It’s undeniable that sugar-free baking can be a little complex, with lots of ingredients needed to enhance the texture and flavour you lose when not using refined sugar. Although these substitute ingredients aren’t rare, they’re not your usual store cupboard regulars.
For its 'Baking Tribe', Leisure has partnered with Dominic Franks of Belleau Kitchen fame. He said, 'In my opinion, the fastest growing trend in baking is sugar-free baking, or ‘clean’ cakes. However, sugar-free baking should more accurately be called ‘refined sugar-free baking’, or ‘wholefood baking’, because cakes are supposed to be a deliciously sweet treat. So you’re replacing the refined sugar with alternatives such as honey, dates or apple puree.
'Cutting down on sugar doesn’t mean your sweet-tooth should suffer! There are a huge variety of alternatives to refined sugar out there, and some of them are probably hiding in your cupboards already. Honey, for example, is a great sugar substitute and was used widely instead of refined sugar during rationing in the 1940s. Fruits are also a great sugar substitute. In fact, I’ve used fruits to sweeten my Leisure brownies recipe.'
This recipe for sugar-free date, almond, fennel seed and banana brownies goes back to basics to make life sans refined sugar a little less complex.
Makes 9 large brownies
200g pitted Medjool dates – chopped
100ml boiling water (used to soak the dates)
1 very ripe banana – mashed
50g wholemeal rye flour
25g ground almonds
75g unsweetened cocoa powder (or raw cocoa powder)
130g unsalted butter
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 large free-range eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
100g almonds – roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm square cake tin.
- Place the chopped dates in a bowl, pour over the boiling water and leave to soak for about 15 minutes.
- Gently melt the butter in a small pan along with the fennel seeds so the flavour infuses into the butter.
- After the dates have been soaking for 15 minutes, spoon them into a blender or food processor, along with the banana and blitz until they are shredded. Then pour in the melted butter and fennel seeds.
- Next, add the two eggs and vanilla bean paste to the food processor and blitz. Then add the flour, cocoa powder and the ground almonds. Blitz again until you have a thick glossy paste. This can also be done in a large mixing bowl if a food processor isn’t available.
- Finally, stir in 2/3rds of the chopped almonds, being careful not to break them up too much. Now spoon the mixture into the brownie tin. Sprinkle the remaining almonds on top.
- Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the top is firm to the touch – set aside on a wire rack to cool completely in the tin, then cut into squares. • Eat and of course, enjoy.
For more recipes from Leisure, head to leisurecooker.co.uk