Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Sickly sweet

Watching Kirstie Alsopp's Homemade Britain this evening reminded me how much baking and afternoon tea is a large part of our British food culture, but also just how much sugar goes into all of it. Just watching the amount of sugar she poured into her damson jam made my teeth rattle. The high sugar content is sadly necessary to preserve the fruit and was a discovery used, before freezers were invented, as a way to be able to eat fruit out of season - as a child I would love eating plums bottled in sugar syrup from my mums garden as a winter pudding.

Sadly becoming gluten, dairy and generally sugar free pretty much ruled out afternoon tea or eating preserves ... but having always been determined not to miss out whilst I changed my diet, I have persistently tried to replace my favourite comfort foods with healthier alternatives.
Whilst refined fruit sugars, concentrated fruit juices and fructose based syrups, such agave syrup, are much less addictive than regular sugar and have less of a disregulating effect on your blood sugar, they are still super concentrated sugars so shouldn't be used with abandon. Still they are the saviour of trying to bake healthily and I am forever thankful for the wonderful people at St Dalfour for coming up with their delicious fruit juice sweetened james.

As well as using healthier sugars, there are other ways to reduce the baddie content of your baking. Cooking with seed oils, such as grapeseed, will reduce the saturated fat intake significantly. Adding nuts and seeds to your ingredients or cooking with nut flours you can up the protein content, again slowing the release of sugars from the cakey goodies in your stomach. Using recipes containing fruit or dried fruit will also up the fibre content, again slowing digestion and keeping you full for longer.

I don't have the patience to try and come up with genius no sugar, gluten and dairy free cake recipes, but my baking hero, Elena of Elena's Pantry, has posted a vast number of healthier cake and cupcake recipes - her banana cupcakes are a wonderful Sunday afternoon treat with a nice cup of rooibos tea.

If you don't have a sweet tooth then that's great, but if you are partial to some cake or a scone then I thoroughly recommend trying some of her recipes - they may be a bit less sweet than you're used to but they are still super tasty and hit the spot for an afternoon treat. They'll also go down a treat with kids, who'll be none the wiser, but alot healthier, for not having the sugar hit.

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