Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's gotta be good for you

I've been none too healthy in my eating habits lately - my meals, on the whole, have not been too bad, but I've been snacking on the naughty stuff. Time to reign in that habit! Having finally eaten all my fruit cake and lemon biscuits (seriously, those biscuits lasted forever), I was in need of something to put in my lunchbox for morning tea.

Looking through the baking sections for something not too calorie-loaded, I came across health loaf (p30). Well, what could be better than that? A quick look through the ingredients confirmed that the recipe has a reasonable claim to the title: extra fibre, less fat and sugar.. on the whole, not too bad, health-wise.

I added the few ingredients I needed to my shopping list and headed to the supermarket. I had a little trouble procuring the bran flakes - clearly bran is not a popular ingredient, since Pak N Save offered only a single brand, and that well hidden on the bottom shelf! The recipe calls for 'Fleming's bran flakes'. No bran expert, I had to hope that bran flakes and wheat bran were the same thing.

In any case, I brought home my packet of wheat bran and got to work. It's a fairly basic recipe - dry ingredients in one bowl, liquids in the other, then mix. Before long, I had a mixture ready to go in the tin. The recipe specifies an 18cm tin, which I don't have - my 22cm one was plainly going to make a very shallow loaf if I used that, so I grabbed out my two mini loaf tins and divided the mixture into those instead.

The bonus of using the mini tins is that they took far less time to bake. The recipe states 40 minutes; mine were actually starting to look a little overdone when I took them out after 25 minutes. The loaves had peaked and split on top: indicative, I suspect, of over-mixing. I'll have to be more careful next time.

Despite this, I'd consider my health loaf a success: it has a very pleasant, mildly sweet flavour, the dates and walnuts adding both taste and texture. The use of bran and wholemeal flour make for a more substantial, filling snack than a baked item made entirely of white flour. 

It is quite an old-fashioned recipe - you don't see many loaves these days, and bran is something that's more likely to be found in a Granny's pantry than anywhere. Yet it reflects modern-day healthy-eating principles: reduce fat; reduce sugar; add fibre. It may not be terribly exciting, but it's tasty enough, and far better for you than many things we commonly snack on.

Of course, if you don't like bran, this one's not for you: it really is the most prominent ingredient in terms of texture. I, personally, quite like the substance that bran brings to the loaf, but I'm aware it's not everyone's cup of tea.

Also, I have only tried the loaf hot from the oven so far. I suspect that once it cools down, it'll tend towards dryness - which in turn will mean that the loaf requires buttering, thus adding extra fat to our 'health' loaf. This is only speculation at this point, however - I'll soon find out whether or not I'm right!

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