Low-Fat Brownies: Applesauce vs. Yogurt

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Yes, they look awfully similar but which one makes the fudgiest brownies?

After gorging on holiday desserts, it isn't hard to make a New Year's resolution to eat more healthfully and drop a few pounds. Sticking to it, however, is another story. The long, freezing winter ahead can look pretty bleak if it doesn't include steaming mugs of cocoa and cookies warm from the oven. That's why this month I'll be reviewing low-fat mixes and baking techniques. Here at Serious Eats, we believe there is room in every diet for dessert!

When you're cutting calories, it's difficult not to fantasize about the foods you "can't" have—especially ones that involve chocolate. But it is possible to have your brownies and your bikini bod, too.

One simple trick is to replace the oil called for in most boxed brownie mixes with either applesauce or plain yogurt. Both methods yield treats that are virtually fat-free, but which one tastes better? I decided to test them both side-by-side to see which produced the fudgiest, gooiest results.

I chose Betty Crocker's Fudge Brownie Mix for its straightforward, familiar flavor and its availability. To prepare the mix the regular way, you add 2 eggs, 1/4 cup of water, and 1/2 cup of vegetable oil.

Applesauce

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[Photographs: Lucy Baker]

I swapped in 1/2 cup of plain Mott's applesauce for the oil and stirred the mix until it was smooth and blended. I baked the brownies in a 9x13-inch pan for a total of 25 minutes—slightly less than the recommended baking time.

When they were done, they were quite thin and spongy in texture. The surface had a dull, almost chalky appearance. I cut them into squares and took a bite from the middle. The flavor was OK (sweet and fudgy) but the texture was dry and chewy. Overall, it was kind of like eating a slightly stale chocolate pancake. That's fine if you're in a ravenous pinch, but it's definitely not a drool-worthy dessert.

Yogurt

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Next up was the yogurt variation. For this batch, I switched the oil for 1/2 cup of plain non-fat yogurt. The batter was notably thicker and creamier than the applesauce version. I smoothed it into the pan and set it in the oven for 25 minutes.

This time, my brownies came out raised and puffy in the center with a smooth, glossy crust. I had to wipe my knife between cuts because the insides were so moist and gooey. While the taste of the yogurt brownies was similar to the applesauce brownies, the texture made all the difference—these were rich and velvety.

The Winner?

Yogurt. While you won't be fooled into thinking you're devouring a no-holds-barred, full-fat treat, brownies lightened with yogurt are sure to satisfy your sweets craving, whether a late-afternoon snack or bedtime indulgence.

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