October 18, 2012

Everyone loves baked goods and the benefits of baking at home with simple baking recipes extend well beyond the irresistible smell of fresh bread or pastries filling up your kitchen. Buying ingredients in bulk instead of repeatedly buying prepackaged baked goods is a great way to save money in today's economy.

Finding great bread recipes and taking the time to bake them for your family shows them how much you care about their health and well-being. Home baked goods are more nutritious. They are fresher with fewer additives and chemicals. You can even include your family in the baking process. Baking together is a fun way to spend time with your children and in the process you can teach them life long lessons about the importance of good health and nutrition.

Probably the biggest advantage to home baking is that it puts you in control of the ingredients that you use. You can use a boxed cake mix if you're in a rush or if you have the time you can make recipes from scratch and choose every item that goes into your project. This takes the mystery out of eating and is particularly helpful if you or a family member has food allergies to consider. In addition, making things from scratch makes you more aware of exactly what you are putting in your body. Taking the time to bake at home will help you to keep excess weight off naturally without the need to diet because you will be making healthy choices regularly in ways that don't sacrifice taste. For example, if you are watching your weight you can choose to create your favorite desserts by replacing butter or vegetable oil with less saturated fats like olive or sunflower oil. Some recipes even allow you to skip the fats altogether by using more unconventional ingredients like organic applesauce to add moisture to your creations.

Home baking gives you the option of using the highest quality ingredients. Using whole ingredients makes your baked goods even healthier. Whole foods are foods that are still in the natural state; they haven't been processed or refined. Think of the difference between a baked potato and mashed potatoes, one is in its natural "whole" state and the other has been altered, the skins removed and butter and milk or cream has been added. When you use whole ingredients they still contain all of their natural vitamins, minerals and nutrients. One of the most basic ways to make you baked goods healthier is to use whole wheat flour instead of the more commonly used white flour. The whole wheat flour is more nutritious because white flour has been processed and stripped of vital nutrients such as fiber. If you prefer the taste of white flour you can use a mixture of the two, slowly increasing the ratio of whole wheat flour over time. When you bake, the choice is all yours and the possibilities are endless.

The advantages to using whole foods in your home baking projects are not only all of the good things that are left in. Perhaps an even more important is what is left out. Often whole foods are organic or grown without harmful pesticides. This also translates to less chemicals going into the body. Prepackaged baked goods contain preservatives and other additives like salt, sugar and saturated or trans fats, including dextrose and the dreaded high-fructose corn syrup. These additives are meant to give the products a longer shelf life and in some cases they add additional flavoring to compensate for lesser quality ingredients. These chemicals are harder for the body to process than the whole, natural ingredients that you would use when baking at home. The added fats and sugars translate to added calories and increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, not to mention obesity.

We all want what's best for our families. Nowadays there are so many choices in the grocery store when it comes to baked goods. At the end of the day no one can take better care of your family than you can. Taking the time to look for great bread recipes and then bake fresh breads, pastries and desserts are steps in the right direction. By using high quality fresh ingredients you are taking that extra step to provide your family with nutritional, healthy food that is deceptively decadent and creating healthy eating habits that will follow your children through life. When you really want to give your family the best, healthiest option there is no better decision that baking at home.

Orla Hayman is baking mad. Her passion comes from being taught as a small child on how to bake, she likes nothing more than helping other people develop their confidence in the kitchen with easy cake recipes.

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