(EDITOR'S NOTE: Below is the first column in a monthly series featuring recipes and advice by Chef Hosch and Ann. Their column will be published on the first Wednesday of each month.)
Q: Chef, I love to bake but I am looking for healthier, lower fat alternatives for traditional cookie favorites. Any ideas or tips?
A: Cookies are a challenge to lighten up because it is the fat in butter, margarine and shortening that helps give them their yummy taste and texture.
One way to lighten up your cookies is to replace half the fat with pureed fruit. Applesauce is often used in light cookie recipes but apple butter, pureed pears, apricots or prunes are all good choices. You can make your own fruit puree by cutting dried fruit into pieces, add one cup of water or no sugar added fruit juice and cook over low heat until the fruit is soft enough to puree in a food processor. Baby food fruit is a good alternative to making the fruit puree yourself. There are lots of varieties to choose from at your favorite grocery store.
You can also substitute yogurt for some of the fat, but it is a little trickier to figure out the right amount. When a recipe calls for butter, replace half the butter with half as much yogurt. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, use 1/2 cup of butter and 1/4 cup of yogurt. If a recipe calls for two cups of butter, use 1 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of yogurt. Greek yogurt works best because it has a lower moisture content than regular yogurt.
Don't try to reduce the fat content of your cookies even more by using low fat butter or margarine. They contain a high percentage of water and air. The cookies won't taste anything like the traditional recipe.
Another problem with light cookies is that they don't brown as well as cookies made with all the traditional high fat, high sugar ingredients. If you add a little baking soda, in addition to the other leavening agents in the recipe, it will help the cookies bake to a golden brown.
Corn syrup browns at a lower temperature than sugar so it produces a crispier, evenly browned cookie. If you are concerned about the suspected health risks associated with corn syrup, as little as a tablespoon substituted for sugar can make a difference.
There are two sugar substitutes that we highly recommend; organic coconut sugar and agave (amber or raw). Neither of these sweeteners raise the glycemic index as much as sugar or honey. Coconut sugar can be substituted in equal parts for regular sugar. Agave is a little trickier. The ratio for substitution is available on the package or is easily found online, and it tends to dry out when baked.
You also can substitute 2 egg whites for 1 whole egg to cut down on cholesterol. Egg whites also tend to make a crispier cookie.
Cookies made with honey or brown sugar will stay moist longer because both of these sweeteners absorb moisture. One way to help keep soft, chewy cookies moist is to place the cookies and several slices of fresh bread in a sealed container. The cookies will absorb the moisture from the bread. Make sure you don't over bake.
Melt any butter in your recipe in a small saucepan and simmer until it just begins to darken. When adding nuts to your baked good, toast them slightly in the oven. These two tips heighten the natural flavors.
Here are two recipes you can try for healthier, lower fat variations of traditional favorites.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2cup unsweetened applesauce or other pureed fruit
3/4 cup organic coconut sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose white flour
1 whole egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chips
Driedfruit, chopped nuts, cocoa powder (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix flours and baking soda together in a medium sized bowl. Cream the butter and sugar to form a paste. Add the pureed fruit, eggs and vanilla. Mix until just blended. Add flour mixture, dry ingredients and chocolate chips. Blend until mixed. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto a cookie sheet lightly sprayed with nonfat cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Cookies should be about two inches apart. Bake about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 whole egg
2 egg whites
2/3 cup agave (or 3/4 cup organic coconut sugar)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine pumpkin, egg and egg whites in a medium sized bowl. Combine dry ingredients and dried fruit in a large bowl. Add the pumpkin mixture. Mix until blended. Drop cookies by tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet lightly sprayed with nonfat cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Slightly flatten the cookies. Bake about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Q: Chef, I am going to have a houseful of guests Sunday morning. Any menu ideas that will give me an opportunity to visit with my guests and not spend all of my time in the kitchen?
A: The key to a relaxed morning brunch is planning your menu around dishes that can be prepared the night before and popped in the oven in the morning. Egg dishes are good choices for brunch. Stratas, frittatas, omelets and quiches are all egg dishes that can be prepared, at least in part, the night before. What's the difference between these dishes?
A frittata is an Italian dish, very much like an omelet. It is cooked on the stove top like an omelet but it is usually not "single serving" size and is a good choice for serving a crowd.
The filling in a frittata is mixed in with the egg but an omelet is wrapped around the filling. Since fritattas are thicker and have more egg than a single serving omelet, they are often finished off under the broiler or in the oven for a few minutes. Cut the fritatta in wedges to serve.
Strattas and quiches are similar dishes. They are both baked in the oven.
The filling is mixed into the eggs in both. A quiche is baked in a pie crust while a stratta is poured over torn pieces of day old Italian or Ciabatta bread.
Vegetables, cheese, and meat are used as the filling for all these egg dishes. It will bring out the flavor of the vegetables if you grill them for a bit before adding to the egg mixture.
If you are preparing the egg mixture the night before, make sure the vegetables are cooled before adding them to the eggs. If you are sauteing meat to add to your recipe, make sure it is fully cooked and then cooled before adding to the egg mixture.
For a lower cholesterol egg dish, use an egg substitute (made with egg whites) in place of some of the whole eggs. You also can use the whites of fresh whole eggs separated from the yolk.
Choose lower fat varieties of meats like sausage and bacon or use turkey products. Use lower fat cheeses and plenty of vegetables.
Below is one of my favorite quiche recipes. The crust is made with layers of phyllo dough rather than the traditional pie crust. A sheet of phyllo dough has only 57 calories and it is delicious.
This recipe is easy to prepare and will give you a chance to enjoy your guests rather than spending most of your time in the kitchen.
This recipe is for one quiche, but you can double or triple the recipe if you are feeding more guests.
Feel free to alter the ingredients for variety and to accommodate all tastes and appetites.
3/4 cup milk
3 egg whites
1 cup pre-cooked turkey sausage
1 cup shredded low fat cheese
1/4cup chopped red pepper
6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 sheets phyllo dough
Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl.
Whip the milk and eggs together and then add the rest of the ingredients.
Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning, place three sheets of phyllo dough in a 9 inch glass pie pan. I strongly recommend using a glass pie pan.
Layer the phyllo dough sheets, one at a time, brushing the dough with olive oil. Don't crimp the crust. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 375 degrees or until the eggs are set.
Submit cooking questions for Chef Hosch and Ann by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 850-9843. Visit them on their Facebook page, Chef Hosch & Ann Catering, Inc. for their latest cooking tips, recipes and videos. Their column will be published on the first Wednesday of each month.
Chef Hosch and Ann
Chef Hosch and Ann are a husband and wife team devoted to healthy and gourmet cooking and catering. Ann is gluten intolerant and an occupational therapist, who has worked as a cook and baker prior to meeting Hosch.
Chef Hosch is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y., and brings more than 25 years of experience and passion to his culinary arts. His work as executive chef in hospitals has honed his skills for anyone with special diets as well as cooking for large crowds. Chef Hosch and Ann specialize in creating fabulous foods for all tastes and diets.