This list was prompted by a conversation with a friend who wanted to start making healthier treats, but any time she looked at a recipe she was missing some of the ingredients. Frustrated, she asked me for five things to get her on the right path without breaking the bank.
Finding a healthier way to bake really pays off. Using nutrient dense ingredients will mean you find yourself eating just one piece and being satisfied. No more blood sugar crashes or irrational cravings. And you definitely don’t need to spend a fortune on niche ingredients.
These are my picks to get your wholefood baking underway. I’ve assumed you have the cupboard staples that you’d want for regular baking: eggs, cocoa (many wholefood baking recipes will call for cacao – when you’re a beginner and not necessarily wanting to invest in a ton of new ingredients a good quality cocoa is a perfectly acceptable substitute), baking powder, baking soda, vanilla essence and usual pantry spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
A food processor is really handy when wholefood baking. Lots of recipes call for throwing everything into a food processor – and you’ll definitely need a food processor to use dates as your sweetener.
Dates – Are a fantastic alternative sweetener in baking, and cooking in general. Lots of recipes call specifically for medjool (and they’re amazing) but if you want a cheaper option, regular dates can be used. You’ll need to soak them in a little warm water first. Dates are great because they not only add sweetness but also a lovely caramel flavour.
Maple syrup – Truly the sweetener of the moment and I’m happy about that because it’s delicious. Watch out for added sugar when buying it. Check those labels! You can substitute honey if you don’t have maple syrup on hand.
Coconut oil – Definitely the new black. This clever little ingredient has loads of health benefits (and a million uses outside of cooking), so making this a regularly stocked item in your pantry is money well spent. It’s also available in deodorised versions if you’re not keen on the coconut flavour.
Ground almonds – Ground almonds / almond meal / almond flour take the place of regular flours in wholefood and gluten free baking. Regardless of whether you specifically need to eat gluten free or not, you’ll benefit from switching out your wheat flour for this nutrient and protein-rich alternative.
Desiccated coconut (unsweetened) – Desiccated coconut features in recipes for cakes, loaves, cookies, raw truffles and lots more. It adds a great flavour and texture. You’ll often find it playing the role of “flour”. Added bonus: it’s super cheap.
Once you’re well on your way baking nourishing treats there’s a big wide world of ingredients you can have fun experimenting with. Chia seeds, coconut flour, raw cacao nibs and other nut “flours” are all great round two investments for your pantry.