Desserts are one of the best parts of any meal, and for that matter, life. But they can be difficult to enjoy without a big sense of guilt, especially if you’re trying to lose weight or generally eat more healthily. Can you really go wrong with the trusted friend, apple crumble?
Most, if not all desserts, are delicious because of weight loss enemy no.1 – sugar! If you’ve never baked yourself before, you might not even realise just how much sugar goes into even the most simple of dishes. One solution could be to replace the sugar with sweetener substitutes. Then you’re basically eating chemicals instead of sugar, and very often these sweeteners have a very negative effect on your body and metabolism. Just because there are no calories, doesn’t mean it’s better for you than sugar!
The only healthy and sensible way is to figure out how to cut down on sugar without sacrificing too much yummy flavour. With some dishes, it’s easier than others, and here we’ll discuss an absolute favourite – the apple crumble.
Apple vs Sugar
Apple crumbles are typically made with cooking apples and it’s this that makes apple crumbles loaded with sugar and ultimately unhealthy. Have you ever taken a bit out of a raw cooking apple? It’s not a pleasant experience. Apples intended for cooking are hard, bitter and tart. Why? Because they have a lower sugar content than regular eating apples. Therefore, when used for cooking, recipes call for a LOT of sugar to be added, in order to give desserts a nicer flavour.
A standard 6 portion apple crumble recipe will call for around 200g of sugar, sometimes more. That’s over 30g per person, and 30g is the maximum RDA for sugar. So that’s your entire day’s sugar allowance in one dessert. And that’s not including if you eat it with custard or ice cream.
An easy way I choose to get around this problem is to not use cooking apples and use regular apples. Eating apples are naturally sweet, so you really don’t need to load your crumble with sugar in order for it to be tasty. If you want to go as low calorie as possible, Granny Smith apples are a great choice for low sugar content.
I add, at most, 1 tablespoon of demerara sugar to the apple mix for a 6 portion crumble – that’s it! I’ll only add 1 tablespoon of sugar to the crumble mix. That’s 2 tablespoons vs over 200g!! You might think this will make for a dull, flavourless crumble? Nope, it’s just as delicious. The only thing you’re really sacrificing is texture. Cooking apples, after baking, are still crunchy, whereas eating apples will go mushy in the oven. But the top layer will still provide the crunch, and it’ll be a crumble where you can enjoy every mouthful, guilt-free!
Add some spice
The other ingredient that’s a big help with keeping the sugar content down is cinnamon. If you’re not a fan of the flavour, that’s a bit of a shame, and of course, you don’t have to add it. But because cinnamon is naturally sweet, it helps to bring sweetness to your crumble, without having to add extra sugar. I like to add a generous helping of cinnamon to both the apple mix and the crumble, but that’s really up to you. Not only will cinnamon give a lovely, festive, autumnal smell and flavour to your dessert, but it is also incredibly healthy!
Cinnamon has many healthy properties that you should consider using more in your baking and cooking in general. Many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes often add sweet spices like cinnamon for extra flavour – it goes great with mince or couscous. The difference between a dull and delightful moussaka is often that dash of cinnamon! Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory effects, helps your body process sugar and can lower the risk of heart disease as it naturally helps lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.
You can also play around with different fruit combinations. Try apple and plum crumble, apple and different berries or no apple at all – you could go for pear, cherry or even something more exotic like peach and passionfruit. Apple crumble is also incredibly easy to make vegan – simply substitute the butter for plant-based spread. Ta-da! I have made crumbles with both vegan and regular butter – it tastes exactly the same. I personally prefer to eat crumble as is, but if you need that sploosh of something creamy to counteract the fruit, there are lots of vegan substitutes that you can use.