Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The wood, and the trees

I wrote an epic post a couple of weeks back about how to know if the sugar free diet is working. Apologies and thanks to any of you who trawled through my stream of consciousness! But it was quite cathartic, and to be honest. Rally was a ramble through my thinking on the matter.

But then, suddenly, it clicked in my head. Ignoring weight loss / measurements, the thing that has changed so monumentally is my relationship with food.

I am a baker. Mrs Baker knows her way around a Kenwood mixer. I love making cakes, and experimenting with recipes. I love creating a really dense chocolate ganache, or simmering a pan of lavender infused milk to make delicate scented cupcakes.

Since quitting sugar, the only baking I have done is sugar free, and have developed a few nice recipes for cookies and crackers, but I haven't baked the old favourites. Partly this is because I couldn't see the need if I wasn't going to eat them, and partly because I wasn't certain whether I would manage not to lick the bowl clean!

Then, last week was my mum's 60th birthday. She asked me to make a few cupcakes, so in true Mrs Baker style, I made coffee and walnut cupcakes, lavender cupcakes, vanilla buttercream cupcakes, jam and custard cupcakes, lemon cupcakes, an old fashioned ginger bread, and a decadent chocolate layer cake frosted with ganache.

It was an interesting test. Obviously a certain amount of tasting is necessary to adjust flavour and consistency, so I did have to have a few teaspoons of batter and icing throughout the process, but for the first time in my entire baking life, I didn't feel compelled to nurse the bowl of every scraping of chocolate ganache. It was slightly tricky to taste test the mixtures, because my tastes are so differently tuned now that actually everything was far too sweet. The gingerbread mixture, equal parts of butter, flour, treacle, syrup and sugar was tooth be singly sweet, but familiar and comforting to have a tiny taste. But the reassuring development is I had no urge to have any more.

My dad has also given up sugar, and I did feel that perhaps he and I would feel a bit denied without a sugar free sweet treat at the party, so I decided to have a crack at a sugar free cheesecake. I made a crust with ground almonds, butter, coconut flour and desiccated coconut, and a creamy filling with avocado, raw cacao, peanut butter and double cream. It was nice enough, served straight from the fridge it had a dense chewy crust and the chocolate and peanut filling was rich without being sweet. But the problem was, it wasn't actually what I fancied. What I really fancied when everyone else was tucking into the cakes was a piece of cheese.

It is very freeing to know that the sugar cravings I have been dogged with my entire life have now gone for good. To finally shake of the mantra "if you are good you can have some sweets" which has ring in my ears for my entire life is fantastic, and I can't recommend it enough.

My dad is a bit evangelical about giving up sugar at the moment, and is encouraging my mum to quit too. She is tempted, but thinks it will be too difficult, or that she will miss sugar. She said, I don't want to go through life never having a piece of birthday cake ever again. I do understand the fear, but the thing that keeps resonating with me is that actually, you won't miss it. You won't want it, but you won't have to keep reminding yourself not to have it like you would on a diet. And if ever there was a social expectation to have a piece of cake, you know, granddaughter's birthday or such, you can have a little piece, but you probably won't want any more than a taste anyway.

I wish I had known this 20 years ago!

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