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As with all ingredients, if we want to remove, replace, or adjust the quantity of something in our recipe we must understand exactly what it’s functions are which will vary depending on the baked good we are producing. Firstly, I will summarize the main functions of fat within baked goods:
Aiding the leavening process
Adding a rich flavour that lingers in the mouth
These are all very important functions, and so I wouldn’t advise eliminating fats altogether unless absolutely necessary. The best option would be to replace some of the fat, or if you are doing it for certain health/dietary reasons, substitute it with a suitable alternative fat that the end consumer can tolerate.
Another ingredient we can reduce are whole eggs, by substituting them with just egg whites. However, remember that yolks provide richness, colour, and flavour so if that is important within your baked good it needs to be accounted for.
Ground nuts or nut/seed butters also make another great replacement for some or the fat as they add moistness and flavour- particularly when toasted. These are great in tray bakes for example.
Okay, so now on to fat replacers..
It is difficult to replace all the fat in a recipe with a single ingredient so we may have to use a combination depending on what functions are required. This can take a lot of trial and error as a certain ingredient may work well in one recipe, but not in another. It is a careful balance, and knowing what will work best comes with practice and knowledge.
Certain pureed dried fruits- dates or prunes when pureed into a paste can be used in products that require flavour, fudginess, or chewiness, such as brownies or soft cookies. They also contain naturally occuring sugars, pectin, and fruit pulp which gives a slightly gummy chewiness when desired.
Certain pureed fresh fruits- apple sauce, because of its high moisture content (around 88%) is great in muffins and cakes as it aids in aeration. However it is not so good in products such as biscuits that require crispness. Apple sauce is fairly flavourless so won’t be detected. Mashed banana also works well but it will impart a fairly strong flavour which is not always desirable. If we are adding fresh pureed fruits we may want to reduce the quantity of other liquid ingredients within our recipe (such as eggs) so account for this.
Beans- canned beans such as chickpeas or butter beans are around 70% moisture and so help with aeration but also add tenderness. As well as this, when pureed they give products a creamy mouth feel and have a very mild flavour, which generally won’t be tasted.
Gums- pectin, cellulose gum, and xanthan gum for example, help give tenderness, contribute to the aeration process, and again produce a creamy mouth feel.
Oat based ingredients – oatmeal, oat flour, and whole oats, have the ability to tenderise low moisture products and delay stayling.
Certain starches- Potato starch and maltodextrins, like oats, tenderise low moisture products.
Sugar and sweeteners- sugar being hygroscopic (attracts water) will add moistness and tenderness to baked goods
Emulsifiers- mono and diglycerides add moistness, tenderness, aid in aeration and delay stayling. Eggs are an example of a natural emulsifier.
Butter flavouring- butter has a unique flavour, and so if we are eliminating it entirely from our recipe we may want to add a butter flavouring, which are now widely available.
Additional flavouring- fat provides flavour and so to account for this we can add ingredients rich in middle and base notes, such as caramelised sugar, toasted nuts, cocoa, and maple syrup.
So there we have it.. an extensive list of ways you can reduce or replace fats in your baking recipe. Remember of course that it is a careful balance of ingredients and the only way you can find what works best is through practise and experimentation- good luck 🙂