As soon as the weather cools and we get that first chill in the air, my mind turns to baking this baking powder biscuit recipe. Fall and winter are the perfect time to warm up the house with the smell of cookies, biscuits, or muffins baking in a nice hot oven. The down side is when these goodies add too much fat, sugar, and refined flour to our family’s diet.
The good news is that with a few simple tricks, you can convert your family’s favorite recipes into healthy options without losing flavor and texture. And you don’t have to spend a fortune on “health food” either! Below are four tricks that I’ve learned from reading books on family nutrition, using healthy recipes like those found in Eating Well, and also through my own experiments in the kitchen. You will see these tricks used in the baking powder biscuit recipe.
1. Replace unhealthy fats with healthy fats
Fat is flavor, and it’s essential to baked goods. The no-fat trend of the 90’s led to overly sugary, dry cookies and over-processed foods. No, thank you. A better way to cut back on saturated fat but keep the flavor is to substitute half of a saturated fat (like butter) with a healthy oil. This works in cooking as well as baking. For example, if you’re making a sauce and it calls for butter, cut it by 50% with a healthy oil, such as olive, walnut, or canola. With baked goods, cutting butter with canola oil reduces the saturated fat but does not alter the flavor. In some cases, you can replace all of the butter with oil, but this requires a little experimentation. If you’re just starting to alter recipes, start by cutting by 50% and work down from there.
Here’s a quick and easy recipe for pie crust that has no butter at all. It’s a savory, slightly salty crust that is wonderful for quiche or savory meat or veggie pie, but it would not work as well for fruit or dessert pies. Try this recipe, using whole wheat or white wheat flour.
2. Add protein and fiber with white wheat flour
I love the taste of classic whole-wheat flour, but it can be too heavy for pastry or sweet treats. And it can also have that unmistakable grainy texture that works well for bread but is not very good in a cookie. White whole wheat flour, which entered the market a few years ago, has the protein and fiber of whole-wheat but tastes and bakes more like all-purpose flour and works well in the baking powder biscuit recipe. I’ve tried all the major brands, and my favorite is King Arthur brand flour: it has the finest texture and flavor on the market. Ultragrain is also a good choice, but it’s not available at as many stores as King Arthur. You can substitute all of the all-purpose flour in a recipe with white whole wheat, or you can substitute at least 50%. Experiment to find the ratio that you like. Here is my favorite biscuit recipe, remade with whole grain flour and half the butter. This comes together so quickly, the biscuits are ready to bake before the oven is done preheating. It’s also lots of fun to make with kids, who can mix the dry ingredients for you and help pat/ slice the biscuits. Homemade biscuits are the perfect side dish to soups and stews:
Not-your-Grandma’s Baking Powder Biscuit Recipe Ingredients:
2 cups white wheat flour
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
1 Tbs ground flax meal (optional)
1 tsp salt
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup butter, cold (keep in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to use it)
¾ cup reduced fat milk
– Preheat oven to 450 and move rack to middle-top. Set aside an ungreased baking sheet.
Baking Powder Biscuit Recipe Directions:
– In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients by hand. Stir in canola oil, using the back of your spoon to break up the large bubbles. Mixture should be slightly crumbly.
– Using a cheese grater, grate the cold butter into the dry ingredients. This works best if one person is stirring the dry ingredients while a second person grates in the butter. But you can do it all yourself, too, and it’s fine. Combine thoroughly until the mixture is very crumbly and the butter is evenly distributed.
– Stir in the milk until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. It should be sticky; if it looks dry, add a little more milk, 1 Tbs at a time, until the dough is wet.
– Heavily dust a cutting board with flour. Dump the dough onto the floured board and lightly dust the top. Dust your hands with more flour, and any little hands that are helping you. Pat—do not roll!—the dough until it is about ½ inch thick.
– Use a 2.5” round cookie cutter or the top of a juice glass to cut out the biscuits. (A juice glass is easier for kids to push into the dough and does not have sharp edges.)
– For soft-sided biscuits, put your first biscuit in the middle of the baking sheet, and arrange the other biscuits around it in an ever-expanding circle, so that the sides touch as much possible. (They will not “spill” into each other like cookies.)
– If you want crispy edges, keep the biscuits apart and arrange on the baking sheet in rows.
– With either method, bake for 10-14 minutes, until tops and bottoms are lightly browned. This baking powder biscuit recipe makes 12 biscuits. You can try making the biscuits smaller. Just reduce the cooking time and keep an eye on them.
3. Add an extra boost of nutrition: flax, chia, powdered milk, etc.
The baking aisle in my favorite store has changed dramatically over the past few years. One addition is the large number of natural, healthy additives you can put in your food. My favorite is ground flax meal and I use it in the baking powder biscuit recipe. It adds healthy Omega-3’s to our food, but it does not change the flavor or texture if you use a little at a time. I add some to pretty much everything I bake: one tablespoon for cookies or biscuits, 2 tablespoons for bread. I’ve tried to add more, but it can start to add a little bitterness, so experiment to find what works for you. It’s also great in smoothies.
Chia seeds are a newer discovery—they are rich in protein and also very healthy. You can also add protein to baked goods with powdered milk. Or try some of the “new” flours, such as spelt or bulgur. If you have not baked with it before, just use a little at a time until you have a good idea of how it affects taste and texture. (Note: gluten-free “flours” need their own recipes. The biscuit recipe above would not work without gluten!)
Also, don’t forget to eat your nuts! Nuts are very good for you, adding protein and healthy fats to your baking. I love adding nuts to cookies and breads, but if your family does not like them, you can use almond meal instead to sneak them in.
4. Cut back on sugar and add flavor with fruit and dark chocolate (!)
There are also new, more natural sugar substitutes on the market. Agave syrup is especially popular. But it is also too expensive for me to use in quantity, so I look for ways to cut back on refined sugar instead of eliminating it entirely. Recipes that already have another sweet ingredient—such as fruit or chocolate—often do not need the large amounts of sugar that you find in cookbooks. Dark chocolate has natural antioxidants, too, so I buy the darkest kind I can to use in baking. Powdered cocoa is also high in antioxidants, though you still need sugar to offset the natural bitter taste.
Dried or fresh fruits—raisins, apricots, ripe bananas, apples, etc.—add natural sweetness without refined sugar. I love to make oatmeal raisin cookies and banana bread because they have more nutrition and fiber than other choices, and I can cut back on the sugar. If your family is used to traditional sweets, you’ll want to do this gradually. I usually cut out 25% of the recipe’s sugar at first to see if it still tastes good. If it does, then next time I’ll cut out a third or half.
The recipe link here uses all of the techniques I’ve described. This is hands-down our favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. It has more flavor and chewiness than the Toll House-type recipes. I usually just add the oats whole instead of grinding them for an extra-chewy texture. I can also add a tablespoon of flax seed for those Omega-3’s.
Making your own baked treats is easy, inexpensive, and healthier than buying them from the store. I love this baking powder biscuit recipe! Baking at home is also a great way to teach kids about cooking and nutrition. What are your favorite healthy treats? Share your recipes here!
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Tags: baked treats