Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Why I can't seem to bake "healthy"

I've been trying to bake healthier lately. I could say it's because of the growing awareness about rising obesity rates, but mostly it's about me. I'm in my late thirties with two kids, and let's face it: my metabolism just isn't what it used to be. The problem is that I LOVE to bake. I mean, I REALLY love baking, almost to the point of obsession. The whole reason I started this blog was just so I could ramble on about baking techniques and recipes, topics my husband finds rather boring.

Since I bake more often than my waistline can handle, I give away a lot of goodies. I figure my family doesn't need a whole cake, a dozen cupcakes, or an entire pie every other day. But my friends and neighbors are surely getting tired of being my tasters all the time. They joke that I am trying to make them fat.

So lately I've been trying to expand my recipes to include healthier fare. I'm generally pretty health-conscious in my cooking, so I figured it couldn't be that hard to make my desserts healthier too. Some things I tried were: Cutting white flour with wheat or other flours, incorporating oats into recipes, cutting down on the refined sugar or using alternative sweeteners like honey. Substituting applesauce for oil, and mashed bananas for eggs are also ideas that I have tried with some success in the past. 

Some of these things worked fine, but others not so much. For example, I like wheat bread (especially homemade wheat bread) but I hate whole wheat pie crusts, and cookies. I can cut down on the sugar, but cut it too much and it just isn't a dessert anymore. And any time you substitute something else for eggs, the texture changes. Not that that is a bad thing, necessarily, but it just won't be the same.

I started getting frustrated in my experiment with healthier baking. I had some pretty major failures. And then I realized that an old bit of wisdom about life applies to food writing too: Stick to what you know and don't try to be something else. I had a "duh"moment when it occurred to me that there are a lot of fantastic healthy eating blogs out there, so why should I try to be like them? I am all about old-fashioned, homey, all-American desserts made from scratch with quality ingredients. I am not fancy French pastries, I am not mind-blowing cake decoration, and I am not "ten different ways to use quinoa."   

So I won't be trying to corner the market on desserts that "taste good AND are good for you!" But you know what? I do believe that baking from scratch is automatically healthier than store-bought goodies. Baking from scratch means that YOU control the ingredients, without the preservatives and chemicals found in most commercially-processed baked goods. YOU control whether or not you use artificial colors and flavors. YOU control the quality of the ingredients you use. I am proud to say that I use top-quality local butter, and I get my milk and eggs from a local farm.

And lastly, even though I bake all the time, I realize that people who are reading my blog do not. They are probably looking for a great cake recipe once in a while, or filing away an idea for a homemade pie they might make next Fourth-of-July. The point is, they aren't eating this stuff all the time, and it wasn't meant to be eaten all the time. You know what they say, "Everything in moderation."

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