A Little Advice: How to Bake Healthier (Part 4: Flair)

Welcome to my fourth and final segment of “How to Bake Healthier.” You made it! In this last part, I will discuss what I call “flair.”

Now, I personally feel like this is the most important part when it comes to baking because this is where all of the flavor in a baked dish comes from. You can mess up the all of the other ingredients and their ratios, but if your flair/ flavors are spot on, you can still enjoy it and add a tally underneath the “Still Edible” category. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve messed up a recipe or tried and failed to revamp one, and I still ate the final product, even though it didn’t turn out the way I wanted.

So, what do I mean by flair? I mean if you read “Apple Pecan Streusel,” the main dish is a streusel, which has it’s own set of ingredients, but the desired flavors in the dish come from the apple and the pecan, which are the flair. The apple and pecan are optional and can be easily swapped for anything else while maintaining the integrity of the dish, which is streusel. That’s why there are so many different variants of a streusel. You can have a peanut butter and jelly streusel, a blueberry lemon streusel, a pumpkin pie streusel, the options are endless! And it’s all because of the flair. It can be tailored to fit anyone’s tastes.

I’m keeping this one short because it really is an easy concept to grasp. If you want to be healthier, use healthier ingredients. For example, if you want to bake with chocolate, use dark chocolate. If you want to add any fruit flavor to whatever you are making, use the real thing, and if it calls for some sort of jam/ jelly, always try to make it yourself. That way you can control the amount of sugar and avoid any possible additives you get when purchasing it from the store. If you want to add juice to something, don’t add a juice cocktail. Buy the real, zero extra sugar added stuff, or just juice that shit yourself. If you want to add peanut butter, make sure you are using the best brand you can find, or use a different nut butter to get the health benefits associated with that other nut. Look up popular flavor profiles with what ingredients you have and form an understanding of what spices are often associated with your ingredients. Spices are a great way to add an extra level of flavor to any dish calorie free. Apples, bananas, pumpkin, or any root vegetables high in beta-carotene (like carrots, yams, or sweet potatoes) can take on the same flavor profiles provided by deep, earthy spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and clove. Berries love citric acid, so the juice or zest of a lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit are great partners. Chocolate just goes with everything, and if it doesn’t, I haven’t found it yet. Avoid anything that is processed or contains any artificial sweeteners. READ THE LABEL. Don’t skip a single word. As soon as you read something you don’t know or understand, put it back. It really is that simple, but there are a few more points that I’d like to draw your attention to.

First, I will say you want to pay attention to the amount of liquids you are adding. When you add too much, you start to affect the texture and density of what you are trying to make. For example, raw berries contain a lot of water and when you bake them into anything, they release that water into the surrounding dough or batter. This will make the final product either super gooey on the inside or prohibit it from baking completely. In order to avoid this, I usually cook the fruits down, get rid of that excess water, and concentrate those flavors. That way, when it’s added to a dish, the water won’t affect the texture. Plus, you get a really nice tint of color to your dish. I prefer to swirl it in. I love getting that really pretty swirl of color that adds a delicious decorative aspect to the final product. Adding any form of nut butters will make anything you are baking more dense. Just be careful that you don’t add too much.

Second, it is a little different when adding dried ingredients to a batter or dough. The actual texture will only be affected if you add WAY TOO much. I mean like making the base to flair ratio anything over 50/50. If there’s too much flair, you’re not giving your base an opportunity to bake and form into one solid dish. It will fall apart and become too delicate to handle. That’s why I usually keep that ratio between 30/70 and 50/50, the left side being flair and the right being your baking base (the starch, sweetener, and binder). Now, obviously the ideal baking ratio is different when it comes to baking a pie, where like 95% is just pure filling, and the rest is some sort of crust and crumble combination.

That’s pretty much it for all of my healthier baking advice.

Now Go Get Baking & Good Luck!

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