last 2 are sugars but don't spike blood sugar the way refined sugar does. Be aware that sugar is needed for crispness, so the texture of cookies will change if you substantially change the amount.

        1. here's a link with basics on substituting whole wheat for white. http://www.ehow.com/how_2299938_subst...

          You can usually reduce the sugar in cakes by about a quarter without much change in texture. It's a little trickier with cookies. Google weight watchers choc chip cookie recipe, its pretty good. I substituted a third of the flour with oatmeal. I think it might work with whole wheat.

          I would suggest using recipes designed for whole wheat & reduced sugar rather than trying to adapt yours. Try searching allrecipes.com, http://www.recipezaar.com or google the specific dish you're looking for plus whole wheat & reduced sugar.

          An invaluable guide is The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book: A Guide to Whole-Grain Breadmaking. Even if you don't plan to bake bread it gives you a good working knowledge in using whole grains. Maybe your library has it.

            1. Personally, I love to bake breads for my loved ones as well and I always use whole grain breads. It also helps health-wise to soak your grains before baking. Here's a helpful website: http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2...

              Hope your kids love fresh homemade bread.

              1. I bake a lot, but usually breads than sweets. But when I do cook something to be sweet, I try to add varying flavors and textures that will add their own sweetness such as raisins or other dried fruit and nuts. Just an idea :-)

                1. I really love the KA Whole Grain Baking Book too. In fact, the choc. chip cookies and brownies are better than white flour! But they still have a lot of sugar.

                  Another site to check out:

                  And if you can get past having a picture of the author on every single page, the clean eating cookbook isn't bad. But watch the serving sizes...they sometimes try to tell you that half a cookie is a serving.

                  1. Which do you like better, the process of baking, or eating the baked goods?

                    That diet pretty well rules out baked dessert items. Dessert, almost by definition, is sweet, and hence high sugar. Less refined sugars provide sweetness, but usually have a strong 'side' flavor (think for example of molasses). We also expect a refined texture to desserts.

                    Breads (yeast and quick) are more adaptable to whole grains, though you are not going to duplicate the texture of breads made with white flour. White whole wheat flour is the best alternative if you want refined texture.

                    I'd stay away from muffin and quick bread recipes that use the 'cake method', creaming butter and sugar. Ones using the 'muffin method' (combine wet, combine dry, combine the 2) don't depend on sugar for texture, so you can use just enough to give the taste you want. They also work well with fruit and vegetable purees (banana bread, pumpkin breads, etc).

                    1. My last post was removed because I just linked to a recipe on my blog. However, I really just want people to try this great lowfat brownie recipe, so I am posting it below! Pleaselet me know if you try the recipe - they are the best "healthy" brownies I've ever had. If you want to see the photo, it's at www.whatwouldcathyeat.com

                      Decadent lowfat brownies

                      With bittersweet chocolate as well as cocoa, plus an egg and walnuts, they are plenty rich, yet miraculously butter-less. They contain just two tablespoons of oil, and are made with whole wheat pastry flour. I don’t think anyone used to “regular” brownies would ever know the difference – they’re really that good.

                      When these brownies first come out of the oven they are a bit on the cake-y side, but the next day become pretty fudgy. So if you can manage to wait to eat them, you’ll be happy you did.

                      2 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I used a Ghirardelli 70% baking bar


                      2 T. water

                      1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce

                      1 egg + 2 egg whites

                      2 t. vanilla

                      1/2 c. sugar

                      1/2 c. brown sugar

                      2 T. canola oil

                      1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour

                      1/2 c. cocoa powder

                      1/2 t. baking powder

                      1/4 t. salt

                      1/2 c. chopped walnuts

                      Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan, heat the chocolate and water on very low heat, stirring until melted. Stir in the applesauce. In a bowl, vigorously whisk together the egg and egg whites, vanilla, sugars and canola oil. Stir in the chocolate mixture. Add the dry ingredients and mix briefly. Fold in the walnuts.

                      Spray an 8×8″ metal baking pan with oil. Spread the batter in the pan and bake for 25 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: cathyeats

                        I would be interested to hear reviews if anyone has tried this recipe.

                        1. re: ChristinaMason

                          I haven't made that particular recipe but I have made NIck Malgieri's lowfat fudge brownies - which also use applesauce. I usually sub 1/4 c cold espresso/coffee for equal vol. of applesauce, helps to mask the applesauce taste and amps up the chocolate flavor - which in the case of the Malgieri recipe comes from just cocoa. Without the substitution I find I taste apples. I wonder if you could sub plain lowfat yogurt for applesauce though?

                          Hard to do a side by side without baking both but the Malgieri recipe calls for 1c flour 1/2 c cocoa. leaveners. 2T butter.1c. sugar 2 egg whites, 1/2 c unsweetened applesauce & 1tsp. vanilla. For me this yields a moist brownie, but not as dense as the full fat recipe I use. It looks like cathy's recipe uses more liquid ingredients - with that and the 1/2c granulated 1/2c brown sugar - I'd think they'd come out more dense?

                          1. re: maplesugar

                            Many groceries sell an oil substitute that is essentially (I think) apple and prune puree. One of my favorite grocery brand muffins had prune puree, which made them quite moist. I should make my own prune puree and try that in place of pumpkin puree in my favorite quickbread.

                      2. Get a copy of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

                        1. These muffins have a third cup of sugar and a quarter cup of maple syrup. Not sure if that counts as low sugar in your book. But they are really delicious! They're also totally vegan, but don't taste like it.

                          Chocolate Banana Muffins

                          1/2 c. + 2 T. soy milk
                          2 T. flax meal
                          1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
                          1 c. rolled oats, finely ground in a food processor
                          1/3 c. packed dark brown sugar
                          1/4 t. salt
                          1/4 t. cinnamon
                          1/3 c. cocoa powder
                          2 t. baking powder
                          3/4 t. baking soda
                          1 heaping cup of mashed extremely ripe banana
                          1/4 c. maple syrup
                          1 1/2 t. vanilla
                          2 T. organic canola oil

                          Preheat oven to 375. In a bowl, mix together the flax meal and soy milk, and set aside for 5 or more minutes. Then add the banana, maple syrup, vanilla and oil and mix well. Combine the dry ingredients in a second bowl, then add to the wet, stirring briefly. Line a large muffin tin with 12 paper liners, and fill each about 3/4 full. Bake for 23 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

                          You can see the photo here: http://whatwouldcathyeat.com/2010/05/...

                          1. I just ordered a new book called "Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours" by a former pastry chef. It's gotten good reviews. I'm not sure how many of the recipes are low sugar, but at least some of them are, and you could check it out for ideas. You should be able to substitute for white flour with whole wheat white flour, as someone mentioned earlier.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: emily

                              The recipes in Good to the Grain are not particularly low in sugar; though they are not super sweet, most still probably have too much sugar for the OP's requirements. The majority are also not made with all whole grains. It's not so much a healthful baking book as one about exploring lots of specialty grains and their flavors. Very interesting, but doesn't serve the OP's needs, necessarily.

                              Emily, when you get the book, I hope you'll join me in the thread I started about it: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/702840

                            2. Is this the Feingold diet? It's been around for a long time (I remember seeing a book about it at the library in the 70s. Consider using xylitol if allowed in place of (some of) the sugar. There are good gluten-free cookbooks (Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread by Betty Hagman, Pure and Simple by Tami A. Benton, and others). Consider using other flours like buckwheat, quinoa, garbanzo, amaranth, sorghum, brown rice, teff, etc. We grind our own of most using the VitaMix or a small coffee/spice grinder.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: lgss

                                It's not the Feingold diet. Feingold doesn't eliminate sugar, white flour or HFCS (though many of us do. Feingold also doesn't require an organic diet.

                              2. Substituting ingredients will change the chemistry of the baking you are doing, so I'd proceed with caution. If you do substitute, I'd try one substitution at a time (less sugar, whole wheat flour) rather than doing a bunch of them.

                                I think whole wheat flour would probably work pretty smoothly in things like cookies or brownies, and less so in more delicate cakes. As others have said, though, make sure it's the low gluten version because that will affect texture.

                                I'd be wary of reducing sugar in cookies, because the sugar percentage does affect how it bakes.

                                I'd recommend varying the types of baking you do, rather than trying to adapt existing recipes. For example - go to muffins instead of cupcakes. The sugar content is naturally lower, there are lots of whole wheat recipes for muffins, and you can jazz them up with fresh or dried fruits, nuts, grated citrus zest, chocolate chips and so on. You can glaze with a bit of sugar and water for an extra dash of sweetness without much added sugar.

                                Another option is fruit based breads and cakes - zucchini cake, carrot cake, banana bread - which get some of their sweetness from the fruit rather than added sugar. Or go to sweet breads rather than cakes, where the amount of sugar is much lower than cake, but fruits and nuts are added.

                                2 Replies
                                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                    I reduce sugar in cookies all the time and have never had a problem with texture. I usually reduce it about 1/4 - 1/3.

                                  2. I would strongly recommend trying spelt flour, it doesn't work quite the same as wheat flour but usually the problem can be solved by allowing your mix to stand. I would also strongly suggest you avoid giving any child artificial sweeteners particularly a child with sensitivities.
                                    Many recipes for quickbreads or muffins can easily have the sugar reduced by about 1/3 but, you will alter the shelf life of the product. I would recommend starting with banana bread , reduce the sugar and add a little extra banana. Also look for vegan recipes as most of them tend to be suitable. Most will call for egg replacer but I have had great success without using such a thing. I have to recommend the Candle Cafe cookbook, has an amazing recipe for brownies init that uses beets!