You’re sweet enough as you are

We’ve ran out of mincemeat. That’s it. The official ending of Christmas.

I made a mini (silent) vow to myself in the Christmas run up that I would try to eat as many mince pies as possible to satisfy my hunger for the boozy tarts until next year.

Now post-December I believe my attempt was rather feeble. Probably only reached a grand total of 10, or maybe it’s 20…I’m not too sure. Next year I will have to step up my game.

I suppose as a blog trying to promote a healthier lifestyle you may think that I am totally contradicting myself. Mince pies containing sugar, butter, pastry, alcohol and dried fruits aren’t exactly going to help maintain your figure but for one month of the year we wear so many layers to protect from the cold, that extra bit of padding will be hardly noticeable.

That’s what I tell myself anyway.

So here’s to January, mince pie free but in desperate need for a sweet treat that really ain’t that sweet. Well, in fact it contains no added sugar at all, unrefined, refined or otherwise.

That’s more like it.

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I really do love baking, and there are so many ‘sugar free’ recipes out there. However these recipes typically replace the full amount of sugar that you would find in a normal cake with an equal amount of ‘unrefined sugar’, such as maple syrup, coconut sugar and agave nectar. If you’ve ever ventured into a health food shop you will know all too well that these substitutes will leave a large gaping hole in your pocket. Aside from the price tag, they will still cause the same addictive sugar rush we get from bog standard caster sugar.

^^This is the issue I have. A ‘so-called’ healthier cake never tastes as good as a proper one. You may be munching on your vegan, sugar free, gluten free cupcake saying how amazing it tastes, how light and airy it is…but let’s be frank, it ain’t. Now on the odd occasion give me a proper slice of Victoria sponge, some Bakewell tart and I’ll be on cloud 9 but not desperate for another piece as just the one wasn’t completely satisfying.

I’m on a mission to find baking recipes full of wholesome ingredients, which don’t pretend to be a healthified version of our favourites, taste amazing and contain as little added sugar, or none at all, as possible.

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One thing I like to do if baking a NORMAL recipe is reduce the amount of sugar by 1/3, it doesn’t affect the taste and it is the most amount of sugar you can take away without affecting the overall bake and texture. So that 200g of sugar in your sponge, try reducing it to 130g, your taste buds will gradually get used to flavours less saccharine and start to appreciate others nuances such as the toastiness of nuts, a hint of vanilla, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg or that little bit of salt on your choc chip cookie.

So this past week I’ve had a couple of bananas gradually darkening, way past an enjoyable eating stage, in my fruit bowl. There’s only one answer for that. Of course. BANANA BREAD! Perhaps one of my favourite cakes, sliced into a thick chunk, occasionally toasted but always (OK sometimes peanut butter sneaks in there instead) with a thick blanket of organic salted butter.

I suppose a lot of people assume banana bread is quite a healthy affair, considering it contains a portion of fruit right? Sorry but quite wrong. Banana bread tends to contain a hell of a lot of added sugar, even when the bananas are sweet enough as they are.

So here’s my favourite recipe which just uses the natural sweetness of the bananas with no added extras. It’s light and airy, not claggy like some banana breads can often be, spiced richly with cinnamon it sits well enough on your plate for breakfast as it does a 4pm slump snack. Try adding a handful of raisins and crushed walnuts to the batter for some more texture and an extra bit of added sweetness that feels a little more indulgent. I like it both ways.

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Banana bread

This banana bread contains no added sugar, is gluten and wheat free and can be made dairy free by substituting the butter with coconut oil. I made this one nut free using pumpkin and sunflower seeds in the batter and topping, however a handful of walnuts or pecans is always a welcome addition. Half a tablespoon of maple syrup can be added if you feel it won’t be sweet enough, but I think it is perfect without, especially if you add raisins to the batter.

Recipe adapted from Hemsley and Hemsley

Ingredients

  • 4 large very ripe bananas
  • 60g coconut flour
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp maple syrup (optional, I feel it’s fine without)
  • A handful of sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds (or crushed walnuts, pecans and some raisins, or perhaps even some dark chocolate chunks)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Grease and line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper and set aside for later.
  2. Peel the bananas, and weigh out 350g. Reserve the leftover banana to slice up and decorate the top, or do as I did, save for later for on top of a slice of banana bread spread with peanut butter. Mash the weighed out banana until smooth.
  3. Whisk together, the coconut flour, salt, cinnamon and bicarb in a bowl.
  4. Crack the eggs into the mashed banana, whisk together and mix in the melted butter, vanilla extract, apple cider vinegar and extra maple syrup if you’re using it.
  5. Tip the dry ingredients into the banana-egg mixture and whisk until there are no lumps remaining.
  6. Add in a handful of seeds or your addins of choice and mix well.
  7. Pour into the tin, top with more seeds and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Cover with foil if its browning too quickly.
  8. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack, then store in a Tupperware in the fridge. Or slice portions and freeze ready to stick in the toaster for a quick breakfast or snack.

NOTE: If you use sunflower seeds in the batter, as I did here, don’t be alarmed if you spy bright green flecks in your banana bread. The sunflower seeds react with the bicarbonate of soda and turn green. They’re completely harmless and taste no different, it will still be as delicious.

You stick the kettle on, I’ll bring the banana bread and butter. Deal?

With love and blissful moments

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