In the pursuit of more healthful baking, you can try substituting a variety of ingredients -- applesauce, yogurt, vegetable purees and egg whites -- for butter, oil and whole eggs, but don't expect the results to be exactly the same. Using applesauce, for example, usually creates softer baked goods. When in doubt, stick with the original recipe and serve smaller portions to control calories and fat intake.
What to Expect
Add applesauce to your arsenal of low-fat baking weapons, but be prepared for slight changes in texture and taste. Applesauce in general gives baked goods a soft, cake-like texture, which is why it works best in cakes and quick breads. Cookies made with applesauce will have a moist, fluffy texture rather than a crisp or chewy texture. Brownies lack their characteristic dense, fudgy texture and become more cake-like.
Although using applesauce usually results in softer baked goods, there are two situations in which using applesauce may make a baked good hard. One of the purposes of oil or butter in quick breads is to coat the flour proteins so gluten doesn't form when wet and dry ingredients are mixed together. Applesauce isn't as effective as fat at this job, so it's especially important to mix the wet and dry ingredients separately and then stir them together with a light hand. If you overmix muffins and quick breads, they may become tough. Another potential problem is overcooking. Baked goods made with applesauce appear moister, even when they're cooked through. Because they lack fat, they may cook faster than they normally would. Begin checking baked goods made with applesauce 10 minutes before the recipe suggests. Insert a toothpick in the center of the cake or bread. The baked good is done when the toothpick comes out clean. Don't make the mistake of overcooking them, which will cause them to dry out and become hard.
Tips for Success
If you want to substitute applesauce for butter or oil, start with moist cakes and quick breads, such as carrot cake, banana bread or pumpkin bread. Replace half the fat with applesauce. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup oil, use 1/2 cup applesauce and 1/2 cup oil. If you're happy with the results, slowly substitute more applesauce for oil, eventually replacing the oil completely. Use a glass measuring cup for measuring out applesauce, and opt for unsweetened varieties. If you use applesauce that contains sugar, reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe.
It would be nice if you could substitute applesauce for fat in every recipe, but chances are, you're just not going to be satisfied with the results. Cookie and brownie recipes especially don't respond well to tinkering. To reduce the fat slightly while keeping cookies crisp, add a bit of corn syrup to the dough. In some cases, substituting a bit of yogurt for part of the butter works much better than using applesauce.