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Tips to help you bake lighter

December 22, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
When baking for the holidays you might be tempted to go sugar-free or low-fat in order to cut a few calories. But Cooking Light chef Billy Stringkowski says if you don't know what you're doing that could be a very bad idea.Some weight watchers choose low-fat pasta sauce or leaner cuts of beef, yet baking is a whole different story. As it turns out, altering the sugar or fat changes the chemistry or composition of the food, like using egg whites only when a cookie recipe calls for an egg.

"Your cookie might be a little flatter," says chef Strynkowski. "It might not be as crunchy, because there's no fat."

Butter is important to baking as it carries the rich flavors of the food and coats the protein in the flour. Sugar is also key as along with sweetening perfectly it adds moisture when it heats and acts as a tenderizer - keeping the pastry moist and soft.

While butter, sugar and eggs belong in baking, chef Strynkowski says you can use less and add other ingredients that are equally delicious.

"I'm a huge fan of baking and cooking with fat-free and 1/3 less fat cream cheeses because I think its undetectable," says chef Strynkowski.

It certainly surprised us in his pumpkin cream cheese bars. Chef Strynkowski used a smaller amount of toasted pecans to cut calories yet still provided a crunch topping for a smooth creamy dessert.

For his brown sugar and spice cookies, he upped the spice quotient and flattened out the cookie to get a treat that is crunchy and spicy for just 64 calories a cookie.

Chef Strynkowski's ginger cake has a trio of sweeteners - molasses, applesauce and sugar along with flaxseed meal - not seeds - that provides some fat and filler to the cake. You can find flaxseed meal at Albertsons and Ralphs grocery stores.

Chef Strynkowski encourages all who bake to experiment, but cautions that reducing or changing ingredients requires precise measurements and lots of practice before serving.

"You can rehearse it. Just make sure you don't rehearse it with your guests or on one of the major holidays," says chef Strynkowski.


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