Here at InStyle, there's no denying that we have a sweet tooth. We spend our days writing about cakes and pies and cheesecakes, so it's safe to say we have frequent sugar cravings. We try not to indulge too much, but sometimes it's hard, and we're always challenged to find healthy recipes that still actually taste good. Luckily, you can have the best of both worlds and make your favorite treats healthier, yet still indulgent by making a few ingredient swaps.
We recently talked with tastemaker and entrepreneur Elizabeth Chambers Hammer about replacing your token unhealthy ingredients (think: butter, white flour, refined sugar) with some healthier alternatives. Chambers is the CEO and owner of popular Texas bake shop, Bird Bakery, which she opened in 2012 with her husband, actor Armie Hammer. Bird prides itself on making everything from scratch daily, and each treat is inspired by the nostalgia of time spent baking family recipes with loved ones. In addition to her time at the bakery, you can regularly catch Chambers cooking something up on The Today Show, and she also serves as a judge on Food Network and The Cooking Channel.
For many recipes, including Chambers' pecan squares below, she recommends a few easy ingredient replacements. "I love to swap regular flour for almond flour because it’s high in fiber, protein, and serves as a delicious gluten-free alternative," she told us. "I also like to substitute pumpkin puree for butter to cut down on the fat. It gives the treat an added boost of vitamins (A, C, K) and delivers an extra pop of flavor!"
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place pumpkin puree, honey, brown sugar, and zests in a large saucepan over low heat until melted together. Chop pecans and spread evenly over a pre-baked half sheet of crust (ingredients and instructions below). Incorporate heavy cream to the pumpkin mixture on high heat until temperature reaches 240 degrees. Immediately pour pumpkin mixture over pecans in the crust. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating pan after the first 15 minutes.
2 cups almond or rice flour ½ teaspoon kosher salt, heaping 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled 3/8 cup of pumpkin puree 4 tablespoons ice water
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add shortening and process until mixture is the texture of coarse sand (roughly 10 seconds). Fold in the pumpkin puree evenly over flour mixture and pulse 6 times, until consistency is that of coarse crumbs. Remove to large bowl. Sprinkle with ice water and knead until mixture becomes sticky dough, adding a few extra drops of water as needed to help it hold together. Roll into a ball, press into a ball, wrap in parchment, then plastic wrap, and place in a plastic storage bag. Refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 2 days before rolling out.
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