When you're trying to reduce the fat content of your baked goods, cut back on the oil and use canned pumpkin instead. Pumpkin's distinct flavor won't work for every recipe, but when it does -- you'll have a healthier treat with a higher vitamin A and fiber content.
The fat in oil provides essential moisture to baked goods. It also gives them a fine texture, enhances browning and encourages a tender, rather than tough, crumb. Pureed pumpkin, along with other fruit or vegetable purees such as applesauce or pear puree, can provide some of these same qualities without the calories and high fat content. Pumpkin puree works as a substitute for much of the oil in muffins, quick breads, fruit cakes and, sometimes, cookies.
Pumpkin adds a mild vegetable essence to baked goods. Pumpkin works particularly well in baked goods flavored with typical pumpkin pie spices, including cinnamon, cloves, ginger and allspice. It also adds a depth of flavor to chocolate products, even brownies and devil's food cake. Pumpkin may add an overwhelming flavor to some recipes, especially those that have another fruit flavor that you want to showcase. For example, you're better off with neutral-tasting applesauce as a sub for oil in a banana bread or blueberry muffins.
Substitute pumpkin puree for up to 3/4 of the amount of oil called for in a recipe. Stir it in when you add the other wet ingredients. If the batter seems dry, add a little more puree to moisten the batter. Opt for plain pumpkin, rather than pumpkin pie filling, if you use a canned version. You can buy pumpkin pie filling in sweetened and spiced versions, which could throw off the final taste of your recipe.
A batter made with pumpkin puree instead of oil bakes faster. Start checking your recipe for doneness 10 minutes sooner than usual. The texture of your final product will also be slightly denser than if you made the recipe with oil. To increase the sugar content slightly, try using a fine cake flour or whip the egg whites into a foam and fold into the batter in an effort to preserve lightness. Adding more sugar, though, isn't going to contribute to the health quality of your baked goods.
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.
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