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What to Bake Now

Slightly healthier — and seriously delicious — cakes, muffins and bread

chocolate cake

Theresa Raffetto

Though I've maintained a 70-pound weight loss for decades, I still love chocolate. Heck, I love dessert, period. And I actually eat it a lot more often than one would guess. I'm very careful that my meals do not contain hidden sugars (did you know that 2 tablespoons of bottled salad dressing can have more than a cookie?) so I can enjoy desserts without exceeding recommended daily allowances for sugar overall.

I know I'm not alone in craving chocolate and sweets and just baking more in general as we stay safely home these days. Instead of following a super fattening recipe that could really set you back, I hope you'll try one of these.

Chocolate Not-Only-In-Your-Dreams Cake

I dreamed of eating a rich, flourless chocolate cake like this for years; I'm one of those “There's no such thing as chocolate cake that's too rich” types. Even when dieting, I have to “cheat” with chocolate from time to time just to keep my sanity.

And then came this cake. It's as rich as they come, and I love it more than any other flourless chocolate espresso cake I've had. Plus, it packs 6 grams of fiber, so it really is guilt free!

If you want to impress your friends (when you're able to see them) or if you're in quarantine alone, store some in the freezer, unbaked, in the ramekins placed within an airtight container. When you need a no-fuss dessert, pop the ramekins in a glass pan filled with some water, as described below, and bake for 30 to 32 minutes.

Ingredients

  • Butter-flavored cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup dark or light brown sugar (not packed)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon very finely ground espresso beans (or 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar, optional
  • 4 raspberries, optional
  • Four 3 1/2 -inch-diameter ramekins (or any small souffle dishes or heat-proof bowls that are a least a few inches tall)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Generously mist four 3 1/2 -inch-diameter ramekins with spray. Place them side by side in an 8-by-8-inch baking pan. Add water to the pan until it reaches halfway to the top of the ramekins.

Use a sturdy whisk or spatula to mix the applesauce, vanilla, egg whites and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl until well combined. Add the cocoa powder, espresso and salt. Stir until just combined and no lumps remain. Divide evenly among the ramekins (each ramekin will be about two-thirds full).

Bake for 21 to 24 minutes, until the tops look silky and puff slightly and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out a bit wet (do not cook them long enough for the toothpick to come out dry). Remove from the oven and carefully transfer the ramekins from the water in the baking pan to a cooling rack. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Then invert each ramekin onto a dessert plate. Let stand for 1 minute, and then slowly lift off the ramekin (the cakes should come out on their own; if they don't, run a knife around the edge of the cakes to loosen them). Cool for another 5 to 10 minutes. Use a fine sieve to evenly dust each cake with a light sprinkling of powdered sugar, if desired. Place one raspberry on the center of each cake, if using. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 cakes. Each serving (1 cake) has: 203 calories, 7g protein, 46g carbohydrates, 2g fat, 1g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 6g fiber, 364mg sodium

Recipe from Devin Alexander's The Most Decadent Diet Ever! © 2008 Devin Alexander

corn bread

Courtesy Devin Alexander

Fast Food Fix Corn Bread

If you're a novice or apprehensive about baking, this recipe is a great choice. This corn bread requires only basic ingredients, and no mixer. It's excellent for breakfast, lunch or dinner with your favorite pot of low-fat chili.

Ingredients

  • Butter-flavored cooking spray (or canola or avocado oil spray)
  • 3/4 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 1/4 cup unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt (use any vanilla or plain yogurt; if using plain, add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 4 egg whites, lightly beaten (use 2 whole eggs if you're “conserving” and don't mind the extra fat/calories)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup skim milk (or any nondairy milk you have on hand)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 small jalapeno cut into thin rounds, if desired

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mist an 8-by-8-inch nonstick baking pan or baking dish with spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. Set it aside.

In a large bowl, using a sturdy whisk or spoon, mix the yogurt, egg whites and sugar until they are just blended. Mix in the milk, vanilla and shortening. Then add the dry ingredients and stir them in until they are just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Place the jalapeno rounds evenly over top, if using. Bake the bread for approximately 28 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with some sticky crumbs attached (because of the low fat content, it won't be “dry” until it's overcooked — it should be sticky, but not wet). Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Cut into 10 equal pieces. Serve warm or store in an airtight plastic container in the refrigerator or freezer to eat later.

Makes 10 servings. Each (1 piece serving) has: 178 calories, 5g protein, 36g carbohydrates, 2g fat, <1g saturated fat, 1g fiber.

Recipe Adapted from Fast Food Fix by Devin Alexander © 2006 by Devin Alexander. Permission granted by Rodale Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. 

apple tart

Mitch Mandel

Naked Apple Tart

In culinary school, I used to make a tart very similar to this one, only it had a crust with enough butter to require a week of working out! Now, I enjoy it naked — without a crust, that is. I prefer the look of this “tart” when it's baked in a round or oval dish. You can use a similar-size square or rectangle dish, if necessary.

Note that the tart cooks for quite a while, allowing the apples to transform into layers of soft, sweet deliciousness. The top of the tart will start to look burnt, but don't worry, it's not. It's just the result of juice and cinnamon caramelizing onto the apples — oh, so sweet!

Ingredients

  • Butter-flavored cooking spray (or canola oil or avocado oil spray)
  • 2 large crisp apples (such as Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Pink Lady or Honey Crisp), peeled
  • 3/4 cup 100 percent apple juice (not from concentrate)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar (or substitute unpacked light or dark brown sugar)
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted (salted will work)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly mist a 10-inch ceramic or glass tart dish with cooking spray.

Cut the apples in half lengthwise and remove the cores. Slice each half lengthwise into very thin slices. Starting from the outer edges of the dish, arrange the apple slices, laying them horizontally, in tightly overlapping circles in the bottom of the dish, until all of the apple slices are used (they will make a rose or flower blossom pattern).

In a small bowl, whisk together the apple juice, sugar, butter and cinnamon until well combined (the sugar and cinnamon will not dissolve completely). Pour half of the apple juice mixture evenly over the apples. Reserve the remaining half.

Bake for 30 minutes. Pour the reserved mixture evenly over the apples. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes longer, or until the apples are very tender and the glaze has caramelized on the top and around the edges of the tart (it should look almost burnt — dark brown, but not blackened). Cool for 5 minutes, then divide among 4 serving plates or dishes and serve.

Makes 4 servings. Each (1/4 of the tart) serving: 120 calories, trace protein, 27g carbohydrates (21 g sugar), 2g fat, 1g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 3g fiber, 20mg sodium

Recipe Credit: Reprinted from The Biggest Loser Dessert Cookbook by Devin Alexander © 2010 by Universal Studios Licensing LLLP. The Biggest Loser (TM) and NBC Studios, Inc., and Reveille LLC. Permission granted by Rodale Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. 

Pecan Praline Cookie Thins

When my Facebook friends learned that I was working on an all-dessert book, I immediately got inundated with requests for re-creating favorite high-cal classics. One of the most popular requests was for pecan pie. These scrumptious cookies, which are ridiculously low in fat and calories compared to pecan pie, are an ode to those requests.

Note: Packages of pecans that say either “dry-toasted” or “dry-roasted” are perfect for this recipe. Just make sure the pecans are not raw — the cookies won't have as much flavor.

Ingredients

  • Butter-flavored cooking spray
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar (unpacked light or dark brown sugar works too)
  • 1/3 cup unsalted dry-toasted finely chopped pecans (finely chopped walnuts if you don't have them)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously mist 8 cups of a nonstick standard muffin tin with spray.

Whisk together the egg white and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the pecans and stir until well combined. Spoon the batter (about a scant 1 tablespoon each) into the prepared muffin tin, making sure to distribute the pecans evenly between each muffin cup.

Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly crisped around the edges, being careful not to burn them. Cool the tin on a rack for 5 minutes, or until the cookies have cooled slightly. Remove them to a cooling rack and let them cool completely. Serve immediately or store in a cookie tin for up to 5 days.

Makes 4 servings. Each (2-cookie serving) has: 95 calories, 2g protein, 7g carbohydrates (5g sugar), 7g fat, <1g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, <1g fiber, 27mg sodium

Recipe credit: Reprinted from The Biggest Loser Dessert Cookbook by Devin Alexander © 2010 by Universal Studios Licensing LLLP. The Biggest Loser (TM) and NBC Studios, Inc., and Reveille LLC. Permission granted by Rodale Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. 

Lemon–Poppy Seed Mini-Muffins

If you're like me and have an undying sweet tooth, these muffins are the perfect solution. Though I tend to eat them for breakfast after I've “been good” and had an egg white omelet, they're actually perfect for any time of the day. They're tiny, yet satisfying. With only about 40 calories and a half-gram of fat each, how can you go wrong with one … or two?

Ingredients

  • Butter-flavored cooking spray (or canola oil or avocado oil spray)
  • 1 cup whole grain oat flour (or use all-purpose flour)
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 cup lite vanilla yogurt (or whatever vanilla, plain or lemon yogurt you have)
  • 3 large egg whites (or 1 egg and 1 egg white)
  • 1⁄3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel (or 3 tablespoons fresh lemon zest)
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds (or chopped dry roasted almonds or walnuts)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mist 20 cups of a mini-muffin tin with spray. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the flour for about 1 minute, or until it is the consistency of all-purpose flour with no coarse grains remaining. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Sift the mixture twice. (If you don't have a sifter, put the mixture in a fine sieve and just tap it with your hand over a bowl until it's “sifted")

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, egg whites, honey, vanilla extract and lemon extract with a sturdy whisk or spatula until well mixed. Stir in the reserved flour mixture until just combined. Stir in the lemon peel and poppy seeds (or nuts). Spoon the batter into the 20 prepared muffin cups.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one muffin comes out sticky (not at all wet, but sticky crumbs are OK). Cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins to the rack.

Makes 20 mini-muffins. Each muffin has: 41 calories, 1g protein, 8g carbohydrates, <1g fat (trace saturated), trace cholesterol, <1g fiber, 64mg sodium

Recipe Adapted from The Biggest Loser Cookbook by Devin Alexander © 2010 by Universal Studios Licensing LLLP. The Biggest Loser (TM) and NBC Studios, Inc., and Reveille LLC. Permission granted by Rodale Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. 

Devin Alexander is a New York Times best-selling cookbook author. Find more of her recipes at devinalexander.com.

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