Dyes and holiday baking

by Janice Welch

It is closing in on the holiday season and holiday baking is right around the corner. One of the best memories I have of the holidays is helping make and decorate Christmas cookies. This is a tradition that I hope to hand down to my daughter.

She already loves to help me bake. We make all sorts of cookies using healthy ingredients. The problem is, they all end up a very boring brown color. They taste great, but at this time of year I want to add a little pizzazz, a little of the magic that I remember from my own childhood.

If you are committed to avoiding artificial dyes, you’ll find this is not an easy feat. Finding natural colors has become quite a challenge. Spinach powder offers a not-so-pretty Army-green hue. Annatto seed gives a nice orange, but I have yet to be able to disguise the taste (I am still working on it, and will keep you updated).

However, my latest experiment with beet powder resulted in a beautiful reddish-pink that will work well for any stocking or Santa Claus goodies. It is also wonderful for drinks, whether you want pink homemade lemonade or a bright red fruit smoothie.

I had a hard time finding beet powder in local stores, so I ordered mine online at www.suttonsbaytrading.com (it’s in the flavored powders section).

If you want something super-easy, just mix some beet powder into organic spreadable raw honey (the creamy kind, not the liquid kind). The light brown color of the honey mixes with the beet powder to make a burgundy color.

It will also mix well into any white frosting recipe; just break up any lumps in the powder before mixing it in. Start with half a teaspoon and add more, little by little, to get to your desired color. A word of warning though: you will probably never get to a deep red unless you want beet-flavored frosting!

To make frosting a little healthier, try replacing the sugar in your recipe with half the amount of Xylitol plus 5 to 10 drops of liquid stevia extract.

Another nice addition for a very special cookie is sprinkles. Whole Foods carries a brand of sprinkles that, although full of sugar, are naturally colored. In my house, just a few sp rinkles are enough to make all the difference!

Comments are closed.