Half-baked baking notions
Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, Baker's man
I should probably start this post with a disclaimer:
I don’t bake (never have), and I very rarely eat baking. Put simply — neither process really appeals to me.
I therefore confess that I know next-to-nothing of how to create something delicious & moist from something sloppy & wet (flour, eggs, butter, & sugar).
That said, I have many clients who love to bake!
And, I would never advise against this, as for them it’s a wildly therapeutic process (they cite it as being a fun, stress-reliever).
However, what I do advise, is that these bakers shoot for a happy medium between traditional refined baking, and the ‘new-fangled’ fashions.
If upon visiting my kindly, elderly friend, she offers me one of her home-made scones then I damn well eat it — no questions asked!
Because some of our eating patterns have changed over time, so too have our recipes. There are now numerous dairy-free recipes, gluten-free recipes, and sugar-free recipes available. And more recently, we are seeing more and more ‘trifecta’ recipes (dairy-free + gluten-free + sugar-free)!
You can use all manner of ingredients to replace the once-standard staples (dairy, gluten, and sugar). These new options include: almond flour/various nuts1, medjool dates, cacao powder & butter, maple syrup, and agave syrup.
New blogs and books in the media now also tote ‘unbaking’ (either not baking your baking… or only baking your baking a little).
Because of all of this, some people could be forgiven for thinking that they could now quite happily (and healthily) exist soley on these new sorts of ‘baking’ .
Hmm me thinks we’ve forgotten a few key ingredients in this whole baking palava…!
What was so bad about traditional, wholemeal baking? Why were we so quick to move on from this?
Is ‘trifecta’ baking and unbaking really necessary for the average person — especially considering the expense involved?
I’m inclined to think that organic, wholemeal baking is a better, more honest option for the masses.
Lest we forget
01—Baking is meant to be economical & practical
Baking is a relatively low-cost method to feed hungry (and fussy) mouths.
02—Baking is home-made/made from scratch
If you’re a conscious consumer you want to know exactly want is going into your baking. You can make it as good for you or as bad for you as you’d like (not that I’m suggesting the latter).
There need not be any additives, preservatives, or ‘glow in the dark’ food colourings in your baking.
And if you use organic versions of everything there will be no further hidden ‘baddies’ in your baking, such as the following in flour: bromate, chemical bleaching, alcohol treatment, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agents.
03—Baking is meant to be lovingly shared around
It’s (supposedly) a fun, and nurturing thing to do either alone, or with your choice of sous-pastry-chef. It’s also a wonderful thing to give to people to show that you love and care for them. For others it’s a wonderful thing to receive baking. Someone has taken the time out to not only think about you, but to lovingly prepare something to nourish you, and your soul.
I deal with a lot of people at Huckleberry Farms who don’t appear to be having much fun searching for dairy, gluten, and sugar substitutes2. They seem very disoriented as they are not only unfamiliar with our stores, but they are also unfamiliar with the ingredients these recipes require. When I query these customers, some also seem confused as to why they need to follow these recipes in the first place! None of this seems very practical to me.
These people also don’t have any fun when it’s time for their items to be totalled up at the check-out. Especially considering these purchases will only contain enough to be used once (or twice, if they’re lucky).
Note: I don’t know about you, but if it cost me around $80 to make one cake, I don’t know how willing I’d be to share it with others! This way of baking, is definitely not economical.
I've always been into more ‘non-traditional un-baking’ methods myself. As a small child I wasn't so much interested in the end product as I was in 'licking the bowl'!
A cost comparison between the staples of traditional, and 'such-and-such-free' recipes:
Traditional staple ingredients (organic)
Rapadura sugar (500g) — $10.50
Butter (500g) — $8.40
Bananas (.68Kg) — $1.99
Wholemeal Spelt flour (1kg) — $11.00
Free Range Eggs (dozen) — $11.75
Milk (750ml) — $3.65
Total — $47.29
Note: To use cakes as an example, you might use approx. 250g of butter, 1 cup of sugar, 4 eggs, 4 bananas, 3 cups of flour, and 1/2 cup milk.
Here, you should have plenty of most things left over for other house-hold meals.
‘TRIFECTA’ Baking/Unbaking ingredients (organic)
Maple Syrup (1 cup/237ml) — $16.95
Cacao Butter (250g) — $17.65
Cacao Powder (400g) — $19.55
Medjool dates (4 of) — $2.50
Cashew nuts (1 cup/170g) — $5.88
Brazil nuts (2 cups/282g) — $9.84
Total: — $72.37
Note: To give you an idea of the quantities you would need to use of these ingredients, I’m using an example from Dr Libby’s book: Real Food Chef (using the Beetroot Chocolate Mud Cake recipe).
For this recipe, you would need to use (among other ingredients): 3/4 cup of maple syrup, 1 cup of cacao powder, 100g cacao butter, and all of the brazil nuts, cashew nuts, and Medjool dates.
What are these traditional staple ingredients if not the ‘real’ food all the kool kids are banging on about?
‘You’ll never be a Kiwi until you love our Wattie's Sauce’?
Do you remember the Wattie’s advertisement that suggested their tomato sauce top off all of our meals? I’m starting to think that Maple Syrup (and Agave Syrup) may be the new Wattie’s Tomato sauce equivalent for baking!
Some people seem to believe that they can take a bowl of nuts, cacao products, and some veges & fruit. Cover it in maple syrup. And that this will make them healthy! (This is what un-baking essentially is — if you think about it.)
Drowning healthy food in sauces and syrups might be okay to ‘trick’ your children into eating essential nutrients, but this shouldn’t be necessary for health conscious adults.
'Trifecta' baking, and un-baking is more expensive than using traditional organic ingredients.
Let's just aim for happy mediums
While refined baking is definitely unhealthy, I don’t see a problem with people eating good quality, whole-food baking (in moderation). And, while I like the idea of ‘trifecta’ baking and ‘un-baking’, unfortunately I don’t believe it is an economically sustainable option for the majority of people. I also don’t believe it’s as healthy as most people think it is.
Note: Both my mother and my partner’s mother have been wholemeal baking since we were kids! My mother wasn’t an avid baker, but when she did partake, she would never follow the recipe fully — she would always substitute out white flour for the wholemeal variety. She would also use raw sugar instead of white, while reducing the amount used.
You don’t have to buy into all of this
If you don’t have any known food intolerances (and you don’t want to develop any!), then simply stick to the traditional recipes and eat them in moderation3.
You don’t have to be fully dairy-free + gluten-free + sugar-free just because other people are.
Let’s be inclusive not exclusive
Recipes don’t just need to be updated to exclude things (dairy, gluten, and sugar), they can also need to be updated to include things — wholefood, organic ingredients such as full fat milk, free-range eggs, rapadura sugar, and wholemeal spelt flour. And the cost of these ingredients is not unreasonable.
If you do have a dairy intolerance then swap out the dairy products, for non-dairy equivalents.
If you have a gluten intolerance swap out gluten containing flour for a gluten-free equivalent.
If you feel it has become necessary to reduce, or avoid ‘sugar’ (for whatever reason), then perhaps you shouldn’t be eating any kind of baking!
Note: If you do suspect a food intolerance is affecting your health, then please book online to see me. I specialise in this area.
Do the math
If you’re not sure how much ‘sugar’ you’re actually getting per serve in your baking, then divide the indicated serves by the total amount of sugar.
Aim for a recipe that provides 1x tsp of sugar (or less) per serve. If this doesn’t work out, either avoid this recipe, modify it, or take this into consideration and change the serving sizes.