Healthy Baking Hacks to Make Every Treat Good-for-You Too

Whether you're making a batch of cookies or a platter of brownies, these healthy baking tips and ingredients will give your sweets a boost of nutrients.

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"One of the joys of baking is that you get to choose exactly what goes into your cakes, cookies, and brownies," says Joanne Chang, a James Beard Award winner for outstanding baker, a co-owner of Flour Bakery & Cafe in Boston, and the author of Pastry Love (Buy It, $22, (The renaissance woman is also in STEM—she has a degree in applied mathematics and economics.)

"At Flour we've discovered that using whole grains and healthy ingredients often leads to results that are more delicious than the original recipes," she says. Keep on reading for Chang's healthy baking tips on creating sweet treats that are better for you — and that taste deliciously indulgent.

Healthy Baking Hacks to Try on All Your Treats

Use Whole-Grain Flours

"Baked goods made with whole grains offer a double advantage: better flavor and nutrition," says Chang. "They are richer tasting than those made with white flour." And they're loaded with fiber and B vitamins. Tweak your favorite recipes by swapping up to one-third of the white flour with one of Chang's favorite whole-grain flours:

  • Oat flour (Buy It, $9, adds a slight chewiness. Try the healthy baking ingredient in cookies, like oatmeal raisin, for double the amount of oaty goodness.
  • Rye flour (Buy It, $9, has a flavor that's a little malty and slightly sour — in a good way. It pairs perfectly with anything chocolate, says Chang. Try the healthy baking flour in double-chocolate cookies or brownies.
  • Spelt flour (Buy It, $11, gives baked goods a nutty taste and aroma. Chang loves it in pie dough and fruit scones.
  • Whole wheat flour (Buy It, $4, brings a firm texture, a light nutty flavor, and a golden color to baked goods. This healthy baking ingredient works especially well in blueberry muffins and banana bread.

Swap Out Some Sugar

Even if something is meant to be a sweet treat, it doesn't need to be packed with sugar. "You can cut the amount of sugar in your recipes by one-third and you won't even notice it's missing," says Chang. To put this healthy baking trick to the test, "just use more of the other key ingredients, like cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla, for balance," she adds.

Add Some Salt

OK, this might not be a healthy baking hack, per se, but it does make your better-for-you treats taste even more delicious. "Salt highlights the flavors in sweets and especially accentuates chocolate, vanilla, and citrus notes," says Chang. Start with at least 1/4 teaspoon of salt, then taste and adjust as you go.

Brownies with walnuts, made with healthy baking hacks

Mix in Healthy Baking Ingredients

These nutrient-packed additions introduce new flavors and supply texture, Chang says.

  • Tahini (Buy It, $10, Stir or swirl a spoonful of the healthy baking spread into batter before baking. Or whisk a little into a glaze, then drizzle on top of cooled cakes or cookies.
  • Cacao nibs (Buy It, $7, This healthy baking ingredient gives desserts crunch and a rich chocolate note without extra sugar. Sprinkle them on top of shortbread cookies or brownies.
  • Nuts (Buy It, $13, They're great in batters or sprinkled on top of baked goods. Just remember to toast them first to deepen their flavor, says Chang.
  • Millet (Buy It, $11, This small seed is an excellent source of fiber. Stir the healthy baking ingredient uncooked into cookies or quick breads, or think of it as a healthy sprinkle and scatter it over them before baking.
  • Coconut (Buy It, $14, Even the unsweetened kind adds a natural sweetness to baked goods. Use it as a healthy baking ingredient in cookies or cakes, or make it a decoration by sprinkling on top of glazes or gently pressing into buttercream frosting.

Pastry Love: A Baker's Journal of Favorite Recipes

Pastry Love by Joanne Chang
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