All the diet-conscious baking I have been dabbling into paid off this week when a friend asked me to bake some goodies for her friend–the Director of a well known modeling agency–to share with his office.
For this, I wanted to focus on fresh ingredients that would bring a lot of flavor without a lot of fat. From left to right, they were: coconut layer cake with guava filling and tofu cream cheese frosting; lemon layer cake with homemade lemon-yuzu curd filling and shiso leaf; and almond spice layer cake with mango mousse filling. I also made a box of my signature vegan banana carob brownies.
Here are some guidelines for giving your own favorite recipes a healthy makeover:
• Use pureed fresh fruit to replace some of the sugar in a recipe and add flavor.
• You can also substitute 1 ¼ cup brown rice syrup for every cup of sugar in the recipe. It is a natural alternative to sugar and is less sweet. It also metabolizes more slowly so that you don’t get the spike—and subsequent crash—in energy that comes from regular sugar. Agave syrup works the same way, but is slightly more expensive.
• Decrease or omit butter in a recipe by adding other ingredients to give moisture and richness, like fruit puree, ground nuts or seeds, or small amounts of canola or olive oil.
• Nuts, when ground fine in a food processor, can also be used as a substitute for flour to make gluten-free cakes. Almonds and hazelnuts both make delicious cakes when used in conjunction with brown rice flour, which you can make at home by grinding the rice in a food processor or blender until it becomes a fine powder. Use a ratio of 1:2 for lighter cakes, and 1:1 for denser, richer cakes.
• For vegan cakes, you can substitute vegetable oil for butter and coconut milk for milk. Since coconut milk has its own fat, you can also decrease the amount of oil added to the recipe ¼ of a cup for every cup of coconut milk added.
• Look for products that have minimal or no preservatives and additives. Also, stick to ingredients that are the least processed, like unbleached flour or sea salt.
• Tofu adds body (and protein) to frosting when substituted for butter. Here’s a simple and really yummy recipe for chocolate tofu frosting. But keep in mind the following, which I learned the hard way: confectioner’s sugar has the OPPOSITE effect on tofu than it does on butter. Instead of thickening, it will create a runny, gooey mess. Use a small amount of agave syrup instead.
• To thicken mousse without egg yolks or gelatin, you can use agar flakes, which are odorless and flavorless–even though they are derived from seaweed. For every leaf of gelatin called for, substitute ¾ tablespoon agar flakes (I know, random, but it works). Next time I think I’ll try to grind the flakes to a powder for a smoother consistency.
Stay tuned for my vegan brownie recipe!