Lauren Chattman

Lauren Chattman is a cookbook author, freelance writer and former professional pastry chef. Her recipes have appeared in Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Cook’s Illustrated and The New York Times. She is the author of 14 books, most recently "Cake Keeper Cakes" (Taunton 2009) and "Cookie Swap!" (Workman, 2010). She has also co-authored several books with former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier, including Dessert University (Simon & Schuster, 2004). With artisan baking expert Daniel Leader, she is the co-author of the IACP award-winning "Local Breads" (Norton, 2007). With Susan Matheson, she is co-author of "The Gingerbread Architect" (Clarkson Potter, Fall 2008) Lauren lives in Sag Harbor with her husband and two daughters. She blogs about local food and small-town life at sagharbordays.blogspot.com. Show More

Of the several books that have come out recently on “healthy” baking, “A New Way to Bake, From the Kitchens of Martha Stewart” (Clarkson Potter, $26) stands out. While other books focus on cutting out the “bad stuff” — how to bake with less sugar, less fat or no gluten — this book wants you to discover a range of ingredients in order to broaden your baking repertoire.

The book’s editor at large, Shira Bocar, explains, “We were sort of inspired by the mantra, ‘flavor first,’ as a way to expand your palate. We started with minimally processed whole ingredients that are now available at most supermarkets, and then we looked for ways that these ingredients could enhance the flavor of familiar baked goods.”

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The project did have its technical challenges. Whole grain flours, says Bocar, “come with their own playbook.” Whole wheat flour, for example, requires more liquid than white flour. When using liquid sweeteners such as maple syrup or honey, other liquid quantities in recipes had to be adjusted. Testers also had to deal with new flavor profiles. Quinoa flour, for example, is pretty assertive, so it is paired with equally assertive pecans, dates and orange zest in Quinoa Crumb Cakes.

Exciting ingredients discovered during the testing process included coconut milk and coconut oil, which come in handy for vegan recipes, and coconut sugar, which adds a unique sweetness to tropical treats such as Hummingbird Cake with pineapple and banana. Many people have only experienced buckwheat in soba noodles, but buckwheat flour lends an interesting texture and flavor to various items such as espresso cookies and a gluten-free chocolate torte. Millet gives granola and muffins, “a cheerful pop.”

Among Bocar’s favorite recipes, she cites the overnight yeasted waffle. “You create the whole batter the night before and all you have to do is heat up the waffle iron the next morning. And it has a really intense depth of flavor. We sprinkled the waffle batter with granola so you get this crunchy, seedy texture on top of this soft, billowy waffle.” Another is the dark chocolate beet cake, using packaged roasted beets that are newly available in the produce aisle. “We were saying in the kitchen that it tastes like a nice full-bodied glass of red wine, with an earthy depth.”

The recipe for Pecan, Oat and Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies exemplifies the “flavor first” approach. Ground pecans are an alternative to flour, but more importantly add richness and flavor. Olive oil is a healthy fat and also adds an interesting vegetal note. And maple syrup isn’t just a substitute for sugar. It has lots of antioxidants and phytochemicals and contains up to 300 flavor compounds, bringing hints of caramel, coffee, butter and honey into the mix.