Welcome to my very first blog! I hope you enjoy reading my little memoirs about how my passion for wholefood cooking and baking began, it’s not something that has always been a success and for those of you that have tasted any of my recipes, most have come with a lot of trial and error, some frustration and a lot of love!
My love of sugar free healthy baking has been somewhat of a journey and a learning experience, something that has thrown up challenges and its fair share of complete cooking disasters along the way, but I'll rewind here and tell you a little about how it all began......
It all began many years ago, when Sam, my husband and research guru, began his path into investigating the explosion of chronic health issues and how these conditions could be self-managed. One of his biggest areas of investigation was around the Western diet, in particular the consumption of refined sugar and refined white carbohydrates were cropping up time and time again as the main culprits for a host of health concerns, and I was intrigued (and pretty alarmed!) about how cancer interacted with sugar and white carbohydrates. In the world of baking sugar and white flours are listed in nearly every single recipe I had ever cooked with so it was blindingly obvious that my baking habits needed to be radicalised. There began my journey into baking and cooking with natural alternatives.
I have always loved baking and cooking, I think it stems from a great Aunty who used to stay with us for weeks on end and filled our tummies with the most delicious coffee and walnut cake. The cake tin was replenished often and I loved it! Once I got old enough to cook, I used her recipes time and time again to satisfy my sweet tooth craving and my love of cake and baking has been with me ever since.
Fast forward a few decades (and a lot of cake), I still craved both the act of baking and the cakes themselves, but I also understood the implications of foods that harm and had a personal interest in holistic health, and the importance that food plays in maintaining wellness. I was curious how health and baking could be integrated and incorporating a ‘clean’ repertoire of recipes into our lives that tasted great, but I also was thrilled at being able to share some inspiration to the patients and clients that Sam was working with.
My first experiment of cutting out the sugar and flour was with a chickpea biscuits, something that I was immensely impressed with! The texture was wholesome, the taste sweet and satisfying and the excitement I had at making a ‘treat’ that left out refined sugars was probably slightly out of proportion with the result…..but nonetheless I was chuffed that I had made something that was delicious and didn’t have a grain of refined sugar or white flour. My loyal taste tester, Sam, was pretty impressed too and from there the passion continued to grow, I began to experiment with all sorts of flours and different natural sweeteners, such as date paste (still love it!), apple sauce (too much of a pain to make), over-ripe bananas (one of my favourite sweeteners) and I gradually built up an understanding of what worked and what didn’t. For instance, raw honey was my first port of call, as I wasn’t interested in using artificial sweeteners that were based on chemicals and had no nutritional qualities. I’ve discovered that honey can be fantastic in some recipes but can’t be used as a straight substitution as it messes with the density and moisture levels. I tried doing simple swaps in a lot of recipes, so trying to take a standard muffin recipe for instance, and swapping the sugar for raw honey but on the whole when I tried to use traditional recipes I have been met with stodgy results that eventually end up in the bin. So now I know that if I am to use honey, I really need to work on a recipe from scratch and have to be prepared for a lot of recipe testing to get things right.
My adventure into sugar-free baking and clean eating also coincided with a conscious effort to cut back on sugar overall, something that has been somewhat of a challenge for a self-confessed sweet tooth. I have discovered that my taste buds have changed immensely as I have learnt to love wholefoods. My expectations of good food, (or good puds) are now somewhat different and my main concern is the nutritional quality of what I am eating. I still need it to taste great but can appreciate something so much more if I know that it will help my body cleanse, repair or balance. With a lot of testing, and tasting, my repertoire of sugar free cakes and desserts has grown and I can now largely satisfy the biggest sceptics with an alternative that packs a punch nutritionally but uses natural sweeteners like dates or bananas.
Have I mastered a sugar free Victoria sponge? Unfortunately, not, but I now also don’t crave that smack in the face that sugar gives you and realised that there’s some cakes and bakes that just won’t be the same, but there are a lot of tasty treats (like my omega 3 energy bites) that offer a tasty alternative, without the guilt.
My trials continue and on the whole I would say the disasters are slightly further apart, as I have gradually learnt the science behind how flours like spelt and buckwheat can be used, or how flaxseed and ground almonds can be used instead of grains. I hope those of you that try our recipes have learnt to love wholefood baking, and are able to share the recipes with your friends and family. My 4 year old and 18 month old are the most brutal recipe testers ever, but when they gobble up a cake or bake that I know is full of goodness, I know I am on to a good thing. This is Trixie Belle (my lovely little lady) on the left tucking into one of my energy bites, she's definetly a fan of the wholefood revolution with a keen ear for the food processor, she comes running when she hears it!
My latest trial is to make a sweet bread, that can be a wholesome breakfast meal for those who are leaving the house in a rush. Test one has gone pretty well but it needs a little more refining before I can share it; however I WILL have it perfected soon and look forward to sharing it with you.
Love and bakes, Holly x
P.S - If eating clean or wholefood cooking tickles your fancy, then we have two events coming up that I'm sure you would enjoy. Friday 26th of Feb, we have Healthy Cooking with Holly, and on the 23rd of April we will be running out Ayurvedic High Tea, both of these events are in Hamblin Hall, West Sussex. Please see the SHOP page to book onto either of these courses.