Life hack: Satisfy your sweet tooth by only eating your own baking (with bonus brownie cupcake recipe!)

June 3 | Guest post by Cassie
By: Jessica MerzCC BY 2.0
Like most people, I have a serious weakness for sweets. Brownies, cakes, cookies, candy bars… if it's got chocolate in it, I probably want it. We all know the various reasons why you should limit how much sugar you consume (heart disease, zits, etc.) So we come up with life hacks to limit ourselves.

Here's mine: I only let myself eat baked goods that I make.

Making my own baked goods means I know exactly what goes into them. I'm incredibly picky and have several food intolerances and allergies. If I make cookies, I don't have to ask anyone if they have nuts in them. I don't have to worry about ingredients I can't pronounce that the FDA promises is totally okay for human consumption. If I don't want high fructose corn syrup in my brownies, I don't use it.

I seriously decrease my impulse sweet snacking. I am always tempted by the Famous Amos cookies in the grocery store. But then I remind myself that I can make them cheaper, better, and fresher at home, and I don't buy them. In order to make them at home at all, I have to think ahead and get the necessary ingredients. If I decide at three A.M. on a Tuesday that I want chocolate cake and I don't have cocoa powder, then there go my cake plans.

This rule also means that I only eat baked goods when I really, REALLY want them. I have to have the time and energy to bake in order to have yummy goodness. If I just want a sweet snack because I'm sitting in front of the TV, then I don't have one. And I probably don't need it either. If I'm PMSing and I would kill someone for M&Ms, then no big. Go whip up a batch of brownies and kill that craving.

The biggest downside to my life hack is that I end up making more cookies or brownies or cake than my husband and I could eat. This is where having friends and co-workers comes into play. Ever wanted to be the most popular kid in class? Bring in a plateful of chocolate chip cookies. They don't need to know that you actually made two dozen cookies and ate six before plating up the rest to bring in. Caution: this behavior can lead to requests.

So the next time you're in the store and you're debating picking up that box of Little Debbie Fudge Brownies, tell yourself to make brownies instead. They don't have to be complicated brownies that require rum, chopped up bittersweet chocolate, coffee, and the blood of a virgin. My favorite brownie recipe (below) is so easy, you don't even need a mixer. Only eating your own baked goods tastes better, is better for you, and you'll probably enjoy it more knowing that you made it yourself.

My favorite brownie recipe

Ingredients to make 18 brownie cupcakes:

Tip: the better quality your ingredients, the better quality your end product.

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line 2-1/2-inch muffins cups with paper or foil bake cups.
  2. Place butter in large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH (100%) 1-1/2 minutes or until melted.
  3. Add cocoa; stir until smooth.
  4. Add brown sugar and granulated sugar; stir with spoon until well blended.
  5. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well with spoon.
  6. Add flour and chocolate chips; stir until well blended.
  7. Fill prepared muffin cups about 2/3 full with batter.
  8. Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until tops are cracked and feel firm (will be moist inside).
  9. Cool in cups about 15 minutes. Remove from cups. Cool completely.

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  1. In your post, you say you're giving a brownie recipe, but then at the top of the the recipe it says "Ingredients to make 18 cupcakes" and the rest of the recipe is clearly a cupcake recipe. Did you mean to include a different recipe for brownies? It sounds like a tasty cupcake recipe, similar to ones I have used with good results in the past.

  2. Nope, it's definitely a brownie recipe. I just like them in cupcake form. The outside gets chewy and the inside stays soft.

    3 agree
    • Interesting. Usually brownie recipes call for solid chocolate to be melted in. Based on the ingredients this sounds like it would be cake like, but apparently they do have brownie texture. Cool! I might have to try this recipe sometime.

    • I clarified the post a bit to make the whole brownie/cupcake thing a bit clearer. 🙂

  3. I often put baked goods in a jar on the counter, then freeze the leftovers. I usually tuck them in behind other stuff, so they're not the first things I see when I open the freezer. It helps me ensure I have a treat on hand if I really want one, but keeps me from eating them all just because they're there. I do the same thing with candy. 🙂

    3 agree
    • Ahh, this is a brilliant idea! Do you let them just come back up to room temp, or how do you de-popsicle them?

  4. Anyone know if it's possible to make a dairy/soy free version of this brownie recipe by substituting canola oil or earth balance spread? Would it be a one-to-one substitution?

    1 agrees
    • If I were going to try to make this dairy free I'd use coconut oil instead of the butter in a 1 to 1 ratio (so 1 cup of coconut oil).
      If you don't like coconut go with the canola. If you are using canola you will not have to microwave it to melt it. If you are using coconut oil it may be melted in the jar already (mine is now that it is summer time), if not you'll likely only need to microwave it for 15-20 seconds to melt it.

      Mostly I would not use a "spread" as a substitute for butter as spreads often contain water. Of course if you check the ingredients and your spread doesn't have water then go for it.

      2 agree
    • There are some margarines that are both dairy and soy free, and they could probably be substituted 1:1 for butter. You could probably get away with shortening, too, if you're not averse to it, although I'm not sure the substitution is quite 1:1 then, since butter has a bit of water, and shortening doesn't. If you use canola oil, the texture will likely be different, since it's a liquid fat substituted for a solid one.

      2 agree
    • Another option to substitute for any oil or butter based item is unsweetened applesauce in a one to one ratio. I use it all the time, keeps everything moist without getting all greasy.

      3 agree
  5. Yes! I do this too – in truth, I started doing it for my kid, and then extended it to myself. I even make my own ice cream. It's pretty great. It also decreases the mindless snacking by being SLIGHTLY inconvenient. If I want a cookie, I have to ask "do I want it bad enough to make cookies right now?" And sometimes the answer is no and I have an apple or something. If I really do and I'm still feeling lazy, I have to go through the modicum of effort to make a single-serving microwave mug cake or something. It works pretty well.

    1 agrees
    • I feel the same way, Jill! And for me the bonus is knowing exactly what is in the food so I can feel better about only eating whole ingredients instead of fillers and preservatives.

      The bad thing is that I'm starting to get pretty good at cupcakes, so it doesn't feel as inconvenient as it used to be… The most inconvenient thing is when I realize that I don't have any eggs or something. But that means that I can make egg-less raw cookie dough for snacking…….

      1 agrees
  6. My roommates and I nearly do this by default. I'm vegan for ethical reasons, but I also try to limit my intake of extremely processed products, so it's rare that I can find something sweet around town (and then it's usually local and freshly made). So we usually keep basics around the kitchen, and we bake pretty frequently.

    As for the problem of too many leftovers, one of our favorite treats is a microwave mug brownie. It's super easy, and makes a large single serving. It's great for satisfying that late-night or PMS craving without committing to eating brownies all week.

    Recipe:
    1/3 C flour
    1/3 C sugar
    2 TBS cocoa powder
    2 TBS oil
    2 TBS water/milk of choice
    (optional stir-ins: chocolate chips, chopped pecans or other nuts, etc.)

    Simply stir all ingredients together. I find that stirring the oil in completely before adding the liquid gives a better texture. Microwave for 1-3 minutes (depends on microwave and how gooey you want it). Enjoy! (Also great topped with non-dairy ice cream 😀 )

    3 agree
    • Have you ever tried this?

      handful of almonds, handful of pitted dates, a sprinkle of cocoa powder and a smidge of maple syrup (I'm not sure if you use honey but you could also use that) all in a food processor, roll into balls and chill? Best no bake brownies EVAR.

      1 agrees
  7. So doing this once the exams are over (roll on Thursday)

    First up, lemon curd tarts

    1 agrees
  8. Careful, the longer you do this, the more proficient and efficient you get at making baked goods. The next thing you know you're baking cookies in under 45 minutes and have a steady stream of fattening deliciousness around you all the time.

    There are far worse fates, of course 😀

    I found that because when I bake stuff myself, I can make it exactly to my own specifications… I stopped buying baked goods because I did not like the store bought stuff as much. Everything I made I liked better, because I could customize it to my tastes.

    7 agree
  9. I kind of do this — I don't eat anything with partially hydrogenated oils or high-fructose corn syrup in — but there is a snag you didn't mention: if you live alone and are a good baker/enjoy baking, you end up with a LOT of baked goods in your life. Right now, I have chocolate-chip cookie dough in my freezer, a fruit crisp waiting to be baked in the fridge, and a fruit pie that's half eaten on the counter. It helps to have friends and family and coworkers to help with the excess, but it's not a surefire remedy (allergies, religious restrictions, etc.). I have not really solved this yet. The closest I have come is freezing everything, usually in unbaked form (cookie dough!) and then baking it as I want it (toaster oven + two cookies = after-dinner noms) or only making something when I have a clear plan for getting rid of it (who can I invite over for dinner this week? oh, F has a serious weakness for carrot cake, that sounds like a good idea).

    2 agree
  10. My husband and I mostly do this (the exception being ice cream, which we mostly buy to go with homemade stuff like chocolate sauce, stewed rhubarb, or pie…), but it's not always that effective in reducing our sugar consumption, since our favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe calls for refrigerating the dough, so we generally just bake as many as we can eat, and then have cookie dough in the fridge for the next week or so — and let me tell you, it doesn't take much effort to heat the oven and bake some cookie dough, and it takes even less effort to eat a spoonful of dough right out of the bowl!

  11. I have a similar rule – I never buy sweets with my groceries (though baked goods given out at work are free gain).
    My late night chocolate fix is sand roses: Melt some (I like the darkest of dark) chocolate in a pot, throw in a handful of icing sugar, and stir in cornflakes, enough to have them all coated in the chocolate. Plop by the tablespoon on a cookie sheet and freeze about five minutes until hard. So crunchy and yummy, and you can make a few or a lot!
    And I use subs galore, depending what I have – cheerios instead of cornflakes, add sunflower seeds, some peanut butter or tahini. Imma go make some right now.

    1 agrees
  12. This is actually the rule we follow in our house! However…it doesn't really work since I work professionally as a baker. I limit myself to one or two sweets from the bakery a week, less if I made something at home. =D

  13. I love this in theory, but the thing is I LOVE BAKING. So I do it. A lot. Often for stress relief. And then there's always baked goods. There was a period when I was going through 1.5 pans of brownies a week.

    Also I have the recipe for a five minute chocolate/peanut butter cake-in-a-mug so down I'm pretty sure I can do it in my sleep. At this point I'm pretty sure my sugar intake would be decreased if I only ate sweets I didn't make.

    • Me too! I've been baking since I was 12 and now, 20 years later, I'm studying to become a professional baker. This means I have HOMEWORK to do. I SO love it :))) I'm also learning not to eat the whole cake/pie/batch of cookies, but to taste it critically (a piece or two) and then give the rest to my family and friends. I feel loved.

  14. I'm allergic to nuts too and I love baking. I'm a big fan of the Small-Batch Baking cookbook, and there are other small batch cookbooks too!

    My favorite small batch hack is using the two layer cake recipes (baked in tiny baking pans) in a 6 muffin baking tin in my toaster oven. Baking in the toaster oven feels so much more efficient for the tiny amount of food, but baking up 6 cupcakes or a dozen cookies is just as satisfying as a full batch!

    BAKE ON!

  15. I love to bake (although, I admit that I often cheat and use a mix) but I'm impressed by anybody who can make a pan of brownies, batch of cookies, etc., and then not eat the whole thing while they're still warm.
    Moderation is not my greatest talent, I'm sort of all or nothing.

    I don't avoid the bad for you ingredients this way, but I have a tub of store-bought chocolate chip cookie dough in my freezer so that I can make just a few cookies at a time. That way I can have 'fresh' cookies without eating them until I'm sick. I'm sure the same thing could be done with homemade dough – I may look into that.

    • Using a mix is not cheating! I used to feel that way. Then my friend who teaches cake decorating and has a cake business assured me that she uses mixes all the time because, well, it saves time. And pantry space.

      It's a common feeling, though. In a college course I took about the 1950's, we learned that manufacturers used to include powdered egg in mixes, but they took in out again, not because quality suffered, but because people didn't think they were doing enough work to qualify as "baking" unless they added eggs themselves.

  16. Along the same lines my hack is a little different, but every time I stare at the box of little debbies at the grocery store I think 'do I want a whole box of terrible snack cakes that I'll never finish before they go stale, or go to the locally owned bakery?' I feel much better giving my money to a local and quality business and get one awesome danish and coffee… the one awesome moment beats out a box of high fructose corn syrup every time.

  17. What do you mean, "more cookies than you could eat"? Has never happened to me. ^^

    I love baking and making all kinds of stuff, and I used to bring them to the office when there were only 20 or so people. Now we are closer to 60, so I think twice before baking for the office, because I would hate to not have enough for everyone. (I definitely need a mini-muffin sheet.)

    1 agrees
  18. I totally agree with this post. When my son was first diagnosed with "sucrose intolerance" last spring I nearly burst into tears in the allergists office. There's very few kid foods that don't have sugar! Now one year later I'm pretty confident at baking with just honey and date sugar. If anyone is interested in lots of yummy sugarfree recipes check out my blog at http://cyclinggardeners.blogspot.ca/

    I think all my honey based recipes could be vegan-ized with maple syrup, but its nearly 90% sucrose so no good for us.

  19. I have used this hack to good effect before. I have to gather recipes that call for bakers chocolate and cocoa powder instead of chocolate chips, though, otherwise we find ourselves just eating the chocolate chips!

    I used a similar plan to get myself unhooked from ordinary soda: I could have a sugary drink if I made it myself! Soda is not actually that hard to make, if you invest in a good stainless steel pot (and who couldn't use a good soup pot!), some bail top glass bottles (resuing plastic 2L bottles works too if you want to experiment or make soda on the cheap) and a little yeast (bread yeast works, but ale yeast from a brewery supply is cheap and works great). When you make soda with real ingredients (like citrus fruit zest, fruit juice, fresh ginger, real vanilla, sassafras root [beware controversy], honey, fresh mint, and so on), quickly the storebought stuff just all starts to taste like sugar water. I found that an 8 ounce glass of tasty homemade soda satisfied me far more than any movie theater big gulp that I could suck down without noticing. And remembering the (enjoyable) work that I put into making the soda makes it all the more enjoyable to drink!

    1 agrees
      • Agreed! It sounds awesome, particularly mint and ginger flavor. Plus we have a lemon tree and not nearly enough uses for lemons…and all our brewing and kegging supplies for beer already…

  20. Last weekend a friend of mine and I were hanging out and he whipped up some awesome peanut butter cookies that this post TOTALLY reminds me of.
    His mom wouldn't buy sweets for their family when he was a kiddo. So, the kids couldn't eat sweets til they could make them themselves. His childhood favorite (probably for how easy it is to make!) is what he whipped up…
    Here's his recipe:
    2 cups peanut butter
    2 cups sugar
    2 eggs
    Mix it all together, spoon into cookie-esque lumps and place on a baking sheet.
    Bake for 7-10 minutes @ 350 degrees.

    HOW SIMPLE IS THAT?! (so simple i could not pass up the opportunity to share)

    1 agrees

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