Healthy eating: Susan Jane White on super sweet Maple syrup
Maple syrup is not only tasty, it is good for the bones too, says Susan Jane White, as she makes a fun frosting
A pal in Quebec is struggling to find local maple syrup. Rumour has it the middle-class Chinese are beatifically buying up all of Canada's stocks.
This, of course, bears consequences for us too, one of which is a rise in the price of this deliciously sticky nectar. Another is the surge of impostors in the market. To avoid being duped by 'maple-flavoured' syrup, read the ingredients list. It should only have one ingredient -- 100 per cent pure Canadian maple syrup.
What's so terrific about maple syrup anyway? Isn't it just like golden syrup? Not even close. Maple syrup is harvested naturally from maple trees and contains surprising amounts of iron and calcium. It's the only sweetener that helps alkalise the body -- other sugars can be highly acidic to the system.
Acidic systems have been shown to leach calcium from our bones while alkaline systems actually enhance calcium absorption. This is useful information for those who suffer from arthritic and osteo conditions.
And of course, there's the taste. Think Bergman meets Bogart. Need I say more?
Dairy-free Chocolate Frosting
This stuff is criminally tasty. The recipe is lifted from Jude Blereau's Wholefood for Children. Jude managed to concoct a healthier and tastier version of regular chocolate icing specifically for those with dairy intolerances, and penchants for cupcakes. Hail, Jude!
I recommend trying 82 per cent organic dark chocolate from the Grenada Choc Co, Plamil dairy-free, sugar-free hemp chocolate, or Lindt 99 per cent cocoa chocolate. Green & Black's now do an 85 per cent cocoa chocolate with very little raw cane sugar, and Tesco has an organic dark chocolate for about half the cost.
As you've probably guessed, a higher cocoa content means a lot less sugar and no dairy.
You will need:
150ml coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons agar flakes (type of seaweed)
3 teaspoons cornflour
30g cacao or cocoa powder
185ml maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
50g dairy-free dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Place nearly all of the coconut milk in a saucepan and whisk in the agar flakes. Agar can be bought in all good gourmet and health-food stores.
Bring to the boil, stirring frequently to prevent the agar sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the mixture comes to a rolling boil, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for six minutes, all the while gently whisking.
Meanwhile, place the cornflour and remaining coconut milk in a cup, and mix into a smooth paste. Remove the agar mixture from the heat, whisk in cacao or cocoa powder, whichever you are using, and the maple syrup. Then add the cornflour and coconut mixture, and whisk to combine eveything well.
Return the pan to the heat and boil, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken and lose its cloudy look as soon as it starts to boil. If you think this sounds complicated, remind yourself of the reward awaiting. Believe me, it's worth it.
Remove from the heat. Add in the natural vanilla extract and broken chocolate, stirring until smooth and silky. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate for a couple of hours until set.
Final step -- process the mixture in a blender until luscious and glossy. This makes it more malleable. Transfer to a pristine clean bowl and refrigerate until required.
This frosting could easily last two weeks in the fridge, provided that immoderate amounts of cupcakes are not consumed.