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The Yankee Express

Choices for reducing sugar in a recipe

By Christine Galeone
Fall and winter are ideal seasons for baking – a hobby I’ve enjoyed since my mom and grandmother shared their love of the art/craft with me before I was able to read or ride a bike.  But while the aroma of chocolate chip cookies or brownies on a crisp autumn day is inviting, most of us want to be healthier. And baking and getting healthier don’t always mix well together.
But baking treats that are at least a bit healthier is possible. So, for the fall and winter, this column will offer recipes that fall into that category. And the baked goods created from them taste just as good as the ones made with heaps of sugar, over-processed ingredients and artificial colors. 
Apple crisp is probably one of the healthiest desserts you can bake. It’s brimming with heart-healthy ingredients, including apples, oats and walnuts. Cinnamon and nutmeg both have antioxidant properties. And apples are believed to also be beneficial for lung health.  Additionally, having less added sugar makes this a dessert that can easily double as breakfast.
Although not every type of apple is a good choice for reduced-sugar baking, there are several sweeter varieties that are perfect. Rachel Houlden, who manages the office at Houlden Farm – which was nominated for the “Telegram & Gazette 2021 Best of Central Mass” award for Best Produce – knows of a couple that people might like to try. Along with other varieties and a wonderful selection of fresh produce, they’re available to purchase from the family-owned farm located at 95 Wesson Road in North Grafton.
“It’s hard to recommend one apple variety to satisfy the palate of all, however, when making a pie with the hopes to have less added sugar, a Honeycrisp apple would be a great contender,” Houlden advised. “It’s sweet, yet also tart, and its crisp flesh makes for a delicious dessert with apple slices that haven’t completely cooked down to mush. Another great apple option that my grandmother-in-law, Ruth Houlden, has taught me over the last decade is a Macoun apple. It is quite universal and can be enjoyed alone as a snack, and again like the Honeycrisp, its crisp yet tender flesh does not break down when cooked.”
Houlden also offered a tip on how to add a delightful twist to any apple crisp recipe.  “When I bake apple crisp, my favorite way is to use an array of apple varieties,” she revealed. “I find that each bite is a little different than the last and really adds a lot of depth to this simple fall dessert.”
Apple Crisp
4 Medium to Large Apples
¾ Cup of Rolled Oats
½ Cup Chopped Walnuts
¼ Cup of Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp. Flour
1 tsp. Cinnamon
½ tsp. Nutmeg
¼ Cup Butter
• Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
• In a bowl, mix together everything except the apples and the butter.
• Cut the butter into the crisp mixture, so that it’s like crumbs.
• Wash, peel, core and slice the apples, and spread them on the bottom of a 9X9” baking pan/dish.
• Distribute the crisp mixture evenly over the apples, and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Let it cool a little, but serve it warm. Makes about 8 servings. 
With apples in season, there’s no better time to try baking this crisp. Happy (healthier) baking!