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May 18, 2010 02:44 PM

"Healthful" baking/desserts--best cookbooks?

I would like to do more baking, but would like to pursue "healthful" baking, if possible.

I've written this post a half dozen times, then keep back-spacing out of it because I know it's such a broad, open-to-interpretation kind of question. Also, I'm sure it's come up in the past, so, you're all probably tired of the topic. Nevertheless, I'm asking. My reasons for "healthful" baking have to do with keeping my weight and cholesteral at healthy levels and warding off the scary specter of type II diabetes that seems to run in my family.

So, by "healthful" I mean some combination of the below (not necessarily all at the same time):

-Using more whole grains and less "refined" grains
-Using minimal sugar
-Using less fat, particularly butter and lard
-Using fruits and nuts

What are your sources for these kinds of recipes? Any particular favorites?

Thanks in advance! I hope this isn't too tedious a question.


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  1. Alice Medrich's "Pure Dessert" is by no means meant to be a "healthful" baking book, but the recipes are generally less sweet, less fatty, and often contain whole grains. The emphasis is on pure and simple flavors. There are entire sections devoted to The Flavors of Grains, Nuts and Seeds and The Flavors of Fruit, among other categories. The desserts are lovely, and you are gaining flavor while losing some sweetness and fat.

    You can also check at the desserts at

    1 Reply
    1. Check out 'Nourishing traditions' by Sally Fallon, not just baking/desserts but ticks all your 'healthful' requirements

      1. Deborah Madison just came out with a beautiful new book called "Seasonal Fruit Desserts." I don't own it (yet) but think it's worth checking out -- it's not a "health" book per se, but I think will meet your criteria. Also, all the recipes in Heidi Swanson's "Super Natural Eating" (from use whole grains, no refined sugars, etc. In any case, healthy baking is a worthy endeavor -- good luck!

        1. I can't vouch for this one not having baked out of it yet, but you might want to take a look at it (also not sure how healthy it is) :

          Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours

          Also, have you had a look at King Arthur's "Whole Grain Baking"? I have it, but have to sheepishly admit that I haven't spent any time with it yet. Working my way around to it. (I have hundreds of baking books.....) ;)

          7 Replies
          1. re: flourgirl

            Oh, funny! Caitlin's post about that book was the one that got me thinking about making this one. It sure does sound delicious!


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              There's also a book called "olive oil baking" that may help you out. It doesn't focus on whole grains, but does focus on reducing the saturated fat content of baked goods. You might be able to play around with this book and some of those other whole grain baking books and come up with some recipes that are not only much healthier but still taste good. I think I'm going to give it a shot myself. :)

              1. re: flourgirl

       is an excellent resource as well as Elana's Pantry ( I have started to use agave nectar (low on the glycemic index) and whole wheat pastry flour in my baking. There are many recipes out there. Also, you can sub applesauce or prune puree for fat in many baking recipes. Good luck!

                1. re: flourgirl

                  In an attempt to keep my cholesterol down, I bought this book (Olive Oil Baking) and so far, it's very good. She usually uses a mix of white and wholewheat pastry flours. Most of the recipes are based on nuts and fruits. I was worried about the texture of butter-less cookies, but I made the Apricot Almond Chews last night and they really are chewy. I warned my usually-picky daughter that they were "healthy" (I used eggbeaters too), she went ahead and tasted them and now has nearly finished the batch.

              2. re: flourgirl

                I LOVE the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking book! I like it even more than their regular book. At first I thought the idea of making a cake (high sugar/high fat) with whole grains was kind of dumb (if I'm going to splurge, let's splurge) but it is amazingly good. The chocolate chip recipe in there is my favorite. And I make something like muffins/scones/coffeecake from that book each weekend.

                Of course, they use some pretty obscure grains sometimes all "conveniently" available from KA. I've had very good luck substituting some whole grains for others, just make sure to read the grain descriptions in the back of the book.

                My only other issue with the book is that some recipes require a night's rest before eating (like the amazing brownies). I don't have the willpower to have a pan of warm brownies on the counter and not eat them. I have managed it once and they were so much better the next day but, oh the will power!

                1. re: cholderby

                  HA! Yes, I could see having that problem, too.

                  Lots of great ideas in this thread, folks. Thank you. Some of these books I'd heard of, some not. Some I even own! But, I think I might check a few of these out of the library and see what I think. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


                  1. re: cholderby

                    cholderby: I saw a question you posted on the KAF website about malt powder, which I am trying to track down in the Detroit area. Do you know of a local retailer that would carry the KAF malt powder or another brand I could buy locally? Thanks for your help :)

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