Playing with coconut sugar

It has been birthday party season around here lately. Elena has loved it. She has also loved all the birthday cake. I’ve not been so keen on all the sugar! Birthday cakes are one thing, but I feel stuck in a bind.

Elena loves baking with me, but I don’t love her eating the sugary results of our time in the kitchen. She’s old enough now that I can’t bake with her and then distract her away from the end product. If we put a cake into the oven before she goes down for her midday nap (or lies down to ‘rest her eyes’ as we’re calling it these days), she invariably reminds me there’s cake as I’m getting her out of the cot.

Let’s face it too, I don’t really need to be eating all that sugar either. When Elena was quite little, before I was pregnant with Hugo, I was following a no added sugar existence. I found it quite easy but then along came pregnancy, and with it hyperemesis, and suddenly I was happy to eat whatever I could keep down. It wasn’t pretty.

With all of this, then, it goes without saying that I’m trying to cut down the amount of sugar in our lives. I’m definitely on the hunt for healthier baking options.  I’ve been hearing and reading about coconut sugar lately, so I decided we’d give it a crack and see how it went. It’s not a perfect solution, but it seems to be a better option.

coconut sugarFrom what I understand, coconut sugar is a slightly healthier alternative to cane sugar. It apparently has a much lower GI than regular sugar, and is also lower GI than honey. It’s still sugar though, so not an everyday food item. Coconut sugar acts like brown sugar, and the brand I picked up has a much coarser texture. It is very dark and quite heavy and has a molasses/golden syrup-like flavour. Apparently you can substitute coconut sugar for cane sugar 1:1. I have read a bit online with people disputing the sustainability of coconut sugar. I found an organic brand in our local health food store which claimed sustainable production.

Overripe bananas combined with the coconut sugar to become banana bread. I am pretty happy with the results, especially given how the whole baking thing actually went down.

I have to admit that I was having a busy, scatty day yesterday and didn’t exactly follow the recipe instructions. I had some lovely friends and their little ones coming over in the afternoon, which was why I planing to was bake in the first place. Both Elena and Hugo were asleep (at the same time!) and I enjoyed a coffee on the couch for just a little too long. All that peace and quiet and friends to chat with over the interwebs – it was just too tempting. Anyway, by the time I got around to the banana bread I was running totally late.

batterI measured out all of my ingredients and just dumped them all into my KitchenAid mixer bowl before realising that this was one of those ‘cream the butter and sugar’ recipes. One of those. You know, the ones I never seem to post on the blog because I’m all about the quick and dirty cakes these days? Yes, one of those.

Keeping it real – I made a total mess (as always seems to happen when I’m in a hurry).

keepingitrealAnd then the cake took a bit long to cook so I served it up straight out of the oven without waiting for it to cool. So, yeah, I broke pretty much all of the baking golden rules with this one.

Thankfully my guests didn’t mind being guinea pigs (and yes, I did offer full disclosure!). The good news is that it was yummy and passed the toddler (and mother) test. It held together pretty well and wasn’t overly sweet. I’ll definitely be trying this one out again. Next time I might even read the directions before starting!

I want to experiment a little more before I post a recipe here, but I based my attempt on this recipe. I looked it up and it seems, funnily enough, that ripe bananas actually have a higher GI than coconut sugar (they are, of course, filled with loads of other good things which the sugar is not).

The crib notes for my version are: I used a gluten-free flour, added psyllium husks, reduced the amount of coconut sugar, added cinnamon and was pretty generous with my (not low-fat) yoghurt. Now that I read that, I’m not the poster child for following recipes, am I?

nottheprettiestIt wasn’t the prettiest, but banana bread’s supposed to be pretty rustic. I think I need to check out my oven temps because things seem a little all over the place at the moment, with cakes rising unevenly and cracking. It would probably help if I creamed the butter and sugar first, too. Not that I’m beating myself up about that.

Next time, I think I might add more banana, use even less coconut sugar, try baking powder instead of bi-carb soda, be equally generous with my whole milk yoghurt, and use a touch more butter. I’ll let you know how I go and will be sure to post the recipe once I’m happy.

Do you have any coconut sugar tips to share?

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