I grew up in a very health-conscious home: my mom carefully planned our meals to include lots of fruits and vegetables, we ate a lot of whole-grain stuff before it became super popular, and our meals followed the USDA’s “My Plate” recommendations long before the official nutritional guidelines were released.
So, you’d better believe that whenever we made a recipe of any kind, my mom was always looking for ways to make it healthier, and this was one of her favorite tricks. (Fun fact: When we went to a mother/daughter activity once and we were asked to list the best advice our mom had ever given us, I gave this tip as a 9-year-old).
It’s super easy, and no, it doesn’t involve applesauce (though that often works well, too!).
Here it is:
Half the fat, and add an egg.
In other words, you look at whatever “fat” source the recipe is calling for–usually oil, shortening, or butter–you only put in half of what is called for, and you add an egg to the recipe.
Having used this trick for basically all of my baking life (which I started doing when I was probably only 6 or 7!), I can fully attest that it rarely compromises the flavor, texture, or deliciousness of a baking recipe.
***Note: I have only tried this on recipes that are traditional “baking” recipes (cookies, cakes, “quick” breads (like banana bread), muffins, brownies, etc.), and I wouldn’t recommend it for any other kind of recipe. Also, it probably should not be applied to many traditional bread (with yeast) recipes, as those typically do not call for eggs. Basically, as a rule of thumb to see if it will work: if it’s something that you bake in an oven, calls for fat of some kind AND eggs, and deals with flour, you can probably try this trick.
If you have trust issues and think this sounds crazy, try it first on a box brownie mix–that way, you won’t be putting in much effort and you’ll be able to see immediately the beauty that is this baking hack. Or, if you want to see further visual proof that this trick won’t negatively affect the texture or appearance of your baked goods (and get a recipe that works GREAT with this hack), check out this recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip bread that I’ve tried both ways multiple times (and both taste amazing!).
Just to make sure you understand, I’ll walk you through this recipe for my grandma’s snickerdoodles, which has been tried and tested many times both ways (with full fat and with half the fat). Both ways are delicious, but one way has a LOT fewer calories!
1 cup shortening
1-1/2 cups sugar
2-3/4 cups sifted flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
- Cream together the shortening, sugar, and eggs. Sift all the dry ingredients (flour, cream of tartar, soda, salt) together in a separate bowl, then add those to the sugar mix. Mix thoroughly.
- Chill dough until set (at least an hour or two).
- Mix the cinnamon and sugar together in a small, shallow bowl. Roll the cookie dough into balls the size of walnuts, and roll each ball in the cinnamon/sugar mixture.
- As you add each ball to the cookie sheet, gently flatten it with your hand or the bottom of a glass.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until cookies are lightly browned but still soft. (Cookies will look puffy coming out of the oven but will flatten slightly as they cool.)
If you bake these cookies as is, they are delicious. And, as far as calories go, they’re really not too bad with the full amount of fat in—about 141 calories a cookie (assuming the recipe makes about two and a half dozen cookies). But, if you’d like to cut down on the amount of calories per cookie, not to mention the amount of saturated and trans fats found in the shortening, you could take the shortening (the “fat” of the recipe), cut it in half (so only add a half cup at the beginning), and add an extra egg to the recipe (to bring the total egg count to 3).
With the modifications to the recipe, the new calorie count per cookie is only 114, and you also cut down the total fat grams in the cookie from 7 to 4 (some of which are trans and saturated fats).
And the cookies still taste amazing!
Seriously, this is a baking hack I use ALL. THE. TIME. (And considering how much I bake, this is probably a very, very good thing.)
What other baking hacks do you have for making a recipe healthier?
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