Tag Archives: molasses

Low sugar baking #1: Ginger softies

As promised (or threatened), I’m working on a little series of posts focused on baking with less sugar, which, if you’ve perused this blog much at all, you probably know is a quasi-obsession of mine. My goal with this series is not just to share recipes, but also some general tips for using less sugar, and to also describe some of my less-successful attempts at sugar reduction (so you don’t do the same thing!).
So for the first post, let’s start off with a few of the key things to remember when you start to tinker around with a recipe to reduce the sugar content.

You don’t need much sugar to make things sweet
Seriously. Many commercial baked goods use a lot more sugar (or whatever their sweetener of choice is) than is needed to achieve sweetness. I have found that I can usually use less than half sugar called for in a “regular” version of something and still have the final result taste perfectly sweet. Also, with less sugar in a recipe, other flavors (vanilla, spices, etc.) become more prominent, giving a more complex tasting experience. Elana just happened to mention the same thing in a post she wrote earlier this week, so you know it’s not just me. However…

Sugar does affect texture and structure
One of the characteristics that sugar brings to baked goods is, broadly speaking, crispness or crunch. In some cases, the sugar is critical to the structure of the finished product (think meringue kisses, florentines, etc.). I don’t spend much time trying to re-make recipes that really need sugar for structure. Instead, I focus on recipes where a slight change in texture is not going to be such a problem. For example, today’s ginger cookie recipe is softer, less chewy, and more cake-like than a ginger cookie from the local store or bakery, but it is still delicious, full of spice, and completely recognizable as a cookie.

Is there a “best” or “healthy” sweetener?
My personal opinion is that for the most part, whole fresh fruit is the “best” sugar and the only sweetener that can really be considered “healthy”. After that, I believe it’s better to simply focus on using less sweetener, no matter the source. To that end, I use the sweetener I think will work best in a recipe (for reasons of either taste or texture), be that fruit, white sugar, brown sugar, honey, dates, or molasses. A while back, health-bent wrote an extensive post about sugar vs. more “natural” sweeteners and it really captures a lot of my thoughts on the topic.

And now, a recipe! Today’s recipe is a pretty easy one, a lower sugar version of the classic ginger cookie. Ginger cookies generally rely on two sweeteners: regular white sugar and molasses. Since molasses does actually lend a distinctive flavor I focus more on slashing the white sugar content. This recipe has 1/4 c. each of sugar and molasses–most recipes with a similar yield would use around least a cup of sugar, plus 1/4 or 1/3 c. of molasses. What the cookies do not skimp on is the spices: each bite is bursting with ginger flavor, plus undertones of cinnamon and cloves. I hope they will become a favorite in your baking repertoire!

Ginger Softies
makes about 30 plump 1″ cookies

Ingredients
2 c. white whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp each ground cinnamon and cloves
1/2 c butter
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c molasses
1/4 c milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Stir in molasses, then work the dry ingredients into the mix in 3-4 batches. Add milk and vanilla extract and combine.

Preheat oven to 350F. While the oven is heating, pinch off ~1″ lumps of dough, roll into balls, and place on cookie sheets. When oven is heated, place cookies in oven and bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove cookies from oven and allow to cool, then enjoy fresh or store in an airtight container. Cookies will keep at room temperature for several days.

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Sweet potato tartlets with gingerbread crust (vegan, gluten/grain free)

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Here’s a confession for you: I’ve not done much of anything to prepare for Thanksgiving this year. Instead of preparing a traditional holiday spread, M. and I will be heading off with a group of friends to do some camping up north(ish). Thanksgiving camping has become something of a tradition for us, though this is the first time we’re making it a group outing. We will for sure be having some good food, but there’s no way I’m lugging a turkey or even a few pies several miles through the “wilderness” to get to our campsite. So, no traditional Thanksgiving dinner for us this year!

Still, I’m not totally out of the Thanksgiving loop, and I would have to be living under a rock to have missed all the recipes floating around the internet, not to mention the pumpkin pie spice smells being pumped into the grocery store. While I love a slice of pumpkin pie as much as anyone, lately I’ve been feeling more drawn to its neglected Southern cousin, the sweet potato (or really, yam) pie. And thus, these sweet potato tarts came into being. The gingerbread crust is something I’ve been fascinated with every since I was introduced to the concept five or so years back. This version is both vegan and gluten/grain free, relying on soaked almonds to form the base material. Molasses and a hefty dose of ginger, plus a few notes of cinnamon and cloves finish things off. The filling is also relatively low on sugar: sweet potato and two dates is all you need!

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Sweet potato tartlets with gingerbread crust

makes 12 tartlets (I used a 1.75″ diameter, like this tin)

Ingredients
For the crust
1 c. almonds, soaked overnight and drained
1 T molasses
1 T ginger
1 T coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves

For the filling
1 c mashed sweet potato
1 T ground flax seed
1 T almond milk
2 tsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 Deglet Noor dates (I use the Hadley brand, they seem to be pretty solid–nice and moist!)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method
1. In a food processor fitted with the metal S-blade, combine all crust ingredients. Process into a thick dough/paste. A slightly “grainy” consistency from the nuts is fine, but there should not be large nut chunks.

2. Grease a mini muffin pan and start oven preheating to 350F. Press dough into muffin cups. Bake for 12 minutes.

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3. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. Using the same food processor (you should scrape out any large amounts of leftover crust, but a few smears clinging to the side are no big deal), blend together the filling ingredients.

4. Fill the muffin cups. I find this step works best if you fill an icing bag with the filling and pipe it in.

5. Bake for another 12-14 minutes, until filling is just barely beginning to brown on top. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

To remove from pan, gently slide a knife around the top edge of each tartlet. They should then be ready to pop right out.

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