It looks like my childhood heroine Mary Poppins needs to reconsider. No more than six teaspoons added sugar per day for women and nine teaspoons per day for men – that’s what the American Heart Association recommends. Until I read this I thought our added sugar intake was on the moderate side. We do not drink any sodas or soft drinks, nor do we add sugar to tea or coffee. I pay attention to the sugar content when I buy cereal and other processed foods. We do not eat candy and a piece of chocolate only once in a blue moon. Most of the baked goods and sweets we eat are homemade, and I reduce the sugar amount in any given recipe by at least one-third. Still, I concluded that we still eat much more sugar than we should.
Let’s face it, two tablespoons sugar per day for me means to give up or cut back to a tiny amount all the things I love and make with produce from my garden or from local orchards: jams and jellies, fruit pies, crumbles, apple sauce, my favorite cantaloupe sorbet and so much more. I am not willing to do that. You only live once!
But there is definitely room for improvement. One way of cutting down sugar intake is turning sweet recipes into savory ones (without, of course, loading those with fat, otherwise there will be nothing gained).
When I recently saw a video for a Nutella Brioche Flower I was itching to try that technique. Nutella was out of the question – I had plenty of it as a kid and rarely crave it as an adult. Plus I wanted to use homemade goodies in jars or from the freezer.
First I thought I should make the pastry with a fruit filling but then I asked myself whether it has to be sweet at all.
I ended up with whole-wheat yeast dough and homemade pesto, using my Pesto Knots recipe as a basis.
Shaping the flower needs practice. Mine looked a bit wilted but that was OK. I am sure I will get better at it next time, just as I am confident I will find more ways to cut down on sugar without giving up the sweet life.
½ cup + 2 tablespoons warm water, more as needed
1 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
8½ ounces cups white whole wheat flour (or half whole wheat and half bread flour)
½ cup pesto
Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing
1. Mix the water with the yeast and let stand for a few minutes until it starts to foam.
2. In a large bowl mix the olive oil, salt, flour, and the yeast mixture. Knead to a smooth dough using your hands or the dough hook of an electric mixer. The dough should be slightly tacky; add more water a teaspoon at a time as needed.
3. Cover and let rise for 2 hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. If you have a baking stone, place it on the medium rack of the oven.
5. Roll out half of the dough on a floured surface to a 10×20-inch rectangle. Using a 9-inch cake pan, cut out two 9-inch circles with a pastry wheel. Gently lift the circles and place them aside on a large, lightly floured piece of parchment paper. Evenly spread it with pesto, leaving 1 inch free all around.
6. Add the dough scraps to the remaining dough and knead until smooth. Add a few teaspoons of water if the dough seems dry. Roll out the second half of the dough and cut out two more dough circles as described. Place the second circle on top of the first and spread it with pesto as described. Place the last circle on top and leave it plain.
7. Place a small jar in the center. Using a small knife, mark 16 equal wedges as if you were cutting a cake. Cut the wedges all the way through with a pastry wheel.
8. Hold two of the wedges next to each other in each of your hands. Twist them twice in opposite directions. Pinch the ends together to seal.
9. Generously brush the entire surface with olive oil. Gently transfer the flower with the parchment to the hot baking stone. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a baking rack to cool.
Makes 8 servings
Photos by Ted Rosen