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Light Dessert Secrets from the Test Kitchen

We experimented with lighter dairy products, switched to whole grain options, and banked on the natural sweetness of fruits, testing each recipe over and over again until it tasted just right. The result is a deliciously easy list of strategies for redesigning desserts to fit your healthful eating goals.

Use Less Sugar

Decrease the sugar by an eighth or a fourth. When sugar isn't needed for crisping, tenderizing, or caramelizing, use a heat-stable sugar substitute such as Splenda or Sweet'N Low, or a sugar-substitute blend such as Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking.

Substitute Low-Fat Dairy

Turn plain fat-free yogurt into yogurt cheese and use it in place of whipped cream, sour cream, and cream cheese. Or switch to fat-free milk, reduced-fat cream cheese and sour cream, and light whipped dessert topping.

To make yogurt cheese: Line a yogurt strainer, sieve, or small colander with three layers of 100-percent-cotton cheesecloth or a clean paper coffee filter. Suspend lined strainer, sieve, or colander over a bowl. Spoon in plain yogurt. (The amount depends how much you want to make. Use a brand of yogurt that contains no gums, gelatin, or fillers. These ingredients may prevent the whey from separating from the curd to make cheese.) Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator; drain and discard liquid. Cover and store yogurt cheese in refrigerator for up to one week.

Use Fruit

Capitalize on fruit's natural sweetness and fiber.

Use Special Flour

Bake with cake flour for a more tender cake, then use less sugar for tenderizing. Or replace one-fourth of the white flour with whole grain flour.

Skip the Frosting

Instead of frosting, top baked desserts with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or a chunky fruit salsa.

Use One Crust Instead of Two

Skip the crust when baking cheesecake, and use only a top or bottom crust for pie.

Use Unsweetened Cocoa

Use unsweetened cocoa powder instead of higher-fat chocolate products.

Top with Cereal

Try crispy whole grain cereals to top desserts or struesels instead of a high-fat, high-sugar crumb topping.

Use Egg Whites

Opt for egg whites or frozen or refrigerated egg product in place of some or all of the eggs.

Try 'Free' Products

Experiment with sugar-free and fat-free packaged dessert products, but read the labels to make sure the carb and sodium counts fit your guidelines.

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