One of my favourite classes back when I was studying nutrition was the food science class. I loved it because it combined my passion for food with my love of understanding how things work.
This food science class answered questions like:
…What happens to food when exposed to dry heat versus wet heat cooking methods?
…How does this affect flavour? Nutrient content?
…What’s caramelization and why does it happen?
We also learned the roles that ingredients such as sugar, fat and eggs play in baked goods. This was especially useful since it has helped me understand how to properly adjust ratios in my recipes without compromising the end result. One of the best tricks I ever learned? That you can use purees in baked goods to substitute certain ingredients without anyone the wiser!
Fruit and vegetable purees are commonly used as fat substitutes in baking. As a general rule, you can replace each cup of fat in a recipe with 1/2 -to 3/4 cup of a puree without compromising the result.
I’ve also found purees useful when I want to cut sugar in a recipe. Since sugar acts like a tenderizer in baked goods, adding a little puree when cutting down the sugar makes up for loss in tenderness with extra moisture. Add 1/4 cup of a puree when you’re reducing sugar by 1/2 and you shouldn’t need to make any other adjustments.
I’ve been using purees in my baking for years now and am growing my repertoire constantly.
Here are some of the purees I like to bake with:
- Veggie purees (beet, pumpkin, sweet potato, butternut squash, carrot) in brownies, muffins, cakes, scones, pancakes, baked oats, breads, loaves
- Fruit purees (apple, banana, pear, prune) in muffins, loaves, cakes, scones, baked oats, breads, pancakes
- Bean purees (black bean, white bean, chickpea) in brownies, cakes, cookies
Of course, when choosing your puree it’s important to consider the flavour and colour of your final product. Once you’ve settled on that, there’s nothing left but to have fun in the kitchen!
On that note, I thought we should celebrate this trick with a little treat. It is halloween, after all.
These fudgy flourless pumpkin brownies are a great way to make use of any post-halloween pumpkin you may have lying around and in case you’re wondering, they are as good as they look.
Which is important, because I don’t believe in healthifying if it isn’t satisfying!
Do you have a favourite baking trick you’d like to share? Please share in the comment section below.
Fudgy Flourless Pumpkin Brownies
*adapted from Beet Brownies, The Healthful Home Cook
Makes 12 brownies
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup organic cane sugar or granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup raw cacao
- 1/4 cup butter or coconut oil
- 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8 by 8 inch baking pan.
2. In a large bowl, combine the cacao powder and the sugar.
3. In a separate bowl stacked over boiling water, melt the butter and chocolate chips together. Once melted, remove from the heat and stir-in the pumpkin puree. Add this to the cocoa and sugar mixture and combine.
4. Next, stir in the eggs and vanilla extract.
5. Add the almond flour, salt and stir until almost combined. Fold in the nuts, being careful not to over mix.
6. Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for 30 minutes.
7. Let the brownies cool at least 20 minutes before slicing. Makes 9 large or 12 small brownies.