How To Make Healthy Desserts

No rubbery pastries in sight

Depending on which day you read the latest health news, there's always a different part of dessert that will be our downfall. On Monday, it might be sugar that's killing us softly with its song, and by Thursday, it's fat that's bringing us down.

But maybe there's a better way. In her new book, Better Baking, food writer Genevieve Ko covers all the bases with tips on how to bake healthier without sacrificing flavor. She proves that better-for-you treats don't have to include fake sugar or bone-dry texture. And you don't have to break up with butter either: Think of it more like a "giving each other some space" situation. Here are five tips from Ko's book that you can use to lighten up your baking habits.

① Mix Your Flours

Even if you don't want to completely let go of all-purpose flour, try introducing low-gluten spelt for nuttiness or rye flour to round out a piecrust. If you're ditching gluten altogether, combine different alt-flours for varied taste and to balance the texture. Ko uses both almond and coconut flours in blueberry muffins.

② Use Fruit

The more fruit you add, the more your dessert feels like breakfast. Cut down on unnecessary added sweetness by using applesauce to bind granola and keep quick breads moist for days, or use avocado to thicken pistachio-pear pudding. Dried fruit is another way to naturally sweeten your treats. Even dried plums—otherwise known as prunes—can star in a sugarplum gingerbread Bundt cake that sounds like it walked right off the stage of The Nutcracker.

③ Don't Fear Vegetables

One of the more stunning transformations is how Ko nails forever-shelf-stable frosting with just two ingredients: sweet potato purée and semisweet chocolate. The result is a fluffy spreadable cake topper with no added sugar—just try to find the strength to not eat it all before it hits the cake. And while it's no surprise that beets make an appearance in red velvet cake, the use of golden beets in yellow cupcakes is a particularly genius trick.

④ Think Savory

Adding ingredients like miso to macadamia blondies or garam masala to toasted nuts distracts your brain from focusing solely on sugar. Tahini shows up in still-buttery fig financiers and orange marmalade thumbprints, and goat cheese can sneak in nutrients by taking the place of cream cheese in rugelach dough.  

⑤ Find a Better Butter

You don't have to remove all the butter to make something feel a bit healthier. Add healthy fats like olive oil to both take the heavy lifting off of butter and to introduce well-rounded flavor. Almond paste, yogurt and peanut butter also find their way into recipes throughout the book.