Semi-healthy dessert: two recipes

In our household we have this problem where we want to eat healthy food, but we really like dessert.  There are other options (like, say the heck with it and keep fudge brownies around all the time, or banish sweets from the kitchen entirely), but the best solution is to come up with desserts that aren’t really that bad for you.  Here are a couple of favorites:

Bread Pudding:

The first step is, never throw out any scrap of bread.  Ends off the old loaf that nobody wants to eat once a fresh batch comes out of the oven, hunks that get stale sitting on the counter, pita pockets that sit in the back of the fridge for a month, even slightly moldy bread can get the surface layer shaved off – hasn’t killed me yet.  So you cut rejected bread bits into cubes about half to 3/4″ square, and you accumulate them in a gallon ziploc in the freezer.  When the ziploc is pretty full but not yet bulging, you’re ready to go.

Split the contents of the bread crumb bag between two 1.5 quart glass baking dishes, the ones that are the size and shape of a small loaf pan, pressing it down to consolidate – might want to wait a bit until it thaws and press some more.  Tradition permits addition of copious raisins mixed with the bread at this point; I’ve also done frozen wild blueberries with good effect.  Meanwhile, mix up the following:

  • 5 eggs
  • 1c sugar
  • 2t vanilla
  • 2t cinnamon
  • 1t nutmeg
  • 5c milk, approximately, skim works fine though recipes call for whole or even half and half/cream
  • 1/4t salt (or more, depending on how salty you bake your bread)

whup that all up with a fork in a bowl, and pour it on the bread.  Try to judge how the quantity is working out when the pans are about half full, so you can add a splash of milk to the bowl and stir it in, if needed to get the volume right.  It doesn’t have to cover the bread (especially since the bread is probably sticking above the surface of the pan) but you want all the bread saturated – you can help by pushing it down with a fork. Let it sit for a few minutes if it seems to need time to soak.

Now, put the two pans in a big lasagna pan (glass is nice so it won’t ruin the seasoning or start to rust) and fill the lasagna pan up most of the way with water.  Then put it in a 350 oven for around 1.25h – the water bath helps regulate the temperature so the egg/milk solution solidifies without burning.  You know it’s done when it’s puffed up in the middle and brown, with no more goopy stuff oozing out from the center when you poke it with a fork.  Let it cool a bit to set up firmer, then eat it – it’s good warm or cold, with ice cream, cream, or nothing at all.  I don’t feel guilty at all about eating it as breakfast or any other meal; as Alexis points out it’s basically french toast.  If the bread is good sturdy whole wheat stuff like what we make, its tasty and downright virtuous.

Carrot Orange Cookies

These are a new addition, courtesy of Bill and Jessica, friends of Abby and Matt out in Madison.  They are somewhere between cookies and scones, leaning toward the scone side, but where eating scones that aren’t really fresh sometimes seems like doing penance, these stay moist and are cookie-like enough to qualify as dessert.

  • 1.5 sticks butter, softened
  • 3/4c sugar
  • 1t vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • rind of 1 orange
  • 1c carrot, cooked (I grate fresh carrot finely, then microwave it for 1 minute – seems to work well
  • 2c whole wheat flour (this is one recipe where 100% ww flour works really well – must be something about the carrots)
  • 2t baking powder
  • 1/4t salt

Cream butter and sugar, mix in vanilla, egg, orange rind, and carrot.  Add dry ingredients and mix.  Since I don’t measure the carrot very carefully, the dough often comes out goopy, so I add a bit more flour.  It ends up thicker than muffin batter but not as stiff as typical cookie dough.  Drop spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet; I don’t really form them, just sort of glump them on there, so as to end up with 20-24 cookies.  Bake 350 till done – I couldn’t tell you how long since I don’t generally time cookies.   They flatten out a bit in baking but still end up craggy and uneven.

These really are surprisingly good.  I think with a splash of milk to thin to batter consistency they would make fine muffins or quick bread as well.  It would be interesting as well to try using less butter and more carrot – I bet they’d still be pretty good.  Likewise wheat germ, sesame seeds, all kinds of hippie goodness.

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