Sugar, butter and white flour are the core ingredients for most baked goods. In an effort to make breads, muffins and pastries healthier, non-commercial operators are swapping in better-for-you options for these three ingredients.
Incorporating fiber-rich whole-wheat flour might be the most common way non-commercial operators up the nutritional value of their baked goods. Take the Blood Orange Scones with Fresh Berry Compote served at Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare, in Illinois, which boast 100% whole-wheat flour. The scones are made tender through the addition of yogurt, instead of the more traditional—and higher in fat—cream. The scones are also dusted with raw sugar, which, while not nutritionally different from conventional sugar, has a larger crystal size. “It’s coarser, so you tend to use less when you sprinkle it,” says Executive Chef Jim Roth.
And while Elmhurst’s scones may seem like an elevated version of a classic, there’s no rule saying whole-wheat flour can’t be employed in more basic recipes. The rolls and breadsticks served at Forsyth County Schools, in Cumming, Ga., are made with half whole-wheat flour, while Oak Park & River Forest High School, in Oak Park, Ill., serves scratch-made whole-wheat peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, butter and sugar cookies. “We’re trying both full whole wheat and half whole wheat and seeing how well each one is accepted by students,” says Micheline Piekarski, director of food & nutrition services.
Another option is replacing butter with oil, non-hydrogenated margarine or even puréed fruit, which reduces the saturated fat levels that are commonly high in baked goods. That’s a tactic the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs employs to meet performance-based menu guidelines, which call for keeping total fat calories below 30% and saturated fat below 10%. “Our focus is not how many calories but rather the right types of calories,” says Executive Chef Jacqueline Hamilton. Date nut and pumpkin muffins are kept rich with a combination of margarine and applesauce, while espresso scones contains Soft Balance spread.
To add additional vitamins, minerals and fiber, the Olympic Training Center also bulks up baked goods with fruits, vegetables and nuts. A prime example is the Garden Harvest Cake, which packs in chopped apples, grated carrot, grated zucchini and chopped walnuts. “As far as our diner response to healthier baked goods, they love it and really do not see a difference [when compared to traditional baked goods],” Hamilton says.
Then, there’s gluten-free baked goods, whose population is skyrocketing due to increased awareness of gluten intolerances, as well as the perception among nutrition-conscious eaters that breads, cookies and pastries made without wheat are healthier than their traditional counterparts. Still, many non-commercial facilities, like Castle Rock Adventist Hospital, in Colorado, have shied away from scratch-baking the items in-house, opting instead to use mixes or to purchase premade items from gluten-free bakers. “Some folks are very sensitive, and we do use [wheat] flour in our kitchen for the pizza dough, cookies, etc. The [gluten-free bakeries] have also been working on recipes to perfect the taste and overall quality. They’re the gluten-free pros,” says Daniel Skay, nutrition manager and executive chef.
Finally, don’t discount the simple tactic of serving smaller portions of regular baked goods, which automatically slashes fat and calorie counts. “Even with some of the nice desserts, we’re learning how to put things out in smaller portions, like cheesecake pops or chocolate cake pops,” Roth adds.