Welcome to My Year Without

On January 1, 2008, I made a New Year's resolution to cut out refined sugar for one year. I cut out white refined sugar and corn syrups. My quest to be sugar-free evolved into political interest, public health, and letter writing to food manufacturers. Join me in sugar sleuthing, and learn more about the psychological aspects of sugar addiction, and those who push sugar on us.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Artisan Bread - Two For One

I experimented again.

This time, I split the giant mound No-Knead Artisan bread dough in two. To one I added cinnamon and raisins, and to the other I didn't do anything different. Except bake each one in a smaller ceramic pot.

They both turned out perfect, and when I want something a little more sweet, I go for the cinnamon bread, although it's not really sweeter, but I associate cinnamon with sweet so it seems sweeter.

These handy little loaves make perfect gifts, wrapped in a piece of material and tied with string, or just to put out when friends are over.

It would be just as easy to add olives or rosemary or pepper to the loaves, as well. The only thing I would do differently next time is to add these ingredients to the dough before it rises.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Best Date Cinnamon Rolls - Whole Wheat and Sugar-Free

**These cinnamon rolls are my favorite of all the sugarless baked goodies I've been making over the past almost 2 years. They are incredibly sweet and perfect.**

As I write this, a sweet fragrance lingers in my kitchen and has visited me in my living room work space. It is the smell of pineapple juice, which my dates have been cooked in and soaking in for the past few hours. Today is a perfect day to make cinnamon rolls. It is rainy and foggy--my usual view of the Capitol is covered in layers of beautiful fog. The leaves are the only colorful thing I see out my window--reds, oranges, yellow and still a lot of green.

I was given this recipe for date cinnamon rolls a while back but have waited for that perfect chunk of time to dawdle in my kitchen, listen to music and leisurely play with yeast dough. As usual, I have tampered with the recipe quite a bit, to try and make my existing ingredients work instead of having to go out to buy new. The original recipe also called for refined sugar and larger amounts of ingredients than I needed to use. I substituted pineapple juice for apple juice and the smell is amazing. As I was taking the pits out of my dates, I looked at the nutritional value and thought it was interesting:

Date Nutrition Information:

Serving Size: 5-6 dates
Calories 120
Potassium 240 mg
Total Carb. 31 g (10% daily recommended value)
Fiber 3 g (14% daily recommended value)
Sugars 29 g
Protein 1 g
Calcium 2% daily recommended value
Iron 2% daily recommended value

Here is my recipe:

Date Walnut Cinnamon Rolls

1/2 C. pineapple juice
2 packets active dry yeast
2 tablespoons honey
2 eggs, beaten
3 C. white whole wheat flour
1/2 C. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsps. cinnamon

1 C. pitted dates
2 C. pineapple juice
1 C. raisins
2/3 C. chopped walnuts/pecans

1/2 C. sour cream
2 tablespoons honey
1 tsp. vanilla

Step 1: Warm pineapple juice in a small pan. Transfer to large mixing bowl and add one packet of yeast and honey. Stir and set aside for 5 minutes. Add eggs and enough flour to form a thin batter (about 1 cup). Beat until smooth. Clean down sides of bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let dough rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 30 minutes. In another bowl, add yeast packet, 1 tablespoon flour and about 1/8 C. tepid water. Cover and let rise about 30 minutes.

Step 2: While dough is rising, make filling. Place dates in small pan and cover with pineapple juice. Heat to a simmer, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 20-30 minutes. Let cool. Puree in blender and set aside.

Step 3: Place raisins in a bowl and cover with hot water. Soaking them will plump them.

Step 4: Return to dough. Add small bowl of dough to large. Beat in butter, salt, vanilla and cinnamon. Begin adding flour to yeast mixture. When it is too hard to stir, place on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean and oil bowl. Place dough in it, cover with plastic wrap, then a towel, and let dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half the dough into a rectangle. Spread half the date puree, strained raisins and nuts on the dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Roll up from the side like a jelly roll. Cut into 1-inch slices and place cut-side-up on an oiled cookie sheet or in muffin tins. Repeat with other half of the ingredients. Bake for 15 minutes.

While rolls are baking, place all ingredients for icing in small bowl and whisk together well. When rolls have baked 15 minutes, spoon some of the icing on top of each roll and bake another 10-15 minutes.


Funny, I forgot to puree the dates, but it didn't really seem to matter at all. I don't think it's necessary now that I've forgotten, especially since this would save one messy step. I also forgot to sprinkle cinnamon on the dough before rolling them up, but it didn't thwart things at all. I didn't realize I missed this step until I began to type out the recipe.

I froze half the batch, so I'll see how those turn out when I have guests over or I can't wait any longer for more for myself. I've had three for lunch today with lots of added icing. They are absolutely heavenly. I can't wait to try them out with my morning mug of joe tomorrow.

-Original recipe courtesy of: www.feedingfamily.com

Monday, October 26, 2009

Artisan No-Knead Bread

'Tis the cool, yet snuggly time of year to be baking and experimenting.

I found an incredible bread recipe that I had torn out of an old newspaper.....months ago? Years ago? I can't remember, but as I looked over the recipe and the pictures, I decided to try it out. Although I really enjoy kneading dough, I was curious what it would be like to make a yeast bread that required no kneading. Would it be less intimidating?

One of the main things that caught my eye with this recipe is that it calls for yeast but does not call for sugar. The only reason, I believe, that sugar was ever added to bread recipes is that it causes bread to rise faster. Anyway, although yeast digests sugars until they are transformed into carbon dioxide and ethanol, and I will eat yeast breads and drink beer, I still can't use sugar in my own baking.

Although this recipe calls for white flour, I tried it with half white flour and half white whole wheat flour. It turned out amazing. Since then, I've made it entirely with white whole wheat. It was dense but still incredibly chewy inside with a perfectly hard crust. I've learned the secret to chewy inside-crusty outside is baking in a cast iron or ceramic pot with the lid on and then with the lid off for the last 15 minutes or so.

Although to make this bread you will have to plan about 24 hours ahead of time, it's worth the time logistics. It sits by itself for the first 18 hours, anyway.

Artisan No-Knead Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour OR one and 1/2 C. all-purpose flour and one and 1/2 C. white whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp. instant yeast (use RapidRise yeast)
2 1/2 tsp. salt (less if you use sea salt)
One and a half cups plus 2 tablespoons tepid water
*cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and very sticky.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18 hours, at warm room temperature. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.

Turn dough out on a lightly floured work surface; sprinkle dough with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously dust a cotton (not terry cloth) kitchen towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal.

Cover with another kitchen towel and let rise for 2 to 3 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least 30 minutes before dough is ready, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put a heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, or ceramic; anywhere from 3 and a half quarts to 6 or 8 quarts) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that's OK. shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is nicely browned. Cool on rack.

Enjoy! Great with many different fixings: butter, hummus, fig jam, as bruschetta, toast, honey etc., or by itself.
(-Courtesy of The Oregonian printing the Sullivan Street Bakery recipe, New York City)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Maltitol and My Big Mistake

The cookie aisle worked its magic on me a few months back, and I'm only now able to write about the experience. It's embarrassing.

I happened to be craving something sweet. Something familiar. Something that would take me back to my carefree days of youth. I found myself face to face with wafer cookies. The rectangular shaped, flaky cookies filled with cream that just melt in your mouth instantly. They are like chips in that you can never eat just one. I wanted to abandon myself to that feeling of eating sweets carelessly so I made the first mistake of pausing in the cookie aisle.....all the while knowing EXACTLY what I was doing.....what I was going to do. I knew I would walk out the door with a package of sugar-free cookies. In the moment of tension and temptation, I gave myself over to my instincts: The sweeter, the better--take advantage of the now.

I picked up dozens of packages of "sugar-free" cookies, knowing exactly what I would be facing: artificial ingredients and a world of guilt for eating them. I decided on a package of vanilla wafer cookies. On the front of the package "Splenda" greeted my eyes, printed in royal blue font. I was suspicious because Splenda wasn't the only artificial ingredient in the cookies. I didn't care. I wanted to get home and devour. I had not abandoned myself to anything like this in a very long time. I was ready to sit down on the couch and throw down. I decided this was an excellent idea because I could still be sugar-free. I was not happy to be ingesting artificial ingredients, but I would deal with that guilt later. There was something about that week, that day, that moment that ultimately led me to let myself eat this crap. I still can't pinpoint what it was, but it will never happen again--here's why:

Even though I read the ingredients and wasn't happy about eating maltitol and Splenda, I needed these cookies. So, okay, a few won't hurt. After all, the asterisk next to "maltitol*" told me only that "Excessive consumption may have a laxative effect." Easy! I did not need to consume an excessive amount...just three light little wafers.

I got sick. Bubbles formed and pressure and instense stabbing pains dominated my abdomen. The next morning after I felt better, I decided that three must be excessive, so I decided to have two. That must be excessive also, because the pains from the night before were re-created so I threw out the rest of the cookies.

What in the world does "excessive" mean? It happens to be a subjective term, deemed appropriate for food manufacturer's to use on their labels as a justification for putting a terrible ingredient in our food supply. The dictionary's definition of excessive is: "exceeding what is usual, proper, necessary or normal." How is that for vague?

Not to mention I didn't feel like I was abandoning myself at all when I was eating them. I am much too aware of ingredients and consequences to just let myself go. The taste was nothing memorable, and I know I won't be buying them ever again.

Do you have an interesting story about this ingredient? I've heard that some people are extra sensitive to maltitol, but I've always taken pride in having a stomach-of-steel. I didn't think I had anything to worry about. Now I know I will never recommend any food with maltitol. I'm pretty sure sugar is a better option!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Benefits of Natural Sweeteners

White sugar is devoid of ALL nutrients.

The only thing it offers is carbohydrates and calories, but even so, sugar is 100% nutritionally deficient. Weren't we meant to eat food for nutrients and health? Why do we eat white sugar?

Thinking about using natural sweeteners to replace sugar? Here some benefits to consider:
  • Molasses is high in nutrients like potassium, calcium and iron. Its rich flavor works well in sauces and baked goods.
  • Brown Rice Syrup contains complex carbohydrates as opposed to simple sugars and has a low glycemic index.
  • Date sugar is made by grinding dehydrated dates. Minimal processing means that all the nutrients and fiber remain intact. Date sugar contains folic acid and potassium.
  • Barley Malt is made from sprouted barley and is high in fiber, complex carbohydrates and potassium, and has a low glycemic index.
  • Maple sugar is dehydrated maple syrup, which contains amino acids, potassium, calcium, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid.
(-GloryBee Foods, 2009-2010, pg.32)

My mother-in-law sent me a bee-keeping magazine/catalog, knowing that I would be interested in the recipes, information about honey and other natural sweeteners inside. More to come!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ginger Almond Raisin Biscotti - Vegan, Too!

The locals here told me this would happen. One day it is a brilliant and hot summer day, and the next day it's instantly fall. It's true. It's been chilly and foggy lately, with a few beautiful sun breaks. It's new and exciting to be on the east coast during this seasonal transition. I love this time of year no matter where I'm at, and always get re-inspired to spend more time in my kitchen.

Lately, I've been experimenting with biscotti. I love dunking something sweet in my morning joe, and because donut holes and apple fritters are still out of the question, I have had to get creative. Toast just gets soggy--not that it stops me.

I came up with this recipe with fall in mind. This time of year I revisit spices that have been pushed to the back of my cupboard: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, etc. I added all three of these to this recipe, as well as molasses and applesauce for sweeteners. I've been experimenting with different flours, too. Feel free to do the same. Let me know how yours turns out, especially if you tweak the ingredients.

The key to making biscotti is cooking time and temperature. Think low temperature, long bake time.

Ginger Almond Raisin Biscotti

One and 1/4 C. brown rice flour
One and 1/4 C. white whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 C. sliced almonds
1/2 C. raisins
1/4 C. molasses
1/2 C. unsweetened applesauce
1/4 C. oil
2 tablespoons water

Mix dry ingredients together and then add wet. Mix well. Dough will be thick and heavy. Form into giant patties and press flat.

Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Then, remove from oven and turn oven down to 300 degrees F. Slice patties into strips, spread apart on baking sheet and return to oven. Bake for 15-20 on each side. This is the only way to ensure nice, hard biscotti cookies.

Once mine were done baking, I left them in the oven overnight to dry out. If you put them in a sealed container, especially if they are still warm, they will retain moisture. Dry them out for best results. Also, for a sweeter cookie, add more raisins and/or honey to the dough. I prefer mine semi-sweet, as this recipe reflects.

Dunk in a hot cup of coffee and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sugar-Free Challenge

To get inspired by a recent sugar-free challenge, visit my virtual neighbor, Nourishing Gourmet, for a slew of stories about going a week without sugar or white flour. Even though it's been one year and 10 months for me without sugar, I still find myself completely impressed and inspired by others' sugar-free journeys. Congratulations to all who participated in the challenge!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

More News About Coke

Sadly, my computer has been battling a computer virus and I have been virtually unable to blog, among other things. Hopefully this FIOS thing works out next week.....

There is no way I will be able to catch up on world sugar-related news anytime soon, so to share from the latest (and extremely important!) Food Politics blog, here I present to you, Another Sad Partnership Story: AAFP and Coca-Cola. The comments following the post are rather interesting, as well.

Hope to be back in the saddle by next week, though I've done a ton of writing on paper recently and was reminded how very much I enjoy writing exercises by hand...