June 12, 2014 § 9 Comments
Can we talk about chocolate? First of all I’ve discovered that, apparently nothing rhymes with it. According to the unerring wisdom of the Internet, it rhymes with charming words like “slut,” “butt,” “gut” and “mutt.” This is probably why we don’t see any chocolate candy bars with cute rhyming names because they’d have to be something like: “Glutbutt’s Chocolate Nutty Sluts”!
But we all know chocolate doesn’t really rhyme with “nut,” because if it did we’d pronounce it “choc-LUT,” as opposed to “choc-LET.” (My computer goes on to insist that chocolate also rhymes with blanket, beechnut, carrot and zealot. My computer is, apparently, a moron.)
It seems nothing really rhymes with chocolate. Likewise, nothing really can take its place. During our Year of No Sugar I found lots of sugar replacement strategies that worked great, or at least pretty well. I managed to make banana ice cream, shortbread, brownies and coconut cake all of which passed effortlessly for sugar-containing (read: fructose-containing) treats.
But not chocolate. Chocolate, we came to realize during that sugar-free year, was the one thing we simply could not have, or even approximate.
Now, this isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of “Sugar Free,” chocolates on the market to choose from, but in the marketplace “Sugar Free” usually means traditional sugar has been replaced with one of two things:
- fake sugars (Aspartame, Neotame, Saccharin, Sucralose which are marketed as Nutrasweet, Equal, Sweet n’ Low, Splenda)
- sugar alcohols (usually Maltitol but also Xylitol, Sorbitol, Isomalt etc.)
Because of reported possible side effects ranging anywhere from gastric distress to infertility and cancer, our family chose to away from both of these categories as well. So “Sugar Free” chocolate was also out.
Instead, we fed our inner chocolate lover with baked goods made with unsweetened cocoa. And those were good, often really quite good. But nothing ever came close to replicating the experience of a bite of actual, snap-when-you-bite, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate. Accordingly, at the end of our Year of No Sugar, when we all chose a special treat to have at midnight- what did I choose? A Reese’s Peanut Butter cup. Ahhhh- chocolate at last.
So you can imagine how intrigued I was to find out recently that some friends of ours have recently taken up the pastime of home-chocolate making. Immediately, I wanted to know: could they make chocolate with a non-fructose sweetener? Could one make chocolate with… dextrose??
Now I’ve been down this road before. Similar to chocolate, sugar has some unique, magical properties that can’t always be replicated. Not only does sugar sweeten, but it also preserves, it thickens, it fills, it transforms things from one state to another. Therefore, using an alternative ingredient in sugar’s place may meet one need of the recipe, but not another. Exhibit A: Dextrose Jelly. In my book, Year of No Sugar, I tell the story of how I tried to make Concord Grape Jelly using dextrose in place of sugar, but suffice it to say that (spoiler alert!) I ended up with quite a few jars of an only just passable grape sauce instead.
Nevertheless, in the case of chocolate, my friends Tom and Robin were game to try. So one day recently I arrived at their home armed with my beach-ball-sized, orange, plastic barrel o’ dextrose.
Let me just say right now: making your own chocolate is unbelievably complicated. It’s the kind of thing that’s so convoluted that half-way through you begin to wonder how on earth it ever got invented in the first place. It’s not the kind of thing I would do to relax in my free time at home, any more than I would choose to build a particle accelerator out of matchsticks and used chewing gum in my backyard. But nonetheless this is Tom’s hobby.
Tom began by taking cacao beans he had already roasted and running them through a Champion juicer. Immediately, I was in out of my depth. Tom was talking about “volatiles” and “acetic acid” and “particles below 20 microns.” There was vocabulary, which being a word-person I can handle, but there was also lots of chemistry, which, being a word-person, makes me vaguely nauseous.
I tried to keep up. After grinding, the cacao bean “nibs” are separated from the husks via a complicated winnowing apparatus known as Tom’s hairdryer. Then back into the juicer they go, for a second grinding, which turns the nibs into a cocoa “liquor,” a rich-looking brown paste. The paste then gets ground by another specialized machine- a “melanger”- which refines all the grains down to a smooth consistency.
Then came an important moment- the step in which we would add the dextrose powder in place of sugar. But when we did, Tom was not pleased with whatever was happening in the melanger. He wondered aloud whether the mixture would “seize,” which definitely sounded like a bad thing, and made repeated frowning faces into the revolving mixer.
“It’s behaving very differently,” he said raising an eyebrow. “Well… we’ll see.”
“How does it taste?” Robin asked when he sampled some.
“Not very good,” he said matter-of-factly.
At this point I was quietly fearing for the life of the Dextrose Chocolate, who without warning was now under 24 hour surveillance in the chocolate ICU. Doctor Tom didn’t seem to like its chances for survival, and even if the patient survived, I wondered: what kind of quality of life could it possibly hope for as a chocolate that doesn’t taste good? And who does one contact to administer last rites to a blob of cocoa paste?
It would be awhile before we found out the answers to these questions: the melanging step lasts hours– I came back the next day for the final steps, which included “tempering” the now super-smooth paste by heating it in the microwave to exactly 120 degrees. Once the correct temperature is reached, you quickly reduce the temperature to 81 degrees. This is accomplished by spreading some of the paste on a marble slab and working it back and forth with a spackle thingy. (That’s a technical term.)
Patiently, Tom smoothed the chocolatey blob back and forth like the world’s most delicious wall plaster until he could tell from experience it was ready to “seed” the rest of the batch. Tom was talking about the four different types of butterfat crystals and the fact that the time-length for heating is not linear because of the changing crystal structure. He also said, and I quote, that “chocolate is a non-Newtonian liquid.” If you figure out what this means, please do not tell me.
Then back to the microwave! Are you with me? Now that the correct chemical whatzit had been reached we wanted to reliquify our chocolate to allow for spreading it into the bar molds. After this was accomplished, Tom checked carefully for evidence of any “bloom” which would’ve required the tempering process be done all over again. Incidentally, this is the point at which many chocolate makers kill themselves.
So do you want the good news or the great news? The good news is that the chocolate worked– the consistency was right, the liquid turned into actual, snap-able bars, tempered properly with no bloom and everything. The better news? It’s not only good- it tastes like… chocolate! Real chocolate! After licking one of the spoons used to portion the bars, Greta was fully prepared to arm-wrestle Robin for dibs on the spatula. It was very dark, yes, less sweet, yes. But no weird aftertaste, no “gastric distress.” There’s no fructose in sight and yet- it is nonetheless, undeniably real chocolate.
Who would’ve guessed that chocolate might rhyme with… dextrose? I mean, besides my computer.
May 12, 2014 § 19 Comments
You’d think there’d be a good online reference for all the Sugar Aliases out there, wouldn’t you? One that’d tell you ALL those different names for Sugar-With-A-Capitol-“S”, (which is to say ingredients that contain extracted fructose, ie: the BAD GUY in sugar). And there are some sugar-name lists, but, I’ll venture to say, perhaps none as comprehensive as this one.
One big problem is that many of the Sugar Name lists out there fail to distinguish between sweeteners that contain fructose and those that do not– thereby committing the unforgivable sin of lumping innocent and lovable brown rice syrup in with such metabolic evils as crystalline fructose! (Can you imagine?)
In compiling this new comprehensive list, many of the terms I already knew, but some I had to research further. I hope you appreciate all the articles I had to read with titles like “The Biological Synthesis of Dextran from Dextrins,“ and the fact that I now – against my will- know what a structural isomer is. Yes! I did that for you.
So, (insert trumpet fanfare here) here is my Up-To-The-Minute, Pretty-Much-Alphabetized, Family-Sized LIST of Sugars-to-Watch-Out-For:
PS- Find a new sugar name? Send it to me!! I’ll add it.
THE SUGAR ALPHABET (54 different names and counting)
- Barbados Sugar
- Beet Sugar
- Brown Sugar
- Brownulated Sugar
- Buttered Syrup
- Cane Juice
- Cane Sugar
- Cane Syrup
- Carob Syrup
- Castor/ Caster Sugar
- Confectioners Sugar
- Crystalline Fructose
- Date Sugar
- Demerara Sugar
- Dehydrated Cane Juice
- Evaporated Cane Juice
- Evaporated Cane Syrup
- Evaporated Sugar Cane
- Florida Crystals
- Free Flowing Brown Sugar
- Fructose Crystals
- Fruit Juice
- Fruit Juice Concentrate
- Glazing Sugar
- Golden Sugar
- Golden Syrup
- Granulated Sugar
- High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
- Icing Sugar
- Invert Sugar
- King’s Syrup
- Maple Sugar
- Maple Syrup
- Powdered Sugar
- Raw Sugar
- Refiners’ Syrup
- Sorghum Syrup
- Superfine Sugar
- Table Sugar
- Turbinado Sugar
- White Sugar
- Yellow Sugar
Not sugar but if I were you I would also avoid:
Artificial Sugar Substitutes:
- Acesulfame Potassium
- Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal)
- Neotame (Nutrasweet)
- Saccharin (Sweet n’ Low)
- Stevia (Truvia)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
The Good News List!
These sound suspicious, but are more or less fine. They aren’t all necessarily health foods mind you, but they are sweetening agents that contain no fructose.
- Barley Malt
- Barley Malt Syrup
- Corn Syrup
- Corn Syrup Solids
- Diastatic Malt
- Ethyl Maltol
- Glucose Solids
- Grape Sugar
- Malt Sugar
- Rice Syrup
Foods to Watch Out For:
You’ll find sugars in the strangest places, once you start to look. Here are some of the surprising, but very common offenders of hidden sugar (fructose):
- Baby Food
- Baby Formula
- Salad Dressing
- Cold Cuts
- Marinades and Sauces
- Smoked Salmon
- Chicken Broth
- Breakfast bars
- Granola bars
- Dried Fruit
Foods That Are Generally Safe from Fructose: (it’s a short list, isn’t it?)
- Non-flavored Pretzels
- Non-flavored Yogurt
- Non-flavored potato chips
May 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
Did Julie Kelley find a severed hand in my fridge? Clutching a donut? These questions and more answered in this lovely interview on WCAX TV! Click below to watch interview Part One, Part Two, and for Yet Still More Eve-talking-about-the-“S”-word, click on “Entire Interview” for the full half-hour Q & A.
April 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
A Monday morning dose of Super-Awesome: glowing review of Year of No Sugar in FIRST for Women!!!
From article The 6 Paperbacks We’re Reading Now: “I certainly learned a lot about the benefits of reducing sugar, but the best part was how much I laughed!” – Melissa Sorrells, FIRST associate editor
Pick up the May 12 issue today!
April 23, 2014 § 4 Comments
When I was a kid my Dad taught me how to make “Hot Grape Nuts.” At the time we followed a recipe they used to print on the box which called for brown sugar, but during our Year of No Sugar I rediscovered this extremely simple recipe and just left the sugar out. Between baked goods, sweetened cereals and running-out-the-door convenience food, breakfast can be the hardest meal of the day to do No Sugar style, and a quick hot cereal made with full fat milk can be just the ticket. (And much though I love it, you really can eat only so much oatmeal.)
Hot Grape Nuts
(makes 2-3 servings)
- 1 cup Grape Nuts cereal (similar No Sugar cereals that work equally well can be found under names like Nutty Nuggets or Kashi’s Seven Whole Grain Nuggets)
- 1 1/3 cup milk (I use full fat milk)
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Put all ingredients in a saucepan on the stove and heat until just about to boil- the edges of the milk with start looking frothy. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook one minute.
Top with your favorite berries or sliced banana and a little extra milk if you like.
April 18, 2014 § 2 Comments
My husband Steve made breakfast this morning: No Sugar Crepes! The girls and I ate them up!
Here is a short video on how to pour and flip crepes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1DgmbMMOgA. Two crepes is about one serving.
1 cup Flour
2 Tablespoons Barley Malt Syrup
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter- melted, plus extra for the pan
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup warm water
4 large eggs
Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl mix all wet ingredients. (Note: the sticky barley malt syrup can be difficult to measure so just put some in a bowl and microwave for a few seconds and it will become more liquid-y and easier to measure.) Now combine all ingredients together. Let sit for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator to let the gluten relax.
Melt a little butter in a Crepe pan or 8 or 10 inch frying pan. Once the butter is melted add just enough batter to coat the bottom of the pan… about 1/4 cup. (Not as thick as pancakes, but if it is too thin it will be difficult to flip without breaking.) Cook for about one minute then flip, bottom should be golden brown. Now add your filling:
Apples sliced thin
Only put a small amount of each. Now fold in half like an omelette and continue to cook for 30 seconds or so. Serve hot and enjoy.