Lower the Carbs - Keep the Flavor

Dieters have maligned carbohydrates for decades. Some health experts say that eating too many carbohydrates can spike your body’s insulin response,setting you up for patterns of overeating and weight gain. The good news is that you can reduce carbohydrates (and calories) in desserts without sacrificing texture or flavor.

Most of the carbohydrates in desserts come from sugar and flour. If you’re really carbophobic, you may count fruit too. But there are so many beneficial nutrients in fruit that many nutritionists recommend reducing refined carbohydrates like sugar and flour rather then unrefined carbohydrates like fruit. Here’s how to change the amount and/or type of sugar and flour in your favorite dessert recipes to cut back on carbohydrates:

  • Reduce sugar. If you’ve been following the same cake recipe for 20 years, chances are the sugar in the recipe is unnecessarily high. In many older recipes (written before the 1970s when nutritional concerns hit it big in America), the sugar can be reduced by about 1/2 cup, which drops approximately 96 grams of carbs and 360 calories. To enhance flavor, add grated lemon or orange zest or vanilla. So-called “sweet” spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves may also help to enhance the sweet flavor in desserts made with less sugar.
  • Sweeten with spreadable fruit. In fruit desserts, you can replace some of the sugar with 100% fruit spreads. Sweetened with fruit juice instead of sugar, these spreads will lower carbs, increase beneficial nutrients, and boost the fruit flavor. Replace up to half of the sugar with spreadable fruit in crisps and crumbles, fruit pies and tarts, compotes, and fruit soufflés.
  • Use brown instead of white sugar. Brown sugar is granulated sugar mixed with molasses, which lowers the carbs slightly. For every 1/2 cup of brown sugar used in place of white, you’ll skip 30 grams of carbohydrates. Brown sugar works particularly well in chocolate desserts, as molasses intensifies the flavor of chocolate. It also adds moisture and tenderness to baked desserts such as cookies and cakes that are made with less fat.


Banana Loaf Cake

No matter what type of banana cake you’re making, only one thing is really essential: The bananas have to be really ripe, or you might as well use potatoes. Of course, many of us don’t get the urge to make a banana-flavored cake or bread until we have some over-ripe bananas hanging around. If you have to buy the bananas especially for a baking project, make sure to let them ripen at least until they are covered with spots, I even like them a little beyond that point for a really rich banana flavor. Another key to excellent banana flavor is to mash them well with a fork or potato masher don’t puree them in a food processor or blender, the small pieces of banana left behind from had mashing pack a lot of flavor.

One 9 x 5 x 3-inch cake, about ten 3/4-inch thick slices

2 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 5 large, very ripe bananas - mash then measure)

One 9 x 5 x 3 -inch loaf pan, sprayed with vegetable cooking spray and the sprayed surface coated with fine, dry breadcrumbs

  1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  2. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites to break them up, then whisk in the sugar and the brown sugar.
  4. Whisk in the butter and vanilla, followed by the mashed bananas.
  5. Sift the flour mixture over the banana mixture and thoroughly fold it in.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  7. Bake the cake for about 55 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean.
  8. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then unmold it and cool completely on a rack.

Serving: This cake is excellent unadorned, or can be spread with a little low-fat cream cheese.

Storage: Keep the cake wrapped in plastic at room temperature after it has cooled. For longer storage, double wrap and freeze for up to a month. Defrost and bring to room temperature before serving.

Pumpkin Loaf Cake

Here, the pumpkin puree works to retain moisture and provide tenderness as applesauce does in other recipes.

Makes one 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf cake, about 12 3/4-inch thick servings

2 1/4 cups cake flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 large egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as corn or canola
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

One 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan, sprayed with vegetable cooking spray

  1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  2. Stir the cake flour together with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Sift once onto a piece of wax paper.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the egg to break it up, then whisk in the sugar and brown sugar. Whisk for a minute to lighten. Whisk in the oil, pumpkin, and buttermilk.
  4. Sift the flour mixture over the pumpkin mixture, and use a large rubber spatula to thoroughly fold the two mixtures together.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  6. Bake the cake for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until it is well risen and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean.
  7. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then unmold it to the rack and cool completely.

Serving: This makes a perfect breakfast or brunch cake. Spread a slice with low-fat cream cheese, or serve with a dollop of Maida’s Skinny Whipped Cream.

Storage: Keep under a cake dome on the day it is baked. Double-wrap leftovers in plastic. Or double-wrap and freeze for up to a month. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Variation:
Pumpkin Spice Muffins: These are perfect cakey muffins. Line a 12-cavity muffin pan with paper liners. Divide the batter among the cavities in the pan and sprinkle a few hulled pumpkin seeds on each one if you wish. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Serve warm, or wrap in foil and reheat for 10 minutes at 350 degrees before serving.