Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Party Food and Finding Colour

 I was a little unsure about whether to have a birthday celebration for Esther and me, and was nervous even after deciding to do it (if you're unsure why, have a read here and here for more than enough explanation). But I quickly realised two things. There are many people out there who love to celebrate our children, and I want to give them the opportunity to do so. And my children are missing out on so much already, I don't want to add to the loss. And actually there was a third thing - I want to celebrate Esther too! So we had a party. Mostly for Esther, and a little bit for me.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Raspberry, Cherry and Coconut Slice

I try to be good and blog about cooking that is challenging, or requires a bit of technique or something I haven't done before. And I wasn't sure if this was really going to be different enough to qualify. Just sending a few different ingredients round the mixer isn't really what The Cook's Sponge is all about. But actually, this was really different. The ingredients were unusual for me (I mean who buys glace cherries except maybe at Christmas?). I have, believe it or not, never made a three-different-layers slice before, and if you want challenging and nifty techniques, just you try cutting this baby. Oh and also, never in all my life have I ever put a tablespoon of vanilla extract in to anything. That alone is worth blogging about.

Sunday, 21 October 2012


I have a gorgeous friend who comes to see me regularly. We get all of our children in to bed and she races across town feeling youthful (I think) and child-free (definitely) and we have a quiet evening of real conversation, something mothers of toddlers never get between the hours of 7am and 7pm. The truth is I do most of the talking and she does most of the listening and there is such a heaviness in my heart and in my house that I wonder how she enjoys herself so much. So last time she was here I decided that her next visit would have to include some real fun.

Monday, 8 October 2012

More Sugar-Free Results

It's a hard job, but someone has to do it. I have been trialling my sugar free options in various recipes to see how they perform, and yes I've been doing lots of taste testing too of course. Once again, the results have been pretty clear.

Yesterday I got very scientific and did another round of chocolate chip biscuits, this time doing one batch with condensed milk and standard sugar, and another with agave nectar and xylitol. I also did a bit of juggling with my measurements (but that's a story for the next post) and did half in my own oven and half in my Dad's oven - all to try and ensure that my "control" batch were as perfect as possible. Indeed they were. The condensed milk and standard sugar batch were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside with a little bit of chew. The xylitol and agave, however were soft without even a bit of crunch. I have suspected for a while that's where we were heading

I've trialled xylitol in some other baking too. I put it in pikelets and there was no discernable difference to taste or overall result. I put it in my muesli bar (flapjack) recipe and they tasted the same but they were definitely more cakey. And I have tried coconut sugar in chocolate pudding a number of times and the taste is no different though I suspect the end result is a little drier so I just add a drop more liquid.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Sugar-Free Chocolate Chip Biscuits

Ok. After the hard work of my last post I have some results for you. I have a chocolate chip biscuit recipe that uses white sugar and condensed milk, so the obvious thing to do was substitute agave nectar for condensed milk, and either xylitol or coconut sugar for the white sugar. So I tried both. I made two batches, and did agave nectar both times, and either xylitol or coconut sugar. The results are pretty simple to report back on.

The dark coloured biscuits are the coconut sugar biscuits, and the light ones are xylitol. The flavour of the coconut sugar is as noticeable as the colour. They taste dark and syrupy and a little bitter. The xylitol biscuits had no discernable taste difference to the usual biscuits that use white sugar and condensed milk. So this means that not only does the xylitol make little difference to the end flavour result, but neither does the agave. I didn't enjoy the strong flavour of the coconut sugar biscuits very much, and I possibly only persevered with eating them because they were filled with chocolate chunks.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Sugar-Free Sweetness - Sugar Alternatives

For a long time I have been interested in alternatives to sugar, perhaps because, like many of us, I have a desire to be healthy as well as a desire to eat sweet things. And do you know what? There ARE alternatives. There are actually heaps of ways we can sweeten our food without having to use sugar, but it can take a lot of work to research and figure out. And you lucky things, I've been doing the hard work for you. Well, for me and you.

I have decided to get serious about experimenting with some sugar alternatives in my baking, and see if I can find something(s) that I would be happy to switch to long term. There are a few things to factor in, for example - Does it taste good? Does it easily replace sugar in any given recipe, or do I have to adjust the other ingredients to make it work? Is it truly a healthier option? Is it affordable?