Keeping in the 'spirit' of our Halloween theme I decided this month to take a look at sugar.
Sugar is one of those ingredients that can have a bad wrap and be blamed for hyperactivity in children. Like all things, it's best in moderation but here's why it's not as bad as we all may think.
White sugar does not cause children’s poor behavior. It’s not so great for teeth and there are studies that demonstrate links between sugar, heart disease and diabetes, but overall it is not what is causing your child to practice their pole vaulting on your couch! That is the chemicals talkin!
Quite often it is the chemicals that come with sugary foods that are the culprit - the foods your children are more likely to consume!
Personally I know that sugar is a refined processed food as is flour; however I personally don’t see a problem in my children consuming between them as an occasional sweet half a cup of sugar spread out over a cake or a dozen muffins.
I know that what I make is homemade and made from the freshest ingredients I can find and are not full of harmful chemicals.
How to use?
The best types of sugar and their uses:
Which do I buy?
You can purchase any brand of sugar and sweeteners so long as they are 100% pure.
Fun Fair Toffee
1 cup (220g) Superfine (caster) sugar
2 tablespoons boiling water
2 tablespoons vinegar
100's and 1000's or crushed nuts, to decorate
Stir sugar, butter, water and vinegar in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil.
Boil, without stirring, about 10-15 minutes or until a spoonful of the mixture crackles when dropped in cold water.
Pour into paper baking cases in patty pan holes; sprinkle with 100's and 1000's or crushed nuts. Leave to set.
Tip: For a chewier toffee, cook for a shorter time (until toffee forms a soft ball when dropped into cold water).
MOO (Make Our Own) Food Colors
Turmeric gives a bright yellow color and you really can’t taste it when you add natural vanilla essence or lemon juice.
Preparation Time: 10 Minutes
Cooking Time: 0
Makes: Enough to Cover the Basic Cake Mix
3½ Teaspoons fresh lemon juice OR natural vanilla essence
½ Teaspoon turmeric
The turmeric will take a while to turn yellow, so don’t be tempted to add more turmeric.
Dark Pink Icing
This is a rich dark coloring. The secret to the strong bright color is heating and concentrating the raspberry juice. You can make a lovely lighter pink color using the same recipe but without heating the raspberries.
1 Cup raspberries (frozen is fine)
Place the raspberries in a saucepan, and heat gently for a few minutes until they start to break down and yield their juice.
Strain the berries through a sieve, collecting the juice in a bowl, and with the back of a spoon push through the remaining juice still in the berries. (You can discard the remaining seeds etc in the sieve, and keep the juice.)
Measure out 8 teaspoons of raspberry juice and mix into the tofee with a spoon or fork until you are left with a bright pink icing.
Please note this recipe will produce more than 8 teaspoons of juice, so you can store the remaining juice in the freezer for another time.
Red Violet Icing
1½ Cups blueberries (frozen is fine)
Place the blueberries in a saucepan, and heat gently for 2-5 minutes or until they start to break down and yield their juice.
Strain the berries through a sieve, collecting the juice in a bowl, and with the back of a spoon gently push through the remaining juice still in the berries. (You can now discard the berry skins, and keep the juice.)
Measure out 8 teaspoons of blueberry juice and place into a mixing bowl.
The Trusted Trolley
You may have your own concerns with sugar and that’s ok, because sugar is an extremely interchangeable and flexible product.
Feel free to substitute sugar in baked goods with a sweetener of your choice, whether that is corn syrup, maple syrup, honey or Stevia - just make sure it’s not an artificial sweetener as these are man made chemicals.
There are many sugars to use and often the differences is just the level of refinement. Refining a product is about the stripping away of by products or nutrients to make a product that’s easier to work with. It is not about adding chemicals to your diet.
For example, superfine sugar or castor sugar is simply white sugar finely ground and you can do that in your thermomix at home if you like.
Some alternative ideas to serving candy that has artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives at Halloween.
1 tablespoon water
75g castor sugar
60g golden syrup
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
In a small saucepan (with high sides) add the water, sugar and golden syrup and place over a low heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
Increase the heat to medium and boil the syrup until it turns a more golden color, this will take about 3 minutes, be careful that it does not burn.
Turn off the heat and immediately add the bicarbonate of soda and mix it in quickly. It will foam like mad and start to bubble up the sides of the pan, quickly pour the bubbling honeycomb onto a slip mat or baking tray covered with baking parchment and allow it to flow level.
Leave the honeycomb to cool and crisp up.
Break into large pieces and store (separate with baking parchment) in an airtight container until needed. Can be made a day ahead.
To decorate your toffee's or change the color see Whats in the Pantry? for natural food colors and 100's & 1,000's or try this recipe below!
Light Pink Icing
This is a delightful light pink with a delicate strawberry flavor. If you are not keen on raspberries or just want a gentler pink color, then this is for you!
½ Heaped cup chopped strawberries
Place the chopped strawberries into a small saucepan and heat on a medium heat for 5-8 minutes or until the berries become squishy and yield their juice.
Strain the strawberries through a sieve, collecting the juice in a bowl, and with the back of a spoon push through the remaining juice. (You can now discard the remaining seeds etc in the sieve, and keep the juice.)
Measure out 3 teaspoons of strawberry juice, add it to the toffee and mix together with a spoon or fork, until the it turns a beautiful pale pink.
Please note this recipe will produce more than 3 teaspoons of juice, so you can store the remaining juice in the freezer for another time.
Don’t let the spinach in this recipe put you off. It works brilliantly and you really can’t taste it! Just don’t tell the kids until they ask for their second piece.
For a different flavor, try adding some mint leaves in with the spinach to make a minty green color.
250gms Frozen spinach
¼ Teaspoon turmeric (optional for brighter green)
Place the frozen spinach into a saucepan of water and bring to the boil, allow to boil for 10 minutes.
Pour the spinach into a sieve and strain.
Now place the strained spinach into a blender and blend to a paste.
Return the spinach paste to the sieve and push through with the back of a spoon. Collect the spinach pulp in a bowl and discard the spinach that won’t pass through the sieve.
Add 4 teaspoons of the spinach puree (and turmeric if desired) to the toffee and mix with a fork or spoon until the toffee turns a lovely bright green.
This recipe will produce more than 4 teaspoons of spinach puree, so you can store the remaining puree in the freezer for another time.
Use these colors in icing to ice cakes, biscuits and cupcakes too!