I see that my post yesterday struck quite a chord! I’m glad to raise the discussion, though I wish I didn’t have to do so. I also wish we could all enjoy all the holiday baked treats that we can create, but alas…
I realized that I had nothing exciting to tell you about in the food world (well, that is a rash generalization, but you know what I mean). And then I thought about what would be the most pertinent and relevant post for right now, and I realized: baking. We are all approaching the holidays, when we will be surrounded by family, friends, and tasty (we hope) treats. For some, that doesn’t phase them at all–see a cookie, pick it up, all day long, you’ll have good luck! (See what I did there? Oh, Frenchie… Grease is the world. I know that Gabi knows 😉 )
But for others, holidays have another layer of anxiety attached to them. Whether the worry be related to calories/macros or intolerances/digestive issues, we should all be able to enjoy this time of Thanksgiving and rare “forced family fun,” as we say in my house. So I dug into the Suzlyfe archives and found a post that I wrote on Baking Staples in my life. I hope that you find it helpful and I would love to have your contributions!
Repost from Feb 7, 2014. Original Post. The follow has edits in italics.
Welcome to the SUZLYFE and the continuing discussion of healthy and creative eating, baking, and snacking in the midst of crazy-busy lives. Based on the response from last week, you all are really loving the quick and easy bread recipes! Well, I am nothing if not one who aims to please and cater to your every needs (hello, waitress), so I thought I would oblige with a few more this week! I am so happy that people are finding my recipes inspiring and accessible. I wanted to go into a bit more detail about my baking staples, having recently discussed both leisure and work fueling and meal-component staples. Baking tends to be much more finicky, and so substituting different ingredients can produce DRASTICALLY different results. So, no outright recipe today (Check out my Sweet Potato Turkeyherd’s Pie from Wednesday if you do!) but more recipe prep, as it were!
I will go ahead and apologize for some of the pics, these recipes were created before I had the mindset that I might one day be sharing them with the world! I will update the pics as I get the chance to make them in the future.
These are the ingredients that I use the most in such recipes, and that, as long as I have them on hand, I am ready to bake!
Staples in my baking repertoire:
First, a few bonus ingredients (the must haves are below)
Also, this bread froze perfectly. I thawed it out and enjoyed it like it was brand new a few weeks ago!
*The Big Z (zucchini)
I adore baking with zucchini. I also love to eat it in general, but that is neither her nor there. If you are worried that your creations will be overly vegetable-y, fear not!! I would liken baking with zucchini to making a smoothie with spinach—it, increases moisture and lends body, consistency, and vitamins without heft and does so without impacting taste (unless you make a zucchini loaf/fritter. It can easily be disguised by other flavors, or played up (if that is your fancy). For smaller recipes (such as my 12 muffin zucchini pumpkin goji protein muffins) 1.5 cups of shredded zucchini is plenty.
But the glory of zucchini is that you can easily adjust the amount without worrying too much about how it will impact the resulting creation: unlike baking soda-flour ratios, the ratio of zucchini-flour, etc is more based on preference, and you can treat it more as a neutral ingredient. Again, the one consideration to keep in mind is the impact on moisture content, so pay more attention to you wet ingredients, and aim for a slightly thicker batter before adding in the zucchini. This is especially true if you are unable to sufficiently dry out the zucchini prior to baking. I like to shred the zucchini in my food processor, move to a strainer lined with paper towel or cheese cloth, give it a gentle press, flip, repeat, change out paper towel (if necessary), repeat and then let sit in fresh paper towels. I have had great luck when using freshly shredded Z and also Z that has sat in the fridge overnight.
If you don’t like zucchini to the point that you can’t stomach even trying to bake with it, give carrots a whirl! Here it is important to remember that carrots have a MUCH higher sugar content—you will likely not need to add as much sugar, and they are less neutral in batters than zucchini.
Try my Banana Chip Protein Muffins!
Pumpkin is finicky, or can be. It will affect your baking times, your consistency, the flavor of the finished product (yes, it will taste of pumpkin, especially if there is pumpkin pie spice in it, dur. It is very similar to banana in that way, though banana adds a GREAT DEAL more sweetness than pumpkin). Canned pumpkin puree is the way to go—know that if you are using fresh pumpkin, you cannot expect consistent moisture content from episode to episode. You’d be flying blind! In my experience with baking with pumpkin, it adds great moisture and density but isn’t overly heavy.
However, I have had trouble with undercooked centers in breads, and this is something that continues to plague me. It is MUCH easier to bake with pumpkin (at least for me) in muffin form. There is far less risk that you will have an overcooked outer and undercooked center. Also, pumpkin is the ingredient that cries “wolf” until it is too late. You will toothpick test that sucker again and again until, guess what? You have a rock on your hands after cooling. I say treat it like chicken—I cook my chicken until just before I think it is done, remove it from heat, let it sit. The residual warmth finishes the cooking process, going from just-under to done, rather than taking it from done to overdone, and the juices get the chance to redistribute. Now, it took me a while to get to the point of doing this well and consistently, and pumpkin is the same way. But, just like a really good, juicy, on-temperature chicken/beef/pork/fish, it is so, so worth it.
Brown Sugar and Maple Syrup (real or fake)
Basically, it is the Macgyver of the baking kitchen. It is simply sugar+molasses, so feel free to use it to replace the two when you need to!! Maple syrup is great too, and also fab if you need just a titch more moisture. I don’t use honey because I have a tendency towards a taste-aversion with it (I had to use it to take one of my medications, so I have bad associations with it). But, as always, use what you like.
Spices to have on hand? Salt, vanilla, cinnamon. Basis of just about every recipe or incorporated in some way, be it through stevia or the salt inherent in the cottage cheese.
And Now for the 5 Ingredients for Ready to Go Baking
1A) Greek Yogurt
It is very rare that I will bake a “healthy” recipe without the inclusion of either greek yogurt or cottage cheese. Seriously. All of my protein pancake recipes include them, I don’t remember the last protein bread/muffin/cookie that I made without them. I will sometimes bake with just one or the other, but I often split the necessary ratio of milk components in a recipe and go half-and-half.
And trust me when I say that greek yogurt and zucchini are matches made in heaven for baking—the yogurt gives density, the zucchini lightens the creation and lends moisture. When cooking with greek yogurt, it is important to make sure that your wet ingredients are thoroughly combined before you add them to the dry, and then to focus more on folding rather than mixing the batter. I think of it like a fold and spread method. The decreased viscosity created by the yogurt will keep the wet aspect from filling in the cracks of the batter and self distributing, at least in my experience. The fold-and-spread method ensure that you integrate the ingredients without overworking the batter (and allows you to scrape the bottom of the bowl to get any dry ingredients left down there). Another great benefit to Greek Yogurt??? It acts in place of buttermilk/lemon juice/etc when cooking with baking soda (to create the necessary chemical reaction that produces the lift)! One downside? You will note an increase in tanginess in flavor—combat this by only replacing a fraction of the called-for milk with yogurt, or go splitsies with Cottage Cheese!
1B) Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is very similar to greek yogurt, at least with regards to ratios when baking. I will say, however, that it will yield different results! I have found that cottage cheese (because I don’t buy whipped, only small curd CCheese) creates these great little pockets of pillowing creaminess, and often creates more rise and airiness in the finished product, particularly if the batter requires baking soda and another acid. Unlike greek yogurt, cottage cheese will not impact the flavor so much, so you don’t have to plan to combat it with increased sweeteners or whatever. But watch out for salt content. Cottage cheese, unless you are able to find the no-salt-added varieties, is rather high in sodium, so you don’t need to add the extra salt to recipes. This is another reason that I often work with Ccheese in conjunction with other milk products.
And just like with milk, different fat contents will result in different results! Remember that the lower the fat content, the more water in the yogurt/ccheese, so the greater likelihood of it releasing more water as it bakes, thus affecting baking time and density.
2) Apple Cider Vinegar
Whooooo ACV. 2 years ago, I had never touched the stuff. Now I use it every day, and I cook and bake with it allllll the time. Use it instead of lemon juice when you are cooking with baking soda to provide the necessary chemical reaction (baking soda requires an acid to react). I have found that ACV can have an effect on taste (you will notice a tanginess, almost a fermented-esque flavor, if you have too much of it and too much sweetening at the same time. Once you’ve done this once, you will know EXACTLY what I am talking about.). I rarely measure the amount of ACV that I use, but it typically around 1 T, or a “spill” into the bowl.
If you use the right amount of it (and don’t get the apple cider wine effect), the ACV will lend a faintly fruity note to the finished product, and a lighter taste (it is hard to describe). But I will say that the recipes that I have made with ACV have the best springy texture within and excellent lift—an aspect that you will be SO HAPPY to accomplish when using heavier/denser flours like Chickpea, whole wheat, and protein powders. One note of warning—when cooking with both greek yogurt and ACV, beware of being too tangy, but do NOT combat the tanginess by adding more white-sugar-sweetness (fermentation effect). Instead, use brown sugars and deeper maple syrups to help ground the flavor. The molasses in brown sugar and the maple notes do not seem to heighten the ACV to create the sickly-sweetness that occurs with white sugar or stevia. Reduce the amount of white sugar that you are planning to use and replace with brown sugar.
Another note—I would recommend adding ginger powder to recipes with ACV! Ginger + Cinnamon (+ dash Nutmeg/Cloves + Cayenne) + brown sugar/Maple = MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN
3) Baking Powder and Baking Soda
These are two things that still give me trouble sometimes. Baking soda requires an acid for chemical lift (see above), while baking powder is more neutral. Both can affect the taste of your final creation. I have seen recipes that call for tons, recipes that call for little. Joy of Baking goes into wonderful detail about these often misunderstood ingredients, so I will defer to her expertise. The one thing that I will emphasize, however, is make sure that you know which one you are supposed to use and always start with less, you can add more. If you don’t remember if it was a teaspoon, or a tablespoon, start with the teaspoon, work your way up.
4A) Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
I don’t buy whole wheat flour. I only go for Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. Doing so enables me to combat the density of protein powders and oats, and gives buoyancy to recipes
4B) Protein Powders
Yes, I use them, but not exclusively. I usually just substitute some of the called for flour with protein powders. Check out the myriad of recipes across the blogosphere for more on them, but know that ultimately, it is up to personal preference which ones you use. I have had the best luck thus far, I would say, with Designer Whey. Jackie Warner’s protein powder is utter crap to bake with. Just don’t.
Edited to add: I now would choose Skoop Viva-nilla B-Strong. See my review here. By far the best to bake with. I only use this at the moment!
5) Egg whites, with a note on whole eggs vs. egg whites vs. liquid eggs/egg whites.
I honestly think that there is a great deal of misinformation out there regarding how to properly substitute these ingredients. In my experience, ¼ cup liquid egg is NOT equivalent to 1 egg or whatever it says. Real egg binds completely differently in baking, and liquid egg has water in it. Macro-wise, they might be equivalent, but it will affect your batter. TRUST ME. This is EVEN MORE TRUE if you are subbing egg whites/liquid egg whites. 1 real egg white = about 1/8-1/6 cup liquid egg white. And don’t expect to be able to just take out the yolks—you will absolutely need to adjust the amount of liquid in your recipe to achieve the right consistency, or your risk a hockey puck with pockets of uncooked flour. Ain’tnobodygotimefodat.
And I know that I harp on this over and over, but the best way to figure out how to use these different ingredients is simply practice! Find what works for you, your oven, and your lifestyle. I often fail, but I’ve found that a little zap in the microwave, some spray butter/real butter, PB, jelly, syrup, a dash of salt, crumbing over ice cream, or soaking in some almond milk can solve virtually any issue. Except for coconut flour. I know a lot of people lllurve it, but it is the bane of my existence. I try, I really do, but it continues to plague me.
Stay tuned for more recipes!
Want more recipes? Check out my Recipe Page!
What do you like to have on hand?
What ingredients are you scared to use?
Do you find yourself subbing out ingredients? Do you have to? Chose to? Would never?