I have been thinking a lot about sugar recently. Completing the Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition got me thinking about my habits and how ‘healthy’ I actually am, or maybe more importantly the ways in which I could still improve. It triggered me to think bigger and better than ever before. For the first time I actually fully appreciated what the word ‘whole foods’ actually means. I know that might sound silly, but a healthy alternative is still often not actually 'whole' and previously I hadn’t clicked onto that fact!
For example when it comes to sweeteners,. I love agave syrup and use it a lot but there has been a lot of media attention in recent months and years disputing the health benefits of agave and so I thought it might not be a bad idea to think a little further beyond. Sweeteners that I have been trying out much more recently are coconut sugar and also date sugar...date sugar is of particular interest to me as it is a complete whole food.
The other bonus is, you can easily make your own date sugar!
I am planning on incorporating date sugar into many more of my recipes to come, but at the same time I will also try and offer a substitute so that those of you without will still be able to benefit from the recipes.
The ‘world’ of sweeteners can be a confusing minefield, and I do like a bit of cake and so i’m simply not prepared to give up my ‘sugar’ in modest amounts but obviously the healthier I can make sure this is the better.
What are your favourite sweeteners and what ‘healthy’ tricks to you use to satisfy a sweet tooth?
|step one- dried dates|
Recipe: Date sugar
Makes 1 cup
3 cups fresh dates (I used deglet noor- so as big and sticky as medjool)
1-2 tsp starch (I used arrowroot but others will also work)
Halve the dates and lay them in a single layer on a lined baking sheet.
Place in the oven on the lowest temperature (mine was approx 50C) and ‘bake’ for about 3 hours, turn the oven off and allow to cool whilst still in the oven. I left mine in their overnight. They should end up much harder and dryer.
Placed in a high powered food processor (I used a Thermomix) and blitz on high for 30 seconds. Add 1 tsp of starch and blitz for another 30 seconds.
At this stage I lots of small clumpy grains that were still a little sticky. Lay this mixture out on the baking sheet once again in an even layer and bake at a low temp for another hour until the mixture is very hard to the touch.
Once fully cool, re blend the mixture in the processor adding a touch more starch if necessary (the starch helps to prevent clumping). You could also add other flavours such as vanilla or cinnamon here if desired.
Once the date sugar is as fine as you can get it and there is no moisture present. Pour into an airtight storage container for future use. You will find that the date sugar hardens together over time which is normal. Use a fork to loosen for use.
For further guidance on making gluten free choices please see this post.
For tips and info on recipe measurement conversions, ingredients, substitutions and the methods behind how I do things.... check out my 'baking tips' tab at the top of the page.