Disclaimer: When it comes to baking, I'm a purist. I like to use real, premium ingredients to make real, premium treats. And when I'm watching my waistline, I'm more concerned with quality than quantity. For example, I'd rather have two bites of a decadent, full-calorie treat than a plateful of something that is supposed to remind me of a decadent treat. However, there are some "next-best-thing" options (with real ingredients, not processed man-made substitutes) for reducing fat in your favorite recipes and I'm excited to share them with you! In my last post, I introduced a "secret ingredient" for my Reduced-Fat Chocolate Brownies. Unlikely as it may seem, prune puree was the secret ingredient that helped create a chewy, flavorful brownie in the place of a calorie-rich oil. And just in case you didn't make the recipe and are wondering, the answer is no, you can't taste the prunes. How does it work? Fruit purees (applesauce, prunes, bananas, mangos) as well as pureed squashes can often replace oil in cake, cookie, and brownie recipes because they can perform the same function of enhancing flavors and reducing stickiness. If you're going to use a calorie/fat reducing agent, I recommend a natural option like this rather than a processed substitute. Here are a few tips for replacing oil with one of these purees: 1. As a general rule, I recommend substituting 1 cup of oil for 3/4 cup of puree. 2. If using a puree other than applesauce, particularly for cakes, I find that adding 3-4 tablespoons of applesauce in addition to the other puree gives the cake a better texture. 3. Use unsweetened applesauce rather than a sweetened variety. 4. Increase the amount of baking soda or baking powder called for by 1/4 teaspoon. 5. Increase the amount of vanilla (or other flavorings) by 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon. Think of oil as a highway, carrying all the flavors to every morsel of the recipe. Your puree is not as efficient and will need a little boost. More than anything, trial and error will be required to perfect your own recipes, but these tips will give you a good place to start. Be a student about it and make notes on your original recipe in pencil, noting the changes you made and then your assessment of how it turned out and what you think you'd adjust the next time around. Good luck and let me know how your recipes turn out! I'd love to know.