I am super excited to have Australia’s wellness expert, author and celebrity chef Teresa Cutter on my blog today. Teresa has just released her new book Healthy Baking – Cakes, Cookies + Raw, which is an amazing collection of healthy cakes, pies, bread, cookies and sweet treats of all sorts. It’s like an encyclopaedia of healthy baking recipes and desserts! Truly, it’s a big book with gorgeous photos and simple to follow recipes. If you’ve ever been to Teresa’s blog The Healthy Chef, you would know that she has a fantastic approach to health and cooking, and it really shows in this book as well.
And so, in today’s interview with Teresa, we are talking about all things healthy baking. Thanks to everyone who submitted their questions for this interview. I think I’ve got them all covered, plus more. Read up and get baking!
First of all, tell us the story behind your cookbook ‘Healthy Baking’? It’s an impressive amount of work – almost like a baking bible – what made you want to focus on this topic and how long did it take you to develop all the recipes?
Thank you, Irena. Healthy Baking really is a labour of love. Baking has always been part of my life from when I was very young. I would bake gorgeous cakes with my great Polish Aunt (Ciocia) and I loved experimenting recipes in mum’s kitchen. This book has always been something I’ve wanted to write so it was just a matter of focusing all my energy in the past year to writing and developing the recipes, shooting them and bringing together the design and feel of the book to life.
What does ‘healthy baking’ or ‘healthy desserts’ mean to you?
To me, it’s about going back to basics, keeping things simple and using quality ingredients that are good for health and wellbeing. The recipes in this book are designed for pleasure, as well as to nourish the body and soul. All my recipes are low in sugar, allowing the natural flavours and organic essence of all the whole foods I use to shine through.
In your experience, what are the top 10 must-have pantry or/and fridge staples you need for healthy baking and desserts?
Nuts, almond meal, oats, maple syrup, vanilla, extra virgin olive oil, spelt, cacao, buckwheat flour and grass-fed butter are all must-have healthy baking ingredients in my book!
What are your favourite wheat flour alternatives?
Buckwheat flour is a great gluten-free flour alternative I use a lot of the time. I love how it has an intense nutty and grainy texture and contains amino acids, minerals and fibre. Another favourite is almond meal because it creates a lovely result every time and is full of protein and vitamin E.
Here is a handy guide to paleo flour alternatives and substitutes.
What are the best ways to convert recipes to ‘egg-free’ in baking?
I love to make a “chia egg” as way to make an “egg-free” recipe. Sometimes, with the right ingredients and if there is enough olive oil, coconut oil or butter in a recipe, you don’t need eggs to get the same result. It really depends on what you are trying to make.
What are the best sugar-free sweeteners for baking, in your opinion?
Fresh and dried fruits are my all time favourite natural sweeteners to use in baking. They add wonderful flavour, texture and antioxidants. For example, I love to smash banana in banana bread or adding fresh chopped apples into a gorgeous apple cake to allow the natural sugars form the fruit to sweeten the dish, rather than rely on added sugars.
What are the best healthy fats to use in baking and desserts?
My favourite fats to use include extra virgin olive oil and grass-fed butter. They impart a scrumptious, decadent texture and flavour to homemade cakes and pastries, plus they can often mean you can reduce the amount of sweeteners considerably in all your recipes.
Working with coconut flour – any expert tips?
Less is more when working with coconut flour. I normally use around ¼ cup less if I’m substituting it with another flour substitute. It also needs quite a bit of healthy fat in the recipe as it can be a tad dry if not combined properly.
Have you used banana flour? Any good rules of thumb for adjusting liquids in a recipe?
I don’t use banana flour in my Baking Book as resistant starches like these play havoc on my digestive system.
Favourite nut-free ingredients to use in baking for kids lunchboxes?
I love to use oats, desiccated or flaked coconut or wholemeal spelt flour for baking nut-free kids treats.
Thickening gravy or sauces – what are the best paleo friendly/ healthy options? Any tips on using those?
The best thickener for a thickener or sauce is pureed carrot. This is something in my beef stew in my book Purely Delicious. You can also try pumpkin or cauliflower.
When it comes to making a healthy cake, do you have a secret to make it moist and fluffy?
To make a cake moist, add a good quality olive oil or grass-fed butter. To make it fluffy, always add eggs.
Have you tried any new healthy starches or flours recently that you would recommend people to try using at home?
I’m currently developing a Healthy Chef baking mix so I’m experimenting with so many flours right now. It’s a bit of a project I’m really excited about… you’ll hear more soon.
Your top 5 kitchen gadgets or utensils for a healthy baking experience?
A high-speed blender, a food processor, glass storage jars, a good wooden spoon and wire whisk.
Is there a dessert that you would rather not adapt, or found hard to adapt to a healthier version?
To be honest, I enjoy discovering how to make much-loved recipes, such as scones, doughnuts and celebration cakes, into healthier versions. While some have been more of a challenge than others, I have been able to include all the recipes I’ve wanted to make healthier into Healthy Baking. Everything is possible.
Your book has so many fantastic recipes that it’s almost hard to choose what to make first. What are the top 5 recipes in the book that everyone should make?
- My Paleo Apple Cake – as it’s a classic recipe that’s easy to make, gluten-free and perfect for any occasion.
- Sweet Potato Brownie – I simply love adding veggies in desserts! This one is especially decadent and delicious while offering plenty of minerals and antioxidants from sweet potatoes.
- Vegan Banana Bread – Who doesn’t love good banana bread? This is one of my most popular recipes since I had The Healthy Chef café.
- Olive Oil Zucchini Bread – This one is great for breakfast or as an afternoon snack with tea.
- Raw Chocolate Tahini – This is so simple and tasty you’ll be eating it out of the jar! It’s great as a chocolate frosting or to enjoy as a nut-free spread for brownies and toasted bread!
Dead or alive, name 3 people you would invite to high tea?
Ricky Martin, Ricky Martin, Ricky Martin!
How often would you eat baked foods and desserts? What’s a healthy balance, in your opinion?
It really depends on what it is. My Olive Oil Zucchini Bread is wonderful to enjoy as breakfast a few times a week, whereas I would indulge in something more decadent like my celebration cakes on occasion. But I always keep a jar of Raw Chocolate Tahini in my fridge when I feel like a little chocolate therapy. This pretty much happens most days!
You must have had a few baking disasters along the way. Do you have a funny story or a dessert that just didn’t work out at all?
When I was training as a chef I had many disasters. I didn’t weigh ingredients much then and my cheesecakes turned out like rubber balls! I had to thow out 20 cheesecakes when all the chefs had gone home for the night so no one would catch me out!
Top general 3 tips for healthy baking success?
- Weigh all your ingredients.
- Use good quality ingredients.
- Bake when you are happy and listen to good music when you bake for best results, every time!
Thank you so much for your time! You can find Teresa’s new book Healthy Baking here.
So there you go, guys! I hope you found some of these answers useful and insightful. I don’t know about you but I feel like baking now. If you have your own tip for healthy baking, leave a comment below.