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How I make my baking habit healthier

To avoid children behaving like lunatics and serving up unnecessary sweetness, I always reduce the sugar content and – shh- no one has noticed!

By Jo Dunbar

Are you spending lockdown 3.0 perfecting your banana bread, or looking for healthy January alternatives ?

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be playing around with adding and subtracting the ingredients to accommodate what you have in the cupboard and to experiment with what tastes best. (For me, three bananas, dark chocolate chunks and a handful of walnuts).

Baking with less sugar isn’t a particularly new or original cooking concept. For many, it’s for dietary reasons or because – as I found in lockdown 1.0 – sugar stocks became difficult to replenish. Generally, my reasons for reducing the sugar content in my bakes are simple: if I fill my children (boys age 8 and 4) with sugar, their (already plentiful) energy levels will go through the roof. 

I kid myself I’m thinking about their health, and teeth too, but to be perfectly honest, I’m avoiding a sugar spike and the loud and constant whirlwind which ensues. So, for their benefit (and mine too) I began cutting the sugar content in the cakes, biscuits and bakes I make when they were toddlers. And I’m still doing it now. This means that when they make their frequent snack demands, I’m happy to hand them the biscuit tin because I know exactly what is (and isn’t) inside each cookie, brownie or traybake slice.

Before you assume my cookies all resemble rabbit food, worry not: kids and adults alike have taste tested and approved my bakes – so low sugar doesn’t always mean low taste. Be aware that sugar does more than add sweetness to a bake. If you cut too much sugar or syrup from a cookie or a flapjack, you’ll find the mixture won’t hold together.

Crowd pleaser cookies (makes about 20)

A batch of these cookies never lasts more than a day or two and are great for lunchboxes or wrapped up for a snack on the go (when the moaning escalates after a long walk). They’re also quick and easy to make and are great to bake alongside a little helper – just be prepared to sweep up oats and flour afterwards…

100g butter (softened)

80-100g light brown soft sugar (similar recipes call for 150g sugar)

1 large egg

150g porridge oats

75g plain flour

50g chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius (fan oven) and line two or three baking trays with greaseproof paper or baking parchment.
  2. Mix butter and sugar until it looks like wet sand.
  3. Beat in egg.
  4. Add flour and stir in oats then chocolate chips.
  5. Space heaped teaspoons of mixture out on the tray (they will expand as they bake).
  6. Bake for approximately 12 mins until going golden in colour.
  7. Leave to cool on a cooling rack.

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