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Thursday, 22 January 2015

Just One Thing!

Andrew was diagnosed with diabetes just before Josie was born, and since then I’ve been experimenting with various ways to make sweet recipes more diabetic-friendly.

There are a few different schools of thought on doing that. One is, don’t bother. A small amount of sugar in your diet every now and then, even for a diabetic, is not that much of a problem. That school of thought would keep on baking in the tried and tested manner. 

Another school of thought: why bother? Just cut out sweets, cakes, and more entirely and give up as a lost cause the fight to make them more diabetic-friendly. They never will be anyway.

This is not me. Ever. This is Andrew. All the time.

My school of thought? Might as well have a bash a trying to bother so Andrew can actually have his cake, and eat it. As sugar substitutes have become more widely-available, cheaper, and more like the real thing it’s become easier to try to replace sugar in recipes.

There are still some things that fake sugar never works for, prime among them being a meringue. I love meringues. If I were to list my top 5 desserts meringue would probably feature in at least 3. Pavlova for one, or Eton Mess*. Bless those ridiculously-dressed Etonians – I value them not for their political adeptness/rich Daddys who have propelled them to take the last 50 million Prime Ministerial and Cabinet posts, but for their clumsy meringue-crushing dogs who, in a most apocryphal way, smashed up a Pavlova and turned it into the Eton Mess.

I love Pavlova. A lot. So much, in fact, that I once made my Mum defrost a pavlova in the microwave because I couldn’t bear to wait for it to defrost naturally. She was taken very ill about 3 hours later, which she initially blamed on the hastily-thawed whipped cream, but thankfully once the paramedics arrived they diagnosed as acute appendicitis. Which was a relief, because I was concerned if the Pavlova turned out to be the culprit that I would never be allowed the dessert again.**

Is that a triple-layered Pavlova? Oh. Hello.

Anyway, meringue-based desserts aside (I fear they will never get the diabetic-recipe overhaul) I have learned some valuable lessons from my culinary experimentations. The first, the foremost, and the one that you must never break if you hope to create repeatable recipes is this:

Change only one variable at a time.

I probably should have learned this in Standard Grade Chemistry, but it turns out I did not. I have now. It is important. 

Without rule number one, how do you know whether that slightly bitter aftertaste in your otherwise delicious banana bread comes from the wholemeal flour (to replace the plain) or the Stevia (to replace the sugar)? Answer: You don’t. 

And so you have to bake the whole thing again, resetting one of those variables to the base recipe to understand why it just tastes so weird. At which point, you might realise that you misread the recipe the first time, and that those 4 TABLESPOONS of bicarbonate of soda should actually have been teaspoons and that neither of the aforementioned variables had any effect in making the banana bread taste so, so bitter and it was actually just your own incompetence.

But, raising agent disasters aside, the principle should still be observed. And I still break it. For instance, in a recent banana bread experiment, I used orange-juice infused sultanas and peel instead of normal, which made it just taste a bit odd. Delicious, but odd. Which meant I couldn't really assess how successful the fake sugar was in it. It’s my own fault, of course. I broke rule number one. Never mind. I'll just have to bake it again!

This is Andrew eating all the banana bread.

*For the record, in no particular order they'd probably be: Pavlova, Lemon Meringue Pie, Queen of Puddings, Chocolate Mousse, Lemon Posset.
**Obviously, she is fully recovered now and so I can talk about her misfortune with an otherwise inappropriate levity.

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