Thursday, September 17, 2009

changing a recipe

Missy had a few questions about changing the flour in recipes, away from using wheat flour, for a ginger snap cookie she wanted to make. You can certainly substitute flours but it is important to remember that if you are using whole grain flours the density of your baked goods may vary a little bit. Also, it's important to let the batter sit for a few minutes to allow the extra fiber to absorb some of the liquid in the recipe. If you are using gluten free flours you may need to add stabilizers or thickeners to replace the missing gluten.

I have a few tips about whole grain baking and some yummy recipes on the blog, you can find the baking section

Missy also wrote that she was going to replace the butter in her cookie recipe with crisco. I don't actually recommend the use of crisco; it is a hydrogenated vegetable oil and hydrogenated foods are not a healthy choice. Instead a better substitute would be coconut oil. While I am not sure exactly why she is choosing to substitute for the butter, since it is a healthy fat, coconut oil is a healthy choice and provides lauric, caprylic and capric acids, all very beneficial. [ed note: I misunderstood, Missy substituted butter for crisco which is a much better choice. If you wanted to go dairy free you could still substitute the coconut oil for the butter.]

If you are looking to reduc fat, depending on how much butter the recipe calls for (and most ginger cookies call for a lot), you can substitute up to 1/2 of the amount with applesauce. This gives a great flavor and adds moisture if needed. With ginger snaps, if you are looking for a true "snap" you won't get it with the applesauce, but if you are just looking for a soft gingery cookie you could start by substituting 1/4 the amount of fat called for with applesauce. The applesauce gives no discernable flavor. Other substitutes for fat include pumpkin butter and prune puree both of which have a flavor but it is one that can be successfully paired with the other flavors of your baked goods to enhance them.

I will share from personal experience that if you try to change everything at once you may find that you get an unpleasant result and that you're not sure why it happened. I usually change the flour first, then the fat, then the sugar. I've made some great doorstops/hockey pucks in my time by switching everything in the recipe and not understanding where I need to make further changes. Keeping notes along the way helps me to understand the evolution of the recipe.

Missy was also thinking of replacing the sugar with sucanat. This is an excellent choice, especially for a ginger cookie. Sucanat stands for SUgar CAne NATural, a very low process sugar that still retains a lot of the molasses. This gives it a very dark flavor that compliments the ginger a lot. I have written more about sweeteners here.

If you're looking for a good gingersnap type recipe here is one that I was given by my friend Barb. It's a fabulous, tasty recipe, perfect for the fall season.

Barb's Gingerthins

Melt 3 sticks of butter
Mix together with 2 C. Sucanat
Add 2 eggs
Add 2 t. baking powder, 2 t. cinnamon, 1 t. ginger, 1 t. cloves
Add 5 cups. soft white flour (if you don't mill your own you can use King Arthur White Whole Wheat)
Mix well

Let dough sit in fridge for 20 minutes while preheating the oven to 350 F

Make small balls, roll in Sucanat/cinnamon mixture or white sugar and bake on un-greased cookie sheet 8-10 minutes

Let cookies sit 1-2 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to cookie rack

photo courtesy of

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