Baking A Bit Healthier



 "There's a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy when they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie..."

 "Now bring us some figgy pudding, now bring us some figgy pudding... and bring some out here!"

The holiday baking season is upon us, and with it come all of those lovely grams of not-so-healthy fat. Many of us have been working on eating healthier, so let's try to attack that unhealthy fat where we can.

Consuming too many saturated fats, or just eating a higher ratio of saturated fats than the healthier unsaturated ones, can increase your LDL (I refer to these as dump trucks, the carriers of cholesterol) which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).  Newer research indicates that the risk for type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer may also be increased. Clearly, we need to minimize our consumption of saturated fats.

Consuming more unsaturated fats tends to lower LDL which decreases the risk of CVD. Eating more monounsaturated fats found in olives, peanuts, olives,  olive oil, avocado, canola oil, can actually increase HDL (street sweepers!) which help to lower the risk for CVD, and perhaps type 2 diabetes.

One of the easiest changes to make is to switch to heart healthy oil in recipes calling the less healthy lard, solid shortening, margarine or butter, if you can. Lard and butter are naturally high in saturated fats. For example, if a recipe for pancakes calls for 4 tablespoons of melted margarine or butter, simply use 4 tablespoons of canola oil. Canola is a neutral tasting monounsaturated fat perfect for baking.

Some people try to take all the fat out of a recipe when they try to make it healthier. I don't recommend it.  Fat is used as a tenderizer in baked goods, so even if you reduce the amount, leaving some it will keep it tender.

Quick breads, pancakes, muffins, scones, biscuits: reduce the fat by up to 1/2 and replace the remainder with plain yogurt, applesauce or baby food or pureed fruits (apricots, prunes, etc.)

Pie crusts: I do not recommend reducing the fat if you want a traditional flaky crust. Fat is what creates this flaky texture. Instead, try an oil pastry recipe to incorporate heart healthy fats, and use canola oil for its monounsaturated fat content.

Cookies: I think substitutions are futile here if you want most true cookie textures. Using butter adds the naturally saturated fats, and margarine or shortening adds artificially saturated trans fats. However, trying to switch to oil ends up changing the end product characteristic so much, that most people are not happy with the result. I recommend simply sitting down to eat a small amount of cookies mindfully, along with a glass of non-fat milk, or something else healthy to balance it out.  Enjoy one or two, but don't overdo! Remember: If You Give Yourself A Cookie, Don't Forget the Milk!!

I'll share a few oil based recipes in the next few days.
Here's a great pie crust recipe to try for those favorite holiday pies:

Oil Pastry Crust
     Makes One Double Crust Pie

In a large bowl, whisk together:
     1 c. flour
     1 c. whole grain pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
     1/2 tsp salt
In a small bowl, whisk together
     1/2 c. canola oil (chilled in refrigerator for several hours)
     5 Tbsp icy cold water
Give the liquids another quick whisk, and then dump into dry mixture.
Stir in gently with a fork until it just comes together. Do not over mix.
Shape into ball and wrap in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Divide into 2 balls.
Roll each ball between sheets of waxed paper with a rolling pin into 12" circles to form crusts.

Bake as directed for pie.
One serving for double crusted pie is 1/8 of pie.

Nutritional Data: 228 calories, 14 g. fat, 1 g. saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 23 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 1 g protein. 4 1/2 Units.

Better Biscuits 
     Heat oven to 450
     Makes 12 biscuits

Whisk together in large bowl until well blended:
     1 cup whole grain pastry flour
     1 cup flour
     1 Tbsp baking powder
     1/2 tsp salt
In a small bowl, whisk together:
     1/4 cup canola oil
     3/4 cup non-fat milk
Give liquids one more whisk, then quickly add to dry ingredients.
Stir until just blended. Do not over mix.
Roll or pat out onto lightly floured counter until 1/2" thick.
Cut into 16 rounds.
Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Nutritional Data: 118 calories, 5 g fat, 0 mg saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 225 mg sodium, 16 g carbohydrate, 2 g. fiber, 3 g. protein. 2 Units.