Delicious and More Nutritious
Cookies are delicious. No argument there! And, yes, a dessert is still a dessert and it is always full of sugar and fat and carbs, but if we can choose sugars, fats and carbs that are organic, gluten-free, vegan, less processed, non-allergenic, etc…, then those desserts become slightly healthier (emphasis on the “-er”) then the regular or store-bought choice.
On special occasions and holidays, I love baking desserts, especially cookies and pies. Here are some easy ways to substitute some healthier choice ingredients.
Baking the perfect pastry or muffin with just the right amount of crumble or moistness requires a little finesse, given you’re not baking from a box or package filled with fool-proof mixes. So, when baking with gluten-free or vegan ingredients, success becomes exponentially more difficult, and you end up with a dry cookie and a bitter aftertaste. Baking is like a chemistry project, and eyeballing and guesswork don’t fly. After many experiments of my own (and trust me I’m no professional), I have found that you can convert most recipes into ones that include gluten-free and/or vegan ingredients as alternatives. You have to understand what each ingredient is doing and how it’s going to affect the outcome of the baked good.
Eggs are for moisture and binding in baked goods, which creates a tender crumb. A surprisingly easy substitution is 1 tbsp ground flaxseed soaked in 2 tbsp water, mixing consistently for five minutes. This causes the polysaccharides in the flaxseed to soak out of the seeds and it creates a gelatinous liquid when ready to be used.
Choosing the right Flour is essential for creating the right crumb and texture of your baked good. The flour is the matrix of the entire food. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, so for gluten-free baking you should choose a flour other than a wheat based flour (white flour, wheat flour, all-purpose flour, etc…). There are many to choose from and you can mix and match different types as well. Some gluten-free alternative flours come from rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, coconut and many more. Be sure to read the package to better understand some of the unique qualities each flour may have. For example, millet flour is light and delicate, but is easily overcooked in higher heats, and coconut flour is tasty and light, but is extra absorbent compared to other flours and will dry out your baked good if extra moistening ingredients aren’t incorporated.
Butter is the fat source which is good for moisture and deliciousness. This is one of the easiest substitutions you can make when baking. Good alternatives are Coconut Oil or Olive Oil. I tend to like coconut oil more because it tastes better that olive oil when baking and it has a higher heat tolerance, meaning it can be in a higher heat temperature than olive oil before it reaches its “smoke point” and begins to oxidize. This is a toxin producing activity and you want to avoid this when cooking or baking with oils.
Milk is used for incorporating moisture into batters and doughs. You can use any alternative milks, such as rice, almond, or soy, or applesauce and mashed bananas. You can play with different ingredients and find which substitution works best for your recipe. Consider the flavor of your baked good and which ingredient would complement the flavors best.
Buttermilk is used for acidity and tender crumb. Buttermilk is used instead of milk in baked goods, usually cakes, as a stabilizer to control the gluten during rising. Commercial buttermilk is made by adding a bacterial culture to liquid milk, which converts some of the milk’s lactose into lactic acid. “Real” buttermilk is just the liquid remaining after milk butter has been churned out from the cream. The acidity in buttermilk mixes with baking powders and baking sodas, causing the release of carbon dioxide bubbles, which is the chemical reaction needed for rising. A good substitute for 1 cup buttermilk is 1 cup Alternative Milk (Almond, Flax, Coconut, Rice…) with 1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar or lemon juice. ( 1:1 )
Concerned about aluminum in your Baking Powder? Here is how to easily make your own baking powder. Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), cream of tartar and a drying agent (usually corn starch). There are two types of baking sodas, single-acting and double-acting. Single-acting reacts to moisture and requires the batter to be placed in the over immediately after mixing. Sodium aluminum phosphate is an ingredient in double-acting baking powders that reacts with heat instead of moisture, creating a slower reaction time and allows bakers more time before a batter needs to be placed in the oven. An easy homemade recipe for baking powder is mixing 1 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp cream of tartar and 1 tsp arrowroot starch (1:2:1). You can use any kind of starch, but I like arrowroot because it has a very fine texture and I choose to stay clear of foods with corn based ingredients.
If you need Chocolate chips, you have to try using Enjoy Life’s chocolate chips. They are the tastiest chocolate chips and best of all they are dairy free, soy free, gluten free…basically everything allergy-free. I LOVE them!
My favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe:
(Makes 16 Cookies)
2 sticks (16 Tbsp) Unsalted Butter or Coconut Oil
1 cup Cane Sugar
1/2 cup packed Light Brown Sugar
2 Eggs or substitute 2 tbsp ground flax + 4 tbsp water
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
3 cups Flour or I like to mix brown rice and coconut flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
Preheat Oven to 350°. Let butter sit out or melt so that it is soft. Mix together sugar and butter until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla extract and mix well (do not over-beat! If you beat the egg too long it will make the cookies stiff). Add flour, baking soda and salt and continue mixing until crumbles form. Finally add chocolate chips and roll into 16 large balls and place on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes (can depend on the type of flour used) until the cookies are puffy and dry and just barely golden brown. Always have fun and enjoy!