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Breanne Varela's Healthy Desserts

Pastry chef Breanne Varela is known for killer doughnuts and cookies. F&W makes her best dessert recipes easier and healthier.

"People like anything fried," says pastry chef Breanne Varela of Los Angeles's Tavern, and the Larder at Tavern, co-owned by chef Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne. Deep-fried sweet-potato doughnuts with bacon-caramel sauce are among Varela's most popular desserts, rivaled by her chocolate chip cookies: She and her staff make over 35 pounds of cookie dough at a time and sell almost the whole batch in one day. So how does Varela stay slim around so many sweets? She has several rules: "I don't bake at home. I don't eat sweets outside of work. I taste a little, then move on. And I never overindulge." To help home bakers who may lack Varela's discipline, F&W turned her indulgent recipes into simple, healthy desserts. They're delicious even without the bacon-caramel sauce.


Sweet Potato Doughnuts

Sweet Potato Doughnuts
© Alex Farnum/Con Poulos

Breanne Varela Says: "I love chef Suzanne Goin's sweet potatoes with bacon, so I imitated those flavors."

Chef Way Breanne Varela deep-fries her sweet-potato doughnuts, then serves them with bacon-caramel sauce and homemade maple ice cream.

Healthier Way Baking the doughnuts (and holes too) and tossing them with a little butter, cinnamon and sugar makes them healthier. The sweet potato in the dough adds a lovely, earthy flavor.


Chocolate Panna Cotta with Spiced Pepita Brittle

Chocolate Panna Cotta with Spiced Pepita Brittle
© Alex Farnum/Con Poulos

Chef Way At Tavern, Varela's cream-based panna cotta has a chocolate coating with two garnishes: pumpkin-seed brittle and candied pumpkin.

Healthier Way Milk replaces the cream in this cocoa-rich panna cotta. Spiced pepita (pumpkin seed) brittle is a quick and easy garnish.


Chocolate-Chip-Pecan Cookie Bars

Chocolate-Chip-Pecan Cookie Bars
© Alex Farnum/Con Poulos

Chef Way Varela's chocolate chip cookies are hugely popular at Tavern, in part because each one has lots of big chocolate chunks.

Healthier Way Chocolate chip bars are easier to prepare than cookies. Using whole wheat pastry flour instead of white makes the bars a bit healthier.


Apple Pie Sundaes with Cheddar Crust Shards

Apple Pie Sundaes with Cheddar Crust Shards
© Alex Farnum/Con Poulos

Chef Way Varela's coupe layers homemade apple ice cream with apple confit, cheddar crust and crème fraîche–whipped cream.

Healthier Way Folding apple puree into frozen vanilla yogurt, then topping with sautéed apples, makes for a simple, healthy sundae.


Strawberry-Almond Scones

Strawberry-Almond Scones
© Alex Farnum/Con Poulos

Healthier Way Almond extract flavors delicate strawberry scones without adding fat. The topping: sliced almonds and a buttermilk glaze.

Chef Way Varela mixes decadent almond frangipane (paste) into scones, then glazes the tops with cream and sanding sugar.

Plus: More Healthy Indulgences

Published March 2011
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