Her name is Lindy and she’s declared that sugar is her enemy. (!)
There’s a great disconnect between me and anything that’s sugar-free. On the one hand, I realize that it answers a real need for people for whom sugar is death, but on the other, I’m also highly suspicious of anything that touts itself as sans sucre. More importantly, almost all the sugar-free products that I try taste just like the cardboard boxes they come in.
So when Lindy Santiago broaches the idea of me sampling her no-sugar-added desserts, I approach it in the same way I face ampalaya, pinapaitan, and all other foods I fear: proceed with much caution. For someone whose life centers around sugar, the threat of not having any sugar is a fate akin to meeting the Grim Reaper.
I acknowledge that the market for sugar-free products is huge. Practically every home baker I’ve met has a few sugar-free desserts in his/her arsenal. What makes Lindy’s concept unique is her inclusion of the products’ nutritional information. The numbers are on her website and will be included soon on her cake boxes. The added info is, in her words, “… added value to my healthy dessert concept … my customers can stay within their dietary requirements because they are guided on how much they [may] consume.” Lindy works with a clinical nutritionist who does the calculations and also suggests ways to further reduce the desserts’ fat, calories and sodium.
Lindy’s business is called Desserts! Sugar-Free by the LowCal Café Co., her individual effort to bank on health. Since 2007, she’s been formulating and tweaking and cutting out the sugar and using low or non fat ingredients when possible. Sugar, especially, is verboten since a health article she read revealed that cancer cells feed on it. “My mother and all her siblings passed away from cancer and that puts me at high risk. Sugar became an enemy to me!” So Lindy uses Isomalt, a sweetener formed by chemically altering sucrose. Pastry chefs like it because it’s resistant to browning and crystallizing and doesn’t attract moisture (hygroscopic).
Because Isomalt enhances the flavor transfer in foods, it dissolves easily in the mouth without the “cooling” effect characteristic of other sugar replacers. Hence, Lindy’s healthy carrot cake (P850/8″ round) is quite moist, not to mention loaded with carrots, walnuts, and pineapples – there’s almost not enough cake to hold all that fiber together. The chocolate mint cake (P500/6″ round; P800/8″ round) has a super smooth ganache that protects the soft cake within. If I close my eyes, I can almost ”“ almost! pretend that these aren’t sugar free desserts that I’m eating.
But my problem, as it is with all sugar-free desserts is the texture that’s not quite right. Among sugar’s essential roles in baking, one of the most vital is as a tenderizer. With sugar-free desserts, just one taste and I know my tongue tells no lies. Lindy’s banana walnut cake and cappuccino tiramisu (P750/P1,250), robbed of an essential sweetener, are as dry as the desert. And because isomalt isn’t a naturally occurring sugar, there’s nothing that can quite be done about the metallic aftertaste, very evident in the two cakes mentioned previously. I’m also surprised to learn from Lindy’s website that Isomalt and its ilk may have a laxative effect on some people so Lindy’s suggested daily serving (for any of her cakes) is 200 grams.
Though it’s obvious how I feel about sugar-free anything, Lindy’s desserts are an option for those whose lifestyles and/or physical conditions require cutting back on the sweetness. After all, without sugar-free home bakers like Lindy, people would be reduced to having fruit for dessert.
See Desserts! Sugar-Free website for ordering information.
One other sugar-free post:
Sugar Free Desserts To Make a Convert Out of Me (unfortunately, Sugar Not! has closed)