Ultimate Guide to Low-fat Baking

Steps to Successful Low-Fat Baking

There are a few familiar baking procedures that are a bit different in reduced-fat baking. Use these techniques when preparing low-fat recipes and you'll have success every time.


All of the flour in this book has been measured by the spoon-and sweep method. This method is becoming a common low-fat technique and many food magazines, such as Cooking Light, use it. Flour settles, and can compact itself in its bag in the long journey from the mill to the grocer to your home. In order to give your baked goods a nice, light crumb, the flour must be aerated. The best place to start is when the flour is measured. If you measure the flour with the scoop-and sweep method (by dipping the cup into the bag and sweeping the excess flour off the top with a knife), you will be baking with compacted flour, and you could end up with a dense, dry baked good.

It's so important to remind you of the spoon-and sweep measuring method, that I have stated the procedure next to every flour measurement in my book. I once calculated the difference in weight between one cup of spooned and one cup of scooped whole wheat pastry flour. It was almost an ounce, which is 20 percent! That will make quite a big difference in the final taste and texture of the recipe.

To measure by the spoon-and sweep method, place the dry measuring cup on a plate or piece of waxed paper (to catch the excess flour). Using a large spoon, stir the flour in the bag or container, and lightly spoon it into the cup until it overflows. Do not pack the flour in the cup. Using a knife (or even you finger), sweep off the excess flour so it is level with the top of the cup. Cocoa can be lumpy unless sifted. In that case, measure the cocoa and sift it. It is fine to measure the other dry ingredients in the book by scooping, as long as you use level measures.

Always use metal measuring cups for dry ingredients, and a glass measuring cup for liquid ingredients. For dense, moist ingredients, such as applesauce, peanut butter, and yogurt, use level amounts in a metal measuring cup. When measuring buttermilk and sticky liquid ingredients like corn syrup, molasses, or honey, place the glass measuring cup on a work surface, and measure the liquid at eye level. Don't hold the glass up in the air, or you can make an inaccurate measure. To help remove sticky liquids from the measure, spray the inside with nonstick canola oil spray before measuring. Be sure to scrape all the ingredient out of the measure with a rubber spatula.

Nonstick Baking pans

To reduce sticking, always use nonstick pans and muffin tins sprayed with canola or vegetable oil spray. Low-fat batters especially stick to the surfaces of regular baking pans without a nonstick lining. In that case, generously spray with oil. Do not use disposable aluminum foil pans, which absorb the oven heat unevenly and have hot spots. To be sure that your cake unmolds easily from the pan, optionally line the bottom of a nonstick pan with a piece of waxed or parchment paper. Generally, I don't recommend paper muffin liners, as some batters stick to them no matter what you do. If you use them, spray the insides of the liners with oil.

Try to use nonstick insulated cookie sheets—they encourage even browning much better than the regular sheets. Lightly spray with oil. You can simulate these double-thick sheets by stacking one regular cookie sheet inside another. If your sheets don't have a non-stick coating, generously spray or line the pans with waxed paper or baking parchment (no need to spray the parchment paper).

I prefer ovenproof glass pie plates. They distribute the heat better than metal ones, and you can look underneath to see how the crust is browning. I also prefer ovenproof glass pans for fruit-based desserts, but you can use nonstick metal ones as well. Although glass manufacturers recommend reducing the oven temperature by 25 degrees F when using their products, I never do it, and my pies and fruit desserts always turn out fine. Generously spray any ovenproof glass pans with oil.


Even though all these recipes can be mixed by hand, I use a KitchenAid portable electric mixer to whip the liquid ingredients into a froth. Almost everyone has one. (The volume of liquid ingredients is too shallow for the beaters of a heavy-duty standing mixer to work properly.) Never use an electric mixer to mix in the flour. It will overdevelop the gluten, and toughen the baked good. Always stir in the flour with a spoon, just enough to moisten.