Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Cooking and Produce
Recipes are Chemical Formulas
Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD,
Have you ever asked someone for a recipe and they tell you “I don’t know, I just add ingredients until it looks right.” Many people can do that because they have prepared a recipe so many times that they are able to judge amounts of ingredients needed. It is not a fun experience to prepare a recipe and have it fail. Understanding what functions different ingredients have in a recipe can help you make decisions about altering recipes successfully.
In baking, sugar makes many contributions to the success of a finished product. The obvious function of sugar is that it makes things sweet. But sugar does so much more. Sugar also helps to make the end product tender and acts as a preservative. Sugar is the ingredient that makes your cookies come out of the oven that nice golden brown color.
If you would like to decrease the amount of sugar in a recipe to save calories, you can usually decrease each cup by 1/4 to 1/3. If you think that will decrease the flavor of your end product, you could add some vanilla or cinnamon.
Fat-- butter, margarine or oil, is one of the first things that people want to decrease in a recipe. That’s easy to understand because fat provides nine calories per gram and decreasing fat is a quick way to decrease calories. Usually, you can decrease fat by 1/3 in a recipe and get a satisfactory end product. (There are recipes in which the fat is completely left out. Often, sugar is increased in these recipes.)
In baked goods, fat contributes to the rich flavor and browning of food. Fats help to make a baked product tender. It’s the fat that makes pie dough and biscuits flaky and makes other baked goods light and airy.
In most recipes, salt can eliminated or decreased by 50-100. The exception is in yeast breads and pickled products. In yeast breads, decreasing the salt may result in an end product with a poor texture. You need ¼ -1/2 teaspoon of salt per cup of flour in yeast breads. In pickled products, salt is necessary to allow the growth of microorganisms that produce acid that prevents spoilage.
If you would like to increase fiber in your home-made bread, try using whole grain flour. You can replace ¼ to ½ of each cup of flour with whole wheat flour. You can use oat bran or oat flour to replace ¼ of the white flour in a recipe.
Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009