Cutting fat and calories from your diet is one step toward a healthier lifestyle, but depriving yourself of cake, muffins and other baked goods may just lead to stress and discouragement. Instead of giving up, try making your favorite baked treats at home using healthier ingredients, such as unsweetened applesauce. Lower-fat cakes and muffins will not be exactly the same as their full-fat counterparts, but you may find that you enjoy the healthier versions.
When substituting unsweetened applesauce for oil in a new recipe, start with as little as 1/4 cup. If the recipe calls for a full cup, replace 1/4 of the oil with applesauce, and use 3/4 cup of oil. Fats in baking are important to the structure of the final product, so making sweeping substitutions can have disappointing results. If the results are good, next time you bake, increase the applesauce to 1/2 of the total oil. Some recipes are flexible enough to allow you to replace all the oil with unsweetened applesauce. Others require a small amount of fat to maintain the structure of the finished product.
Whip Wet Ingredients
Combine the sugar, eggs and other liquid ingredients in a stand mixer and whip them thoroughly to incorporate air into the mixture. This will help the finished baked goods become light and fluffy.
Fold in Dry Ingredients
Carefully fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture just before baking. Agitate the ingredients as little as possible, and stop as soon as they are combined. When the flour combines with the liquid, gluten strands begin to form. This gives the cake or the muffin structure, but too much gluten will make your treats tough and rubbery. Normally, fat coats some of the flour molecules, preventing them from combining with liquid to form gluten. When you remove the fat, you must prevent gluten strands from forming in other ways. In this case, very careful handling of the batter will keep the baked goods from becoming tough.
While unsweetened applesauce is a good substitute for oil in cakes, muffins and quick breads, it is not a good replacement for butter. Butter contains proteins as well as fat, which makes cookies crispy. Applesauce provides moistness but cannot duplicate butter's crispness.
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