Cooking How-to: Low-Fat Desserts

Recipes and tips for making great tasting, low-fat desserts
Cooking How to Low Fat Desserts
Because they're concentrated, extracts lend a lot of flavor. So while you might use a vanilla bean in a traditional recipe, go for vanilla extract when trying to impart the most flavor in a recipe with reduced fat and/or sugar, such as our Broiled Mixed Berries with Vanilla Custard Sauce.

Go ahead: love your chocolate
Chocolate lovers, take heart — cocoa is a fat-free, low-calorie food. Remember: With chocolate, quality counts. Professional pastry chefs love Dutch-process and natural cocoa (available at health-food stores) for their smoother, fuller chocolate taste. Recipes that combine cocoa powder and chocolate are sure to deliver a rich, intense chocolate experience, as will these Chocolate Brownies.

And chocolate syrup, while it may be high in sugar, is fat-free. A little goes a long way towards satisfying a chocolate craving, as in this Chocolate Egg Cream.

The fruit factor
Getting the most satisfaction for your PointsPlus values is key. In desserts that call for fresh fruit, use herbs and spices that pack a powerful punch. Ginger, lavender, even basil, tarragon and fresh black pepper can enhance the flavors of fruit in intriguing, palate-pleasing ways. For example, the sharpness of pepper highlights the sweetness of the berries in this recipe for Balsamic Strawberries.

Make sure to splurge on fruit at the peak of freshness — it can make the difference between so-so and sensational results. Roasting or broiling is another great way to coax additional flavor out of fruit, since the concentrated and caramelized sugars add an extra layer of complexity. Want to taste this for yourself? Try our Spiced Broiled Pears.

The replacements: Don't forgo the fat
One of the things our taste buds love about dessert is its richness. Eliminating fat altogether limits the satisfying sensation known as mouth feel, and may actually cause you to eat more. Instead, replace full-fat ingredients such as sour cream, milk and cream cheese with equivalent amounts of their low-fat counterparts as we did in this Lemon-Raspberry Pound Cake.

Another way to reduce fat — especially in moist cakes, muffins and quick breads that call for oil — is to use fruit purees. Mashed bananas, applesauce, and even sweet potato or mango can often take the place of some of the oil in a recipe, says Phillips. You want to leave in some fat to preserve crumb, texture and lightness — nobody wants a bouncing ball instead of a muffin — but it's easy to substitute half the oil for pureed fruit. Give these Apricot-Oat Bran Muffins a try.

Another tip? Don't be afraid to include rich ingredients as long as you use them sparingly: A small dollop of whipped cream, a few chocolate shavings or a sprinkle of crushed, toasted nuts can be a flavorful touch to any dessert.

Great grains
The benefits of cooking with healthy whole grains apply to desserts as well. To boost the fiber content and lower the PointsPlus values in some baked goods, halve the white flour and substitute whole-wheat, says Sharon Wieder, a nutritionist in private practice in Teaneck, NJ. In double-crusted pies, think about letting an oatmeal mixture stand in for the top layer. And use wholesome oats and grains to top fruit desserts in lieu of less nutritious flour-and-butter mixtures. You'll feel satisfied without sacrificing flavor. Check out this mouthwatering recipe for Apple Pie.

More low-fat baking tips:

  • Use cooking spray instead of oil or butter when greasing baking pans.
  • Substitute one whole egg and one egg white for two whole eggs (in most recipes) or use a low-fat liquid egg replacement.
  • Use sugar substitutes to reduce PointsPlus values, but preserve sweetness.
  • Treat batters gently, as lower-fat batters tend to yield tougher baked goods if they're overmixed.

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