Friday, 21 June 2013

A Spoonful of Sugar!

When I was younger I had a very sweet tooth. I was always baking cakes. I had sugar in my tea and my mum gave us a home made dessert (such as lemon meringue pie, trifle or apple crumble) every night of the week. I have found in recent years my tastes have changed and I probably prefer savoury flavours over sweet ones now. The average person in the UK is now eating over 2 lbs (1 kilo) of sugar a week and this is affecting our health and contributing to the increase in Type 2 diabetes and obesity. A lot of this is found in the processed foods we buy - ready meals, drinks, yogurts and shop bought cakes and biscuits. This makes it very hard to gauge how much we are actually eating. I like to cook most of our food from scratch. This way I know how much sugar is going into our meals, cakes and desserts. Recently I came across a recipe in a magazine for malt loaf. It uses malt extract. As I found this difficult to find in the shops I substituted it with molasses sugar and it still tasted very good. Molasses sugar is a thick black, syrupy sugar. It was the most popular sweetener used until the late 19th Century. Refined sugar was very expensive and so molasses sugar was an affordable alternative. I was interested to read that it has some good nutritional benefits. It is a very good source of iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. One tablespoon provides the same amount of iron as a tablespoon of red meat and almost the same amount of calcium as half a glass of milk. As it is unrefined sugar it is broken down into the body more slowly and helps keeps energy levels more stable than if you ate refined white sugar. For the malt loaf recipe you need to buy the Molasses syrup (which looks a lot like black treacle). I found it in the health food shop Holland and Barrett. The good thing about this recipe is that the cake keeps well for a week or even two. It  is best made and left wrapped in baking parchment and foil for a couple of days to become moist and sticky before eating.

Another good recipe with molasses is a dessert that uses Molasses sugar as a topping over Greek yogurt mixed with bananas. It is left in the fridge for a few hours and the sugar melts down to make a lovely fudge like topping. It really is one of the quickest and easiest desserts to make and tastes great.

Malt Loaf
Makes 2
sunflower oil for greasing
150ml/1/4 pint of hot tea
175g/6oz molasses
85g/3oz dark brown sugar
300g/11oz mixed fruit
2 large eggs beaten
250g/9oz plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

Heat oven to 150C/Gas Mark 2
Line the base of 2 1lb loaf tins with baking parchment and grease the sides
Pour the hot tea into a mixing bowl with the molasses, sugar and dried fruit
Stir well then add the eggs
Tip in the flour then quickly stir in the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda
Pour into the prepared tins
Bake for 40 minutes until firm and risen
While still warm brush with a little more molasses and leave to cool
Remove from the tins, wrap in baking parchment and foil and leave for a couple of days

Molasses with Greek Yogurt and Bananas
Serves 2
1 large banana
250g Greek yoghurt (2% 0r 0% fat)
75g Molasses
25g of chopped Brazil nuts, walnuts or flaked almonds.

Slice the banana and mix together in a bowl with the Greek yogurt
Divide between 2 small glasses or ramekin dishes
Top with the molassses sugar
Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for about 3 hours
Just before serving sprinkle with chopped nuts

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