Baking is a science: The right mix of raw ingredients turns into a delightful and delicious dessert. Unfortunately, many of us are currently struggling with finding the baking essentials — baking soda, baking powder and yeast — which lend baked goods that glorious lift.
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If you're missing these ingredients, you can still knock out a delicious baked dessert.
Why Are Baking Powder, Baking Soda and Yeast Important?
For some recipes, like cookies and cakes, baking powder and baking soda give them the rise they need. Basically, they create carbon dioxide gas that makes little air pockets in your baked dessert, resulting in a treat that's anything but dense and lifeless.
Baking powder and baking soda are not interchangeable — so if your recipe calls for one or the other, it's best to stick with that recommendation.
Here are the leavening agents' functions:
- Baking powder: This is also sodium bicarbonate, but it has a powdered acid mixed in. For recipes that need leavening and don't have an acid, baking powder is your choice. If your package says it's double-acting, that means it will react once when you mix it with your wet ingredients — and it will react again when you bake.
- Baking soda: This is sodium bicarbonate and it has a fast reaction time. It must be combined with an acid to produce the reaction to create carbon dioxide. So, in recipes that call for lemon juice, buttermilk or yogurt, baking soda should be your first choice.
- Yeast: This is a living organism, so you must take care of it or it will die on you. Yeast loves to eat sugar (don't we all?), so in that process of chowing down on all the sweet stuff, it also creates carbon dioxide. Yeast is slow-acting, which means it needs time to create the rise in breads — which is why you see rising times of two hours or more.
What Else Can I Use as a Leavening Agent?
The goal is to create air in order for your dessert to rise. Aside from baking powder, baking soda and yeast, you can create steam by cooking at high heat with a light batter, such as with cream puffs. You can also add extra air and fluffiness to your dessert by using whipped egg whites, which works for some coconut macaroon recipes and soufflés.
7 Dessert Recipes That Don’t Need Leavening
If the store is out of leavening agents — or you just don't want to make the trip to get more — there are plenty of baked desserts you can make that will satisfy your sweet tooth, make your house smell delicious and help you realize that you can overcome baking science.
1. Brownie Bites With Matcha Dust
Brownies are the perfect dessert to make without leavening because you want a dense, chewy texture. They don't traditionally use a leavening agent and if they do, it usually yields a more cake-like consistency.
These brownie bites use whole-wheat flour and unsweetened cocoa powder to bump up the nutrition. In fact, cocoa and dark chocolate contain polyphenols, which are antioxidants that play an anti-inflammatory role. So if you're feeling stressed, a little chocolate may help.
Get the Brownie Bites With Matcha Dust recipe and nutrition info here.
2. The Best Paleo Pumpkin Pie
It doesn't matter what diet you're on or what season it is — this pie should be on your list of desserts to make.
The amount of nutrition in this pie is astounding. First of all, the walnuts in here are a plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and you'll also get a boost of beta-carotene from the pumpkin purée.
Get the Best Paleo Pumpkin Pie recipe and nutrition info here.
3. Coconut Almond Macaroons
Here's your new go-to recipe for cookies without baking soda: Rachael Hartley, RD, of Rachael Hartley Nutrition, does coconut macaroons three ways with ingredients such as almond flour, cocoa powder, lemons and freeze-dried strawberries.
These bites are the quintessential pantry-staple cookie — and she's found a way to make them healthier and cut down on the sugar from a traditional macaroon.
Get the Coconut Almond Macaroons recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Blueberry Crumb Squares
Blueberries don't have to be in season to make a comforting dessert. This juicy treat by Tracee Brenner, RDN, of Triad to Wellness, uses frozen blueberries to make a healthy dessert the entire family will love.
If you're gluten-free, know that this recipe uses almond flour, sorghum flour and oats to give you 5 grams of fiber per bar. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends women get 25 grams of fiber per day while men get 38 grams and these satisfying bars are a delicious way to get more fiber.
Get the Blueberry Crumb Squares recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Breakfast-Worthy Apple Crisp
Nutrition expert Leanne Ray, RD, has a dessert so healthy, she deems it breakfast-worthy. And the best part: It doesn't require one bit of leavening agents. (Well, that's probably not the best part, but it sure makes your life easier if you don't have them on hand.)
This recipe combines apples, oats, walnuts, flaxseed and whole-wheat flour that is sure to make you feel good about eating dessert. Ray cuts down on the added sugar by using sweeter apples with more natural sugars such as Honeycrisp.
Get the Breakfast-Worthy Apple Crisp recipe and nutrition info here.
6. Dark Chocolate-Dipped Chai Almond Cookies
Sometimes you just need chocolate and cookies together, and Rachael Hartley, RD, has a smart shortcut for these treats. Instead of purchasing individual spices, she uses the contents of a chai tea bag. That will save you both time and money (and leave your house smelling extra good).
These cookies also help you get in whole grains and fiber by using whole-wheat flour and almond flour. Since there are no leavening agents here, the result is a dense and crunchy cookie — perfect for pairing with coffee or more chai tea.
Get the Dark Chocolate-Dipped Chai Almond Cookies recipe and nutrition info here.
7. Jam and Oat Bars
If you need a dessert to take on multiple roles — snack, breakfast and after-dinner treat — then these bars are for you. This recipe couldn't be easier to make, and you probably have all of the ingredients in your pantry right now.
Substitute out any flavor jam you have on hand to make it just how you like it. If you don't have oat flour, pulse rolled oats in a food processor until it turns to flour consistency. Adding more oats to your diet is a smart move — in fact, oats contain a fiber called beta-glucan, which might help lower your cholesterol, according to the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.
Get the Jam and Oat Bars recipe and nutrition info here.