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?)
I, too, have been a little close minded when it comes to healthy baking, but while Maggy and I were on book tour in Seattle, Shauna and Dan Ahern (aka Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef) invited us to their home on Vashon, just a ferry ride from Seattle. Using a blend of non-wheat flours (including teff), Shauna baked up a batch of gluten-free Parmesan Mini Muffins with Prosciutto and Basil from my Perfect One-Dish Dinners. They were scrumptious.
The day before Jeanne (Art of Gluten-Free Baking) invited us for Sunday brunch and made an amazing gluten-free banana bread. Check out her recipe: http://www.artofglutenfreebaking.com/2010/09/banana-bread-gluten-free/
These days I’m open to all kinds of baking, and it’s much more fun.
They sound fabulous to me. I like the healthy trade off. I wish my zucchini plants had produced a good crop this year. Something kept them eaten down to the nub all summer. I can a huge crop of carrots. Maybe I’ll try to substitute them for the zucchini.
Barbara | VinoLuciStyle says
Like you, I’ve resisted the urge to make something ‘healthy’ for fear of losing the essence of what makes a dish taste good but I’m doing some testing and have found that a bit of this and a bit of that that make me feel less guilty have not seriously eroded the flavor of some favorites dishes.
I had a MONSTER zucchini too; did the requisite bread and was a bit tired of it quite frankly, so last night did an old fashioned, what’s in my fridge casserole. Some ground beef and barbecue sauce, some roasted garlic and a bunch of zucchini later I had a really great warm dish. I put in a good two inch layer of shredded zucchini and it cooked into everything else and I’m thinking even the most watchful and discerning child might actually get a dose of veggie from this exercise. That will be the true test of my results tonight when a neighbor and her son visit for dinner tonight!
I have yet to make zucchini bread of any kind, but I really really want to. May as well start with your muffins – any recipe of yours I trust, Shazza!
I so agree with you. I think that anything made with good quality basic ingredients and the treats are eaten in moderation – well that’s perfectly healthy. But funny enough I’ve been thinking of making a few baked goods with applesauce mixed into the batter, more for flavor and moistness than any additional “healthy” quality.
I find the hardest ingredient to substitute is sugar. I’ve made a sugarless banana blueberry almond muffin from Elana Amsterdam’s “Gluten Free Almond Flour cookbook” and it was good, but a bit dense as it was made completely from almond flour. I may try it with some gluten free baking mix to lighten it up. Also, I’ve used ground flaxseed as a partial substitute for some of the oil as well.