I have never been one of those people who wanted to figure out how to make baked goods “healthier.” The whole idea of replacing butter or oil with applesauce, or subbing out white flour with whole wheat, buckwheat, or rye makes me cringe. I can just imagine my beautiful, rich, tender, lighter-than-air muffins turning into dense, wet, gummy wannabes.
As for the idea of getting kids to eat vegetables in sweets (like zucchini bread), this seems like something of a Pyrrhic victory. If you succeed in getting the kid to eat zucchini, but you’ve had to feed her sugar, carbs, and fat to do it, what have you really gained?
And I’ve always thought that people who think that “healthy” baked goods taste “just as good as the real thing” are fooling themselves. I still do.
But, this weekend, we had one last BIG zucchini in the fridge and some sad little yellow squash. We had gotten so tired of eating them in soups, sauces, curries, omelets, and pasta dishes that we simply had to think of something else. So, I thought I’d give the whole “zucchini bread” thing a try.
Now Anthony, who is loathe to eat superfluous fat or sugar, loves spiced quick breads of all kinds—pumpkin, banana, carrot, sweet potato, zucchini. Since I knew he was going to eat the zucchini bread no matter what I put in it, I tried to help him out by making it something he could feel good about.
And so, for the first time, I tried baking with applesauce in place of oil, and I put vegetables in my muffins! I did some reading before diving into such a dubious venture, and came to the conclusion that you can’t replace all the oil with applesauce (unless you want to end up in my dense, gummy nightmare), so I limited myself to a half and half ratio. I added a lot of zucchini for heft and moisture, but also because I just had a lot. And finally, I used a good amount of spices, nuts, and raisins to fill the taste vacuum I assumed would be left by the reduction of fat.
All in all, I was really happy with how they turned out. They are extremely flavorful, pleasantly firm without being dense, and moist without being wet or gummy. There is, I will admit, something “missing” from them, and that is the unmistakable richness and flavor of butter.
But, what they are missing in fat they make up for in feeling. I had one for breakfast this morning with my coffee, and I didn’t feel like a complete nutritional failure by 8:00 am. Now that is a trade I am willing to make. (Plus, who says I can’t spread some butter on one after I toast it?)