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Fall Back on Healthy Dessert Recipes

Try these tasty lower-guilt sweets this season

En español | Nearly every afternoon I enjoy a little something sweet, but I'm pretty picky about my indulgence. If it's too lean or healthy, I'm not interested. If it's too decadent, I feel guilty. My perfect sweet falls somewhere in between the two.

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Doughnuts have always been one of my guilty pleasures, but we all know that a wad of dough in a deep fryer absorbs oil like a sponge in a bucket of water. The good news is that you can actually bake doughnuts. You cook them in a mini-muffin pan, or if you want the cute doughnut shape, you can buy a special (inexpensive) pan.

The recipe for Baked Apple-Cider Doughnuts makes only a dozen mini-doughnuts, but unless you're serving a large group, you don't want a lot. They're best eaten fresh, when they're still warm. You make the doughnut batter using the classic quick bread method: Mix a few wet ingredients, mix a few dry ingredients, then mix the two together. Since the doughnuts are small, they bake quickly. As they emerge from the oven, brush them with a little butter — only one tablespoon for all 12 — and then dredge them in cinnamon sugar. These two steps make them feel indulgent without adding lots of calories.

Unlike doughnuts, which have a short shelf life, Chocolate Wafers last at least a month in a sealed tin. They're lovely just plain, but for a teatime treat I frequently spread them with nut butters, chocolate-hazelnut spread, jams or marmalade. The dough is simple, but note that I replace butter (animal fat) with the more nutrient-dense antioxidant coconut oil.

Since my older daughter, Maggy, is doing her best to eat a vegan diet and pumpkin bread is one of her favorite fall treats, she and I worked together to develop a loaf that contains no dairy or eggs. Once again, coconut is the hero in this recipe, with coconut milk replacing the eggs and coconut oil standing in for traditional butter. Both of us are amazed at its flavor and texture.

My younger daughter, Sharon, described these sweet snacks well: "They're healthy enough so that you don't feel guilty for eating one … but not so healthy that you have to force yourself to eat one!" All three of these baked goodies are scrumptious, satisfying and not too dangerous for your diet. What more can you ask of a treat?

Better-for-you Fall treats, baked apple cider donuts

A healthier doughnut is a baked one, like these apple cider mini treats. — Threemanycooks.com

Baked Apple-Cider Doughnuts

Makes 1 dozen mini-doughnuts

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: salt and baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons apple butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk flour, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, salt and baking soda together in a medium bowl. Whisk apple butter, brown sugar and oil to combine. Whisk apple mixture into flour mixture to form a smooth batter. Spoon batter into doughnut pan (or in the cups of a mini-muffin tin). Bake until doughnuts are firm to the touch, about 10 minutes. Turn doughnuts onto a wire rack.

Mix sugar with remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Working one at a time when they're cool enough to handle, lightly brush doughnuts with butter and dredge in cinnamon sugar. Serve.

Next page: Pam Anderson shares her chocolate wafers and oatmeal pumkpin bread recipes. »

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