I find that certain weekend mornings are practically tailor-made for a muffin-and-coffee breakfast.
Sipping freshly brewed coffee and biting into homemade baked good on a cloudy autumn morning, watching the colorful foliage slowly float down from tree branches, is simultaneously comforting and delectable.
While many commercial baked goods are nutrition horror cliches (copious amounts of white flour, sugar, and unhealthy fats), homemade varieties can get a nutritional boost in a variety of ways.
These tips can be used when making muffins, brownies, and cookies:
1) Go whole or go home
Gone are the days when “whole grain baked goods” meant a dense, rubbery concoction akin to an E-Z Bake Oven creation.
The key to making light and fluffy 100% whole grain baked goods is to utilize either whole wheat pastry flour or whole wheat white flour.
You can fully replace a recipe’s white flour with either of these varieties.
Not only will the end result be higher in fiber, it will also contain more selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
2) Go alternative
Alternative flours can be quite pricey, but they’re a lot more affordable if you make them yourself!
Instead of purchasing oat flour (which, depending where you live, can be hard to track down), make your own by processing quick oats in a food processor.
FYI: One and a half cups of quick cooking oats yields one cup of oat flour.
Oat flour is high in soluble fiber (the kind that helps lower cholesterol and provides a feeling of fullness more quickly) and rich in phytonutrients.
One other FYI: oat flour can only replace, at most, half of the wheat flour in a given recipe.
Another favorite alternative flour of mine is almond meal.
You can also make this at home by pulverizing raw almonds in a food processor or coffee grinder until they achieve a powdery consistency.
Like oat flour, almond meal can replace up to half of the wheat flour in a given recipe.
Like whole almonds, almond meal is a good source of fiber, protein, vitamin E, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
You can even replace half a cup of flour in a recipe with half a cup of pure wheat germ for added fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
3) Get saucy
Unsweetened applesauce is a healthy baker’s ally.
You can replace anywhere from one half to three quarters of the fat called for in a recipe with unsweetened applesauce and no one will be the wiser.
The applesauce won’t disrupt flavors, but will add plenty of moisture to your baked goods.
4) Sprinkle away
Whenever I make pancake or muffin batter, I like to add two or three tablespoons of oat bran and ground flaxseeds.
Not only do they impart a hearty and nutty flavor, they also add extra nutrition in a pinch.
5) Sugar? Think Beyond The White Stuff
When it comes to sweetening, think natural first.
Raisins, blueberries, bananas, and fresh pineapple add sweetness — and great flavor — to recipes while also delivering nutrition.
In my experience, you can halve the added sugar (whether in the form of white sugar, brown sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup, etc.) in conventional recipes and still have a tasty baked good.
When reducing sugar, make up for it by adding nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla, almond, and/or coconut extract to the batter.