Like it or lump it, sugar's time is up - sugar free recipes to curb the cravings
If you're determined to cut back on your intake but still want an occasional treat, cookery writer Susanna Booth has some great sugar-free recipes
From reports that slashing the amount of sugar in sweetened drinks by 40pc could prevent 300,000 cases of Type 2 diabetes, to news that the average five-year-old consumes the equivalent of their own body weight in sugar in a year, reducing the white stuff has become something of a national priority.
Yet while many are painfully aware of the destructive influence of sugar (that'll be the 3pm grumps, ageing skin and bingo wings then), it doesn't help that: A, sugar is added to lots of food and drinks, even unsuspecting savoury products; B, sugar is embedded in our daily diets (hello, mid-morning biscuits), and C, it tastes nice.
Here to help is cookery writer Susanna Booth, who used her polymer chemistry degree to create sugar-free goodies that don't sacrifice taste, sweetly displayed in her new recipe book, Sensationally Sugar Free.
But with sugar playing "quite a big role in a lot of baking", the challenge was to find a way of adding texture and crunch - which sugar provides - as well as sweetness.
So far, Booth's recipes (in which she uses apple puree, sweeteners like stevia and naturally sweet fruits) have been well received by her friends and family.
Although many of us are habituated to eating sweetened food, there are some things to keep in mind if you want to reduce the amount of sugar you use in baking.
"Think about that sugar hit," explains Booth, who often uses fruit as a topping for cakes.
"If you make a Madeira cake and cut out pretty much all the sugars and use apple puree or whatever instead, it would be disgusting. It would just be like having a loaf of bread.
"It just will not be what you're looking for mentally. You have to think about the proportion of things. If you have a sweet topping like whipped cream, you get that nice mouthful and feel like you've got something luxurious. You can sweeten the cake mixture very little and still feel like you've got that thing."
Although not completely sugar-free, Booth "cooks from scratch", so she can keep track of how much sugar she and her family eat.
"I think it's better to try and reduce as much as you can," she says.
"Any step is a step in the right direction because I think, as a population, we are eating too much sugar. "
If you'd like to give Booth's method a whirl, below is a recipe for chocolate tea cake from Sensationally Sugar Free.
CHOCOLATE TEA CAKE
(Makes about 12 slices)
• 1 Earl Grey teabag
• 110g pitted dried dates
• 75g wholemeal plain flour
• 25g cocoa powder
• 100g unsalted butter, very soft, plus extra for greasing
• 2 eggs
• 2tsp baking powder
• Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of salt
• 50g no-added-sugar plain dark chocolate, plus extra for decorating
Use the teabag to make a pot of tea, using about 150ml boiling water and leaving it to brew for five minutes. Pour off the tea into a measuring jug, then soak the dates in 125ml of the tea for at least four hours or overnight, reserving the remaining tea for the ganache.
When the dates are softened and have absorbed most of the tea, preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas mark 4. Lightly grease a 22 x 11 x 7cm/1kg loaf tin with a little butter.
Place the soaked dates, and the tea they were soaking in, in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the flour, cocoa powder, butter, eggs, baking powder, cloves and salt and process for three to four seconds, until everything has combined.
Scoop the cake mixture into the tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 30 minutes until well-risen and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin before removing and placing on a serving plate.
Meanwhile, make the ganache. Break up the chocolate into small pieces and place in a small saucepan with the reserved tea over a low heat until chocolate has melted, then stir well. Pour into a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes until the mixture has set. Spread it on the cooled cake. Use a vegetable peeler to create curls of chocolate and sprinkle over the top of the ganache to decorate. Eat within two to three days.