Sunday, December 9, 2007

As I have mentioned before, in exactly one week my church is holding a craft/bake sale to raise money for next year's mission trip to Malaysia. Since I (obviously) enjoy baking, I plan to contribute some goodies to the effort. My first phase, the lemon berry scones, were a great success. Since then, however, I have had a series of mediocre and misses roll out of my oven as I attempt to make tasty but healthy (at least, more or less healthy) cookies.

I think I have figured out what the problem is. You see, I love cookies. In fact, I love desserts. I am the rather sad owner of a massive sweet tooth, or perhaps an entire mouthful of them. I could sit down and eat an entire box of Oreos or an apple pie or a gallon of ice cream. Of course, I would feel rather sick after such an adventure, but I could make it most of the way through a large package of any dessert without feeling the effects too strongly. So I bake with great care and some trepidation. I am afraid that, upon producing a particularly tasty batch of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, I will eat every last one of said tasty cookies. And then will come the self-disgust, guilt, and, of course, the inevitable aching belly. As a result, I bake items that either are nutritionally redeemable (such as multi-grain muffins, scones, or breads) or are something I won't like and thus won't nibble at (although this is a very rare occurrence).

But it's not the fact that I want to make healthy treats that is the problem, although that's where the problem stems from. The real problem is that I have been making poor substitution choices, specifically in the area of butter. I dislike using butter, almost as much as I dislike cornstarch and shortening. So I avoid using it whenever possible, replacing it with applesauce or yogurt. Apparently, though, this tactic does not work in cookies and brownies. Or really, it doesn't result in proper cookie and brownie texture. I have turned out a couple of batches of cookies that, while they taste fine, are rubbery and strange to the touch. They feel as if you could play racquetball with them and they would come out alright after the match. From too-spongy chocolate chai cookies to a dish of ridiculous dense berry brownies (those puppies slid out of the baking dish in one rubbery mass which, as my husband astutely pointed out, is something that good brownies never do), my efforts in the cookie family creation have had, at best, dubious results.

So what's a health-conscious and potentially gluttonous baker to do? What are good substitutions for butter and oil in cookies that will result in goodies that actually taste and feel like cookies? Or is this a mecca that is out of reach? Bakers unite! Drop me a line with suggestions regarding substitutions for high fat products, please. Rescue from my butter substitution blues!

Right now I've got two loaves of pumpkin gingerbread rising in the oven, since healthy and delicious breads seem much safe and easier to attain for me at the moment. If nothing else, they are making my apartment smell delightful. I am excited to share one at a Christmas party this evening, and to sell the other at the Malaysia fundraiser next weekend.

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