If you sneak an extra cookie or muffin from your next batch, you may feel less guilty if you've added flax seeds. These tiny nutritional powerhouses can boost the omega 3 and fiber status of baked goods. Use flax seeds to stand in for oil or eggs, or add the seeds to enhance the flavor and texture of quick breads and sweets. Whole or ground seeds may be added, but only ground seeds provide a nutritional benefit.
Flax as Eggs
Flax seed can stand in for an egg if you're out or if you're leaving eggs out for an allergy or ethical reason. When mixed with water, ground flax seeds turn gummy and act to bind a batter just as eggs do. Use 1 tablespoon of ground flax with 3 tablespoons of water for each egg in a recipe; allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes to develop an egg-like viscosity. The substitute works best in hearty baked goods, such as muffins, quick breads, cookies and pancakes -- but not well in pastries or light cakes. Flax does add a nutty taste to these goods and may create a slightly denser crumb.
Flax as Oil
Use flax seed instead of oil in your next baked good recipe. A 3-to-1 ratio of seeds to oil is recommended by the Flax Council of Canada. For example, if your next batch of bran muffins calls for 1/3 cup of vegetable oil, use 1 cup of ground flax seed instead. Your batter may seem dryer, and the product will brown much more quickly in the oven. If the batter is just too thick, add a bit of applesauce or extra water to thin it out; how much you add depends on the qualities of the specific recipe.
Substitution for Some Flour
Flax seed meal can replace up to a quarter of the flour in baked good recipes. For example, if your chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for 2 cups of flour, use 1/2 cup ground flax seeds and 1 1/2 cup flour instead. Again, this substitution works best in denser, hearty batters rather than in airy batters. The earthy flavor of flax seeds and their heavier quality would weigh down delicate treats. Using flax seed for flour also hastens the browning of baked goods, so they may require several minutes fewer in the oven or a lower oven temperature.
Sprinkle in Flax
Your body cannot break down flax seeds, so they must be ground to release their high-quality fats and fiber. However, if you're simply after a satisfying crunch and nutty flavor, bake with whole flax seeds. Stir a few tablespoons of whole seeds into cookie, quick bread or muffin batter -- no need to alter the other ingredients. Alternatively, sprinkle whole flax seeds on top of a muffin or quick bread to add an attractive garnish, crunchiness and nutty flavor. Monitor these baked goods carefully as they bake, though, as the seeds have a tendency to burn if exposed to a too-high temperature.
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Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.