I’ve been a bit quiet I know. I’ve not been well. Despite my low sugar detox I came down with a stinker of a cold which has left me feeling strung out. On Sunday I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and the thought of a bit of sugar coated comfort was quite compelling but, happily, I did not relent and so I am now well into day 8 of my month without sugar.
I have realised that after just a few days I have already fallen into something of a routine. Avoiding sugar is quite tough but looking out for it hidden in unlikely places has almost immediately become instinctive. I read the labels on everything and don’t even bother walking down the aisles which house the biscuits and sweets, the fruit juices and yoghurts. Whereas previously a biscuit or a couple of squares of chocolate might have been a welcome treat with a cup of tea my focus has somehow shifted, the subconscious clearly aware of what is and isn’t within acceptable boundaries. This is, of course, the secret to effective weight loss and indeed any behaviour change. If you really want something once you can deal with the practical challenges the emotional challenge is not so great. It is when we tell ourselves we want something but secretly don’t that the trouble starts. We say one thing to ourselves on the surface “I want to lose a stone” but underneath there is a different message, “but I’m not so bothered that I am prepared to give up chocolate and do a bit of exercise”. Surface, “I want to quit smoking”, underneath, “well, what I really mean is that I know I should even though I still like it”. I know that because I chose to do this experiment and because I visualise what it will be like to complete it and see/feel its impact it will be emotionally OK even though it is putting quite a strain on my time practically.
So, there are no biscuits, no cakes and no chocolate but instead my little pleasure has become….a banana. It feels like a real treat, a sugar rush like no other, almost intensely sweet but very very good nonetheless.
I am having to bake bread at least twice a week and don’t let anyone tell you that you need sugar in the loaf to make the yeast work because its nonsense. Mostly I make brown bread but today I wanted something more focaccia like, and I say “focaccia like” because really all I did was knock up a batch of ordinary white dough prove it quite flat, poke my fingers into it and drizzle in some olive oil. “ecco” (thats the Italian equivalent of “voila”)
Make some, its really easy.
1kg White bread flour
14g Fast action yeast
Put the flour in a bowl, add the yeast on one side and the salt on the other then tip in the water. Mix it WITH YOUR HANDS until you have a dough. Tip it out onto a work surface and knead it by pushing the heal of your hand into the dough and pushing it forward to stretch the dough out a little, then turn the dough and do the same again. You need to keep at it for a good ten minutes to get the gluten working to give you a nice smooth dough. Once you have finished put it into a clean bowl, rub a little olive oil over the top and cover with a plastic bag or cling film and put it somewhere to prove. Warm place = faster rise and cool place = slower rise so its really no biggie.
After the dough has doubled in size get it out and push it back so you effectively fold it over on itself a few times and push the air out of it thus making it easier to handle and shape. Then shape it according to whatever you want to make. It will make two large loaves so cut it in half and put each in a bread tin or do what I did and make a couple of roundish loaves which will flatten and spread a little as they prove for the second time. Cover them again and leave to prove again for about an hour.
Heat the oven to 7 (220c/425f)
If you’re making my Focaccia type loaves push your fingers into them once they have had their second prove and pour some olive oil all over the tops, sprinkle on a little sea salt and you could add rosemary, cherry tomatoes, a bit of parmesan or taleggio cheese. I left mine plain.
Put them into the hot oven and bake for around 30 minutes until they are golden and crispy and sound hollow.
Who needs sugar?