I know what you are thinking: it just doesn’t work. Ok, you’re kind of right. As my catering college teacher taught me, “fat is flavour”, so the moment you cut it out you risk losing a dimension of taste.
This post has been inspired by:
- Reading too many good blogs on baking
- Missing baking with E (my little girl) since I started the diet
I am currently on WeightWatchers and they just don’t seem to do good desserts. Being a big baker if I want to succeed with anything long term I am going to have to find a solution. I do think there is a balance to be struck though and this might turn out be very personal to me; my tastes and where I am willing to compromise.
When I cook savoury dishes I always weigh up the points difference between real cream and fat free yoghurt or adding an extra splash of olive oil. Generally I prefer to eat a little less of something really good than lots of something that is a bit dry or flavourless. Other times its whether we go for the fattier cut of meat for a slow cook with plenty of free root veg or a more expensive leaner cut with more carbs. Its about finding work arounds or ways to make informed healthy choices, for example, I have discovered that a tablespoon of cream does the same job as half a pot of fat free yoghurt for the same points value so it’s a no brainer for me on that one now.
The thing that really gets me with the WeightWatchers’ dessert books is the amount of sweetener they use or the measly portion sizes. That just doesn’t cut it for me. What a total waste of points!
My latest mission is to find good desserts or bakes that you can have a decent portion of and feel satisfied without having to sacrifice a meal (for those of you dieting). My first thoughts lead me to believe that this could be something so decadent that you only need a small taste or it could be something lighter than air that you could get a proper mouthful of minus the calories. I might have to experiment with lighter sponges or fruity desserts. And no a fresh fruit salad doesn’t count!
Is it possible? Let’s give it a go.
Diet Bake Attempts #1: Whisking-Method Cakes
Today we experimented with fat-free or low fat sponges. The only raising agent used in Whisking-Method Cakes is the air that has been trapped in the mixture during preparation. You therefore have to be very careful when folding in flour or putting the mixture in the tin so as not to knock the air bubbles out of the mix.
Firstly we made an Angel Cake:
Angel Cake has an almost chewy meringue like consistency, is relatively sweet, and most importantly for us it is light and fat free meaning less calories.
My recipe called for a 20cm springform cake tin with a funnel base but I used a 24cm silicon one with excellent results.
- 85g plain flour
- 170g caster sugar
- 6 egg whites
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 1tbsp icing sugar
- Preheat the oven to 170°C and line your tin with greaseproof paper (if you are using a silicon mould just grease it lightly).
- To incorporate the maximum amount of air possible it is important to sift the flour 3 times and sift the sugar separately. Then mix the flour and 40g of sugar and sift well together.
- Whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until very stiff and them hold them over your head to see if they are stiff enough (see picture). It is important that the eggs are room temperature as they can incorporate more air. The cream of tartar stabilised the mix so it does not over whip. Add the vanilla and 2 tbsp of sugar and whisk again until stiff and shiny. Then gradually whack in the remaining sugar until the egg white form soft peaks.
- Fold in the flour and sugar mixture very carefully using a large metal spoon. You need to get rid of any large pockets of flour or bubbles but don’t over fold as the air is what makes the cake light. Then turn the mixture into the tin. Make sure the mixture is flat in the tin as this will be your base.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes or until the top springs back when pressed.
- Once cooked leave to cook upside-down on a wire rack for 30 minutes and then remove carefully. Due to the low fat content the cake tends to stick so carefully use a knife to pull it away from the sides.
- When the cake was completely cool I dusted it with some icing sugar.
I found that the cake served 8 people at 4 WeightWatchers points or 140 calories a piece. Angel Cake is very sweet so you really don’t need much more than one portion which is great but maybe next time I’ll add some lemon zest to cut through some of that sweetness.
Next we had good fun trying out a Swiss Roll.
I haven’t made one of these since school. They have a reputation for being difficult (not the actual baking but the preparation) but there are a few tricks to making them easier to roll.
- 85g plain flour, sifted
- a pinch of salt (optional)
- 3 room-temperature eggs
- 85g caster sugar
- 1½ tbsp lukewarm water
- 2-3 drops of vanilla essence
- 3 tbsp Caster sugar for dusting
- 3 tbsp seedless jam (room temperature)
- Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease the base and sides of a Swiss roll tin. Line the base with greaseproof paper and dust it with a little of the caster sugar for dusting.
- Sift the flour and salt.
- Place the eggs, sugar, water and vanilla essence in a large heatproof bowl and fit it over (but not in) a saucepan of steaming water. Whisk with an electric beater until the mixture is thick and fluffy.
- Using a large metal spoon, fold the flour into the egg mixture and pour into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes until the sides have shrunk very slightly away from the tin and no impression remains when the top is pressed lightly with a finger tip.
- Lay a piece of greaseproof paper on the work surface and sprinkle it evenly with caster sugar. Using a knife loosen the edges of the cake and turn it out onto the sugared greaseproof paper. Remove the lining paper carefully and trim the edges of the cake neatly. (If the lining paper doesn’t come away very easily at first lay a damp clean tea towel over it for a minute or so).
- While the cake is still warm spread it with the jam.
- Make a shallow cut across the width of the cake at about a cm from the end you are going to start rolling from (to facilitate rolling) and then using the paper under the cake to help you, roll the cake up tightly from one end. (Don’t worry they really aren’t that fragile when you do it while they are still warm!)
- Sprinkle some more caster sugar over the finished roll and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely with the seam on the underside of the roll.
Once I had trimmed the sides and rolled the cake it was about 20cm wide and I found it gave 13 finger width slices each. One slice was 2 WeightWatchers points a piece or about 85 calories – unfortunately it was 5 points for 2 slices.
By the way, I went pretty traditional with only jam, but if you are feeling decadent and want to add cream you have to wait for it to cool first. Roll up the cake, unfilled, and keep it wrapped in greaseproof paper until it is cool. Unroll it very carefully, spread with whipped cream and roll it up again,
Generally some pretty successful baking I’d say – got to eat lots of cake and stayed on track with the diet. Through making some clever choices of cake I didn’t even have to compromise the original recipes!
Hope you enjoy testing them out yourselves. I’m also very interested to hear your suggestions for “lighter” bakes too if you have any?