Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I have a bunch of baking books, or cookbooks that include serious sections on baking. The Joy of Cooking and The New Best Recipe are my favourites by a long shot, and often I enjoy making the "best" scone even if the recipe is basically white sugar, white flour and a pound of butter.

However, sometimes I'm looking for a healthier scone, muffin or coffee cake -- something that I can eat for breakfast without too much guilt, or offer to health-conscious friends -- and I don't have resources that are just right for me. Ideally, a book on healthy baking would balance out a number of factors without being fanatical on any one of them:
  • How is the whole grain content? Can some of the white flour be replaced with wheat, or can the recipe handle an optional addition of wheat germ, ground flax seeds, oats or so on?
  • Can the sugar be cut down and/or replaced with honey or maple syrup?
  • Can the fat be cut down without sacrificing moistness, shelf life, texture and flavour?
  • Is the protein ratio good? Is substituting soy flour an option? Adding nuts?
  • Are the ingredients readily available or can rare ingredients be optional?
  • Is the taste pumped up? I eat less of pure, dark chocolate or tongue-tingling ginger sweets because my palate is satisfied earlier.
I understand some people get fanatical about one thing, just the sugar or fat or whole wheat content to a recipe, but I rather think balance is important and certainly taste is.

Along these lines, here's an adapted recipe for Mango Chutney coffee cake, derived from Light and Easy Baking. That book focuses only on reducing fat content, which I brought up a little again, but the pumped-up taste is there and the hot pepper is surprisingly good.
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. milk
1/3 c. canola oil
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 T. orange marmelade
1/3 c. raisins
3/4 c. chopped mango chutney
Additional pepper, cinnamon or cardamom, particularly if chutney is mild

Mix the dry ingredients together then mix the rest in. Bake in a loaf pan at 350 for 65 minutes.


NathKnits said...

This is not a recipe, but I find as a general rule, that one can replace all the white flour with whole wheat flour in cookies (which aren't really expected to rise), and about 3/4 of the white flour with whole wheat flour in cakey things (muffins, quickbreads, etc) without having to compensate with extra leavening or binders. Something to add to your arsenal when baking for people who prefer to avoid white flour.

Richard said...

Graham Kerr — the Galloping Gourmet of the 1960s — has been a proponent of reducing fat and sugar without sacrificing flavor and texture since his wife had a heart attack in the late 1980s.

His 1994 book, Graham Kerr's Kitchen is available for less than a buck on and Amazon.

The book is organized by chapters that each cover what Kerr calls 'springboard' techniques. Of course, he gives a few recipes to demonstrate each springboard. But the techniques are explained and demonstrated so that you can adapt them to your favorite recipes.

Techniques range from fat reducers like using a slurry of arrowroot flour — which stirs easily into water — instead of thickening soups and sauces with a butter-and-flour roux, or using fruit purees in baked goods to flavor enhancers such as the Southeast Asian technique of bao syang or using the Maillard reaction to create complex flavors by browning a little tomato paste in a spot of oil before building a sauce.

Graham Kerr's Kitchen was worth the effort when it was full price more than a decade ago. It's totally worth the five bucks (shipping included) that it'll cost you to track down now.

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