Thursday 25 April 2013

30% Less Cookery Challenge : Chocolate drizzled Raisin Bars

I love a good blogger challenge, so when this popped into my inbox last week, I knew I'd have to get involved : "You may have already heard, but this month Sprite revealed a brand NEW formula to the classic lemon and lime based soft drink which contains stevia. Stevia, a sweetener from natural origins, is sweeter than sugar but without the calories. It is an extract from the leaf of the stevia plant which is native to Paraguay and has been used for centuries as a source of intense, natural sweetness. By introducing stevia into our recipe, we have been able to cut the sugar and calorie content in our regular Sprite by 30% - whilst retaining the same great taste that people know and love. To celebrate this launch we are partnering with celebrity chef, Rachel Allen, to create an exciting challenge. It will look at how you can reduce the calorie and sugar content in your favourite family recipe. Be this your favourite dessert, or your old faithful spaghetti bolognaise, we want you to try and cut the calorie content at the same time as keeping the taste - so even your family wouldn’t notice the difference!"

Hmmm ... well, it would be dead easy to just replace the sugar with Stevia but Ithought that was a cop out so I decided to try and get a bit more inventive. I decided to adapt a recipe from my favourite recipe book, Jo McAuley's Brownies, Bars & Goodies Galore.

I opted for a recipe I've made before : White Chocolate & Raisin Bars. I wanted to keep the indulgent gooeyness and sweetness while taking off 30% of the sugar and/or calories. OK ...

Here's the original ingredients list :

9 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup superfine sugar
3 & 1/2 cups unsweetened muesli
2/3 cup raisins
pinch of ground allspice
9oz white chocolate, broken into pieces
seeds scraped from one vanilla bean

My immediate reaction was to cut right back on the butter and sugar, but I knew I couldn't cut back too far or there wouldn't be enough moisture and stickiness to hold it all together. I replaced the butter with margarine - I had Flora Pro-Activ Buttery in the fridge which contains 78% less saturated fat than butter. According to FatSecret, 10g of butter contains 71.7 calories, compared to 54 calories for the Flora so that's a 25% reduction in calories and a lot more in fat.

On to the sugar. A teaspoon of normal caster sugar contains 16 calories, whereas a teaspoon of light brown muscovado sugar "only" contains 11. I was surprised to learn that honey contains more calories than sugar - 22 calories per teaspoon - but it is so sweet that a little goes a long way. I had some Sweet Freedom (a 100% fruit-based sweetener) in the cupboard and that contains 25% less calories than sugar and it's just as sweet as honey, so that was another ally. I cut the sugar quantity in the original recipe by half and used muscovado, put in 1 tablespoon of honey for the taste and 1 tablespoon of Sweet Freedom.

For the muesli, I used some Sharpham Park Millers Muesli, which is made with spelt puffs and flakes, barley flakes and jumbo oats, raisins, dates and apricots, crunchy sunflower seeds, almonds and walnuts. I decided that the muesli already had enough raisins in it, so I left those out, saving a few more calories.

I mixed the muesli into the melted "butter"/"sugar"and honey, pressed it into a tin and baked it in the oven  for 25 minutes.

Now, the original recipe calls for 9oz of white chocolate - that's a whopping 255g - which gives it a thick solid chocolate topping. I substituted this for 35g of strawberry flavour buttons, which I melted with a teaspoon of crème fraîche. I went for a chocolate drizzle topping, rather than a solid layer, again saving on calories and sugar content.

They look and taste rather delicious, and are definitely sweet enough. The only downside is, they are a lot more crumbly than the original recipe because the chocolate layer isn't there to hold them together.

I did manage to get more or less complete squares out and safely into the tin, but there were lots of broken bits.

They didn't go to waste though - I had two little helpers ready to polish off the crumbs and broken bits that stayed in the tin, which just goes to show that they thought they tasted nice !

I'm not sure if I managed to reduce the overall sugar and/or calorie content by 30%, but I certainly gave it my best shot !

I could have taken a leaf (no pun intended !) out of Coca Cola's book though and used Stevia. It comes from natural origins, is up to 200 times sweeter than normal sugar and is calorie-free. Find out more about the new recipe Sprite using Stevia here.

Disclosure : This is my entry in the "30% Less" blogger challenge, hosted by Sprite/Coca Cola, in partnership with celebrity chef, Rachel Allen.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Recipe : Pear & Pecan Clafoutis

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