Wholefood Cooking

Category: Afternoon Tea

Low Sugar Jam

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I’m thinking jam. Tis the season with the berries and stone fruits harvesting.

We have become very accustomed to fruits available all the year round, but you will find they have nowhere near the same level of flavour. Fruits are fleeting, lasting only a few weeks, but there is a way to capture that moment — jam. But not jam as you might know it, but a spoonful of deliciousness that tastes like the fruit it is, with just enough sweetness to bring out it’s full flavour. A snapshot of the season in a jar. Now I am often asked can you make jam with something other than sugar, or less sugar and the answer is complex, and included below. So here it all is – as Wholefood Baking is currently out of print, I’ve put the recipe here for you. I promise you that once you know the hows, it’s very easy. But there are rules….

The only fruit to use is that which is ripe, preferably organic and in season. Fruits such as this are bursting with natural sweetness, colour with enormous complexity and luscious flavour. The jam (it’s a universal recipe) here relies less on sugar, and more so on technique to capture the true complexity and glory of fruit flavour — it is a snapshot of the fruit at its best and the season. Jams are very easy to make, and will store in the pantry for up to one year. On a cold winter’s day, when you take that batch of scones out of the oven, you will thank yourself for your stash of homemade jams and the colour and taste of summer will lift your spirits.

Technically, the object of preserving is to slow down the process of decay. Food spoils from the continued activity of natural enzymes in all fruits and vegetables and the continued work of microorganisms in the form of moulds, yeasts and bacteria present in the food and air.

SUGAR, PECTIN AND ACID

Jam relies on sugar to saturate the natural moisture of the fruit and thus preserve it. I am often asked if something other than sugar can be used to make jam — the answer is complex. Many of the sugar-free jams you see are made with white grape juice concentrate, use pectin and have been processed in a boiling-water bath. Because there is not enough sucrose to saturate the fruit and preserve it (and this is true of many other non-sucrose based sweeteners, such as stevia, agave and brown rice syrup), the boiling-water bath is the preserving method. I prefer to use one of the semi-refined organic raw sugars (not rapadura, which is too low in sucrose and too strong in flavour)( I like to use the Billingtons Golden Castor Sugar)  in the smallest possible amount, this allows the glorious flavour of the fruit to shine through.  Most jam recipes call for equal quantities of sugar to fruit by weight. You need about 60–70 per cent sugar for good gelling to occur naturally (sugar, pectin, acidity). I find this way too much sugar and prefer a ratio of 20–40 per cent sugar to fruit, but this will vary with the fruit — tart fruit will require more, and sweet fruit will require less. Because the holy trinity of sugar, pectin and acid is disrupted, this will result in a softer ‘set’, which I happen to prefer.

Pectin is a carbohydrate that helps to ‘set’ jam. It is particularly concentrated in the skins and cores of fruit. The conversion of the pre-curser substances to pectin occurs naturally during ripening but can also be forced by long cooking, as in the traditional methods of making jam without added pectin. Fruits vary in how much pectin, or pectin pre-cursers, they contain. Pectin produces structure and a kind of stiffness in jam by forming a water-holding network within the crushed fruit. Before gelling starts, individual molecules of pectin are surrounded and isolated from each other by water molecules. If the surrounding solution is acidic enough, the pectin loses some of its attraction for these isolating water molecules. Sour fruit will normally provide enough acid to take care of this step. If the acid content of the fruit is low, lemon juice can be added to make the fruit mixture more acidic. Once the pectin has loosened its hold on the water molecules, something more attractive must pull the water away from the pectin — this is the role of sugar. With its water stripped away, pectin opens out into a structure that links readily with other pectin molecules to form a three- dimensional network — a gel.

 

Fruits with high natural pectin and acid content include:  blackberries + crab apples + cranberries + plums+ quinces+ sour apples

Fruits with low natural pectin and acid content include: apricots+ blueberries + figs+ grapes+ guava+ peaches+ pears+ prunes+ raspberries + rhubarb+ strawberries

Low-pectin fruits benefit from the addition of lemon, to boost the acidity and thus setting. Unripe fruit (sour) will also increase acidity. Jam is best made with a good percentage of fruit that is not overripe because as the fruit ripens, the pectin breaks down and you will not get a good set.

PICK THE RIGHT POT

The right pot is critical to making low-sugar jam, I cannot stress this enough.  Mine is a traditional French copper preserving pan that is shallow and wide. It’s about 12 cm (41⁄2 inches) high, 36 cm (141⁄4 inches) across the base and 39 cm (151⁄2 inches) across the top, with a 10 litre (350 fl oz) capacity. The wide surface area encourages evaporation and reduction, thus cooking the jam quickly. It is extremely difficult to make jam in a deep pot with a small surface area — tall pans are a major cause of runny jam.

However, you can make smaller amounts in your average large domestic saucepan. You can use a simple stainless steel pan — just make sure it is not too deep. A wider and more shallow pan with less capacity (for example, a sauté pan with a 5 litre/ 175 fl oz capacity and a depth of 8 cm/31⁄4 inches) is better than a pot with a 10 litre/350 fl oz capacity, but a depth of 16–18 cm (61⁄4–7 inches), or even a frypan with a large shallow surface area. It will mean you can only make small amounts at a time — about 2 kg (4 lb 8 oz) of fruit, but your jam will be more successful. You can also use a 20–24 cm (8–91⁄2 inch) typical domestic saucepan, but keep the amount of fruit to 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz).

Never make jam in large quantities — another cause of runny jam — and never crowd your pan. How much fruit you use (the weight) will depend on the size of your pan — for mine, I use 4 kg (9 lb). A good guide is to only fill your pan two-thirds full of fruit.

JARS AND LIDS

Always use tempered jars that can withstand the temperatures involved in sterilising, jam-making and storage. Some jars manufactured for products such as coffee, peanut butter and mayonnaise are not tempered and do not have strong seals on the lids. Jars must not be cracked, chipped or damaged in any way, and lids must not be scratched or dented. Jars can be re-used, but lids are good for one use only.

STERILISING YOUR EQUIPMENT

Your jars, lids, ladles and funnels must all be sterilised. This is easy to do in an oven at 120°C (235°F/Gas 1⁄2) for 20 minutes. Jars and lids must be sterilised, dry and warm. Once sterilised, turn the oven off and leave in the warm oven until the jam is ready. Equipment can also be boiled for 12 minutes in a large saucepan of water, then dried in the oven at a low temperature.

PUTTING THE JAM INTO JARS

Bottling technique is the other very important part of making low-sugar jams — the jam must be spooned with a sterilised ladle through a sterilised funnel into warm jars (as hot jam into cool or cold jars will cause the jars to break) as soon as it is ready. Make sure the sterilised jars are warm (from sterilising and then being kept warm in the oven) and sit them on a wooden surface or on towels (so they don’t crack when the hot jam is added). This process will ensure the jars seal properly and that the jam does not spoil.

After ladling the jam into the jars, make sure there is no spillage as this will hinder a seal being formed. Gently wipe any spillage, taking care not to touch the sterilised lip of the jar. Place the lids on, taking care to touch only the outside of the lids. Holding the jars with a damp cloth (for a good grip), turn the lids until firm.

Let the jars sit until fully cool — do not move them for 12 hours or you can disrupt the vacuum process. A concave dip in the middle of the lid indicates a vacuum seal. If there is no concave dip, store the jam in the fridge and use straight away.

Once opened and the seal is broken, the jam begins to deteriorate and must be kept in the fridge.

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The beautiful photo at the top of this post is ©Cath Muscat and all copy is ©Jude Blereau and Murdoch Books, and taken from Wholefood Baking. Published by Murdoch Books, 2013.

Chocolate + Beetroot Cake, with love

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Why cake ? Because joy and deliciousness are nutrients in their own right, as our love and beauty. With the cooler weather, the cakes I bake become a little richer and with Mothers Day coming up, I threw in a couple of frostings as well. We’re getting dressed up and special.

Now, this cake is an old recipe – it was hands down the best selling cake back in my Earth Market days (the wholefood cafe and store I co – founded back in the late 90’s), and one of the most popular recipes from my first book Wholefood – heal, nourish, delight. This post is going to be all about the cake, I’ve got to get it finished, and then finish of packing up my house as I move in 2 weeks (equal measures of arrrrgggghhhhh and excitement). All of these beautiful photos ©Harriet Harcourt 

The cake itself:

  1. If you choose to use the rapadura sugar it will be less sweet, more whole and possibly a little drier (a bit similar to my Coffee and Walnut Cake from Wholefood Baking) – this is because sugar makes up part of the liquid percentage in baking. But, I reduced the amount of sugar from the original also, and I give you the option of increasing it in the recipe (this will help to moisten it up). You can also get around this by baking it as one 20cm cake, then cutting it into 3 – I chose to divide the batter as 3 individual cakes, but think it suffered for that – mind you, there were very few complaints from the WACA (West Australian Cricket Association) testing crew – some did find it a little dry.
  2. This cake is largely dairy free – see cake itself recipe. The chocolate fudge frosting is dairy free but I chose to use the raspberry better buttercream for the in-between layers. If you would like to use all chocolate, there will be enough frosting to layer the cakes, and top and side  it. The raspberry BB will only be enough for the 2 layers – you will need to double it if you want some for the top and side.
  3. The cocoa powder. Please, do not use raw cocoa powder – you won’t find any in my pantry. This recipe is designed for, and uses a dutched cocoa – this is a less acidic cocoa. It’s tricky to know which good (organic) brands are, but certainly Organic Times is, and generally freely available.

How to put the cake together:

1: I didn’t stress about making a perfect cake, hence I put it basically together on the workbench. But you can put it together on a cardboard round (making it easier to move onto the cake stand), and also do it on a cake turntable stand. I’m using my 15cm palette knife, here and for pretty much the entire cake.

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2: Start by placing a very generous amount of chocolate frosting on top of the cake, then push it towards the edge, taking it down the side of the cake. continue this until the entire cake is covered. When it is entirely covered, pick it up using a larger palette knife and place on the cake stand.

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3. I use my stainless steel squared off dough scraper, and gently turn the cake around while I even out the frosting on the side, then on to my trusty 15cm palette to tidy and clean it all up.

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4: Onto decorating and eating !

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Being a mum of my beautiful daughter Nessie, is without doubt the blessing of my life – here we are (when I still had dark hair) circa 1986, and how grateful I am to my mum, without whom I would have not been able to do a fraction of what I’ve been able to do in my life. Blessed indeed, and I wish the same for you… x jude

Christmas Recipe Roundup

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Hello !!! Are you as busy as I am right now, finishing off jobs before Christmas (for me that is putting the new book to bed – going through last pages, checking it twice – and getting my new online tax system finished, making sure my builders are going to get the roof on my new house before Christmas to avoid delays in the new year, thank you notes)….. ? I’ve tidied up the blog a bit (but really it needs a lot more tidying up – as does my garden) and have rounded up some recipes that are 1) Christmas and 2) are great for this time of the year. Please bear in mind, some of these recipes are old (but not bad) and have not imported into the new website beautifully – and, I’m a bit better photographer than before (not a lot, but a bit!)  They are still favourites.. especially the puff pastry. I’ll have a new post up next week for a easy, dairy + gluten free + vegan dessert – one of my favourites.

Till then… x jude

Wholesome Gingerbread House with Marshmallow Snow 

Marshmallow

Meringue Mushrooms and Biscuits

Fruit Mince Tarts and Rich Shortcrust Pastry

Spelt Puff Pastry

Trifle with Dairy Free Almond and Coconut Custard Cream

Three Simple and Easy Dishes (Beetroot and Lentil Pate, Arame Tapenade, Labne) 

Lemon Blueberry Scones

Summer Breakfast Salad

Smells and Flavours of Christmas – Coconut Cream (Dairy and Gluten Free) with Fruit Salad

Peach and Apricot Berry Cake

Strawberry Ice Cream 

Jelly !!!! Jelly !!!!

And because it’s summer and there is fruit – my low sugar jam

A Sensible Discussion About Sugar (and a sponge cake)

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Photography by Jess Shaver | Copyright  Jude Blereau and Jess Shaver

There are an awful lot of hyped up conversations about sugar going on and sugar free is in, big time – another book, another movie, another fractionalised approach to food.  I’ve stayed out of this debate, preferring to run a conversation in my books and classes about a wholefoods and wholistic life, but after reading this great article by Jess Cox, I felt it was timely to put forward what I consider a sensible conversation about sugar. This also coincided with the passing of my dear friends Denise and Julies’ mum – Shirley –  but more about that later.

When I started out on my wholefood path some 25 years ago, I too saw things from quite a black or white perspective – I had not yet learnt that things are always far deeper and more complex than at first glance and that it is generally not what the food IS that makes it good, or wholesome and healthy, ethical or sustainable, but how we grow it, process and prepare it that is. And, the context in which we source it, eat it and the life we live. And my, but is sugar a great example of this, and of a wholefood philosophy and a wholistic lifestyle in general.

From a wholefood perspective, we could say that cane sugar juice in its natural state is a rich source of vitamins, minerals enzymes, fibers and phytonutrients, which the body requires to digest the sucrose and provide a slow release of fuel. Indeed the minerals calcium, phosphorous, chromium, magnesium, cobalt, copper, iron, zinc and manganese are absolutely essential for this process. To store over long periods and stop it from fermenting, cane juice is boiled to evaporate water and this end product is known by many names – for example Rapadura or Panela (they do the same thing, for the same reason to maple syrup and coconut palm nectar). In its traditional homes (Central and South Americas) it is consumed within the context of a whole and balanced diet  and is considered a healthful and nourishing food – this is what we should be referring to when we use the words cane sugar. But, I do understand that in most cases, when we say the word sugar, we are referring to what we know as refined sugar  – the cane juice instead is boiled under vacuum to achieve high enough temperatures for crystallisation, with all nutrients removed or at the very least with a few left in, during the refining process. It is a very different thing because of the way it has been processed and now, without the wealth of nutrients and polyphenols to aid the digestion of sucrose and slow down its release, it will hit the blood stream too quickly. I also understand very well that our bodies have not evolved to handle this, however will do it’s best – pulling nutrients from elsewhere in the body leading to depletion.

Which brings me to Shirley. One of the things that came through so clearly and strongly at the funeral of this very beautiful woman (both inside and out) when people spoke about their memories of her, was that the cake and biscuit tin was always full – made with refined white flour and sugar – and in the profound words of the CWA (Country Womens Association), ‘it’s not just about the scones and tea’. Shirley was always there, her door was always open, with a cup of tea and comfort. Somehow (according to the current fractionalised views on sugar) with this refined sugar in their diet Shirley and Ralph raised exceptional, healthy, wonderful children that contribute so much to our community. Somehow Shirley and Ralph lived full, happy and rich lives. Now I could also be talking of my mum (and indeed much of this generation now in their late 80’s and 90’s), who still makes biscuits and muffins for when people drop in, or to give to others. She uses white flour and refined white sugar. From a wholistic perspective (the one that fascinates me the most) is that I honestly don’t think that this bit of white sugar in a whole and balanced diet is evil, or cause disease, or indeed is going to kill you.  But eating a lot of refined white sugar and flour, low fat, processed vegetable oil, nutrient deficient, additive laden food in a stressful life possibly will. From this wholistic perspective, I think we are looking in all the wrong places for salvation (hello green smoothie).I think it is far more important that we focus our attention on the fundamentals which you can find here, and when these are strong and in place (as they most certainly have been and in many cases still are in our very older generations) the issue of refined white sugar diminishes. And of course the elephant in the room always is that whilst people might be ditching refined white sugar, but they are most certainly not ditching sweetness – sweetness is always about balance and context.

Personally, my choice is for less refined sweeteners, I like the flavours and nuanced sweetness they give, but when I eat my mum’s muffins I am partaking in powerful love medicine. I love rapadura sugar, but when I do want a cane sugar with less impact I will choose the semi refined (but still crystallised) sugars such as the Billingtons range, where less goodness is taken out in the beginning. I also love maple syrup, maple sugar, coconut palm sugar and brown rice syrup (but take note all brands of BRS are not equal and in Australia I choose Spiral), and of course fruit. I dislike and do not advocate products such as Agave or Xylitol – both highly refined products.

Shirley was known for and for her love of a good sponge cake and for the time she took to sit down with others. Afternoon tea is a great way to slow down on the weekend and stop, and for some to lay their burdens down. I thought you might like to make one for a weekend in the warmer spring weather. A sponge is certainly my favourite cake too –  I love it with passionfruit and banana. If a sponge is not your thing, there’s plenty more delicious options in my book Wholefood Baking (and don’t forget to check out the yummy Choc Peanut Truffles on Jess’ post. Vale Shirley.

Old Fashioned Rice Pudding

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This is the kind of ‘a little something’ that I needed on a cold and wintery Sydney day recently.. pure comfort food. And I did indeed need a bit of comfort. I was exhausted after doing the shoot for my new book (out next year), and staying with my good friend (and fellow Whole and Natural Foods Chef) Holly Davis, who helped me, the word we used was ‘shattered’. We were completely shattered, and requiring said comfort food (plus, it was cold). It also seems that rice pudding is back in (mind you it has never really gone away in our house) – I noticed it has made an appearance in this months Delicious magazine, so it seems, we are on trend :) I actually don’t use a recipe, just throw it all in and judge from look, but the all important thing in making a rice pudding is getting the consistency right (not too runny, not too thick) so I’m giving you a recipe. It’s originally from this book (I’ve tweaked it a little) … a truly brilliant book that mum has had for years, it’s well worn and stained, and truly, has all the Australian classics – it’s well worth tracking down.

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But whilst carrying on about how exhausted we were, it was a wonderful time. I call it the ‘seeing the view from the mountain’ time. That time, when you’ve worked so hard (over years and years), taken the enormous risks that you take, putting it all out there – and you finally get the chance to see the beauty of it all. To see this book, that in the beginning (and for quite some time over the past year) I couldn’t see at all where it was leading me, but I kept on following a jungle path – finally I got to see that it was beautiful, and that the whole was so much more than the sum of it’s parts. That takes one talented photographer (Cath Muscat) and stylist (Michelle Noriento), and of course a publishing team who are there for you (Murdoch Books). BUT, it also takes a friend. I’ve had a lot of lessons about what makes a true friendship this year – easy for some to talk the talk, but not walk the walk.  Thank goodness, that I count Holly as a true friend. Thank goodness she knows how to make a cup of tea because we really needed it. The photo below is a screen shot of the teapot from Cath’s instagram account. It also took another hand in the kitchen, and we were loved sharing more time with Trudie Fenwick – a graduate from the 2013 Whole and Natural Foods Chef Training Program. We also had the opportunity to catch up with another graduate (2010) Belinda Pooley (Wholefood Canteen), another true friend and we got to meet her gorgeous new bub.

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A shoot goes like this: you organise what you are going to shoot (we had 40 shots of food + chapter openers + incidentals+ pictures of me) – in 5 days. You organise the shopping list (that was Holly’s job, and no mean feat). You watch in awe as box after box of props are unloaded. You cook your ass off, because that’s a lot of shots you are doing each day. I also keep an eye on the shot so it represents me. No blue plates I say, no twine around everything I say – and in the end, there was blue, and a bit of twine, but I loved it. Loved it to bits. I love who I see this book becoming, I love that whilst I couldn’t see always what it wanted to be, my spirit did and kept me on the path. I think you will like it too. That’s Michelle s hands down there, getting the shot into shape, and below it, is the gorgeous Smeg fridge we used for a shot. Look at the colour – Panna Cotta – it says it all. I literally can’t wait for my new home and cooking studio to be built (that’s another story), but already I have my Smeg oven sorted. I’ll tell you more about that at a later date.

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Before I leave and get to the recipe, I will be putting together a class program next week for August, September, October and November for Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. It will post on the website, FB and newsletter. I’d so love to meet you and I hope you can come along. In the meantime, try this out this winter weekend… serve it with any baked or stewed fruit as desired. Eat it for morning tea, snack or afternoon tea or dessert… it doesn’t matter :)

x Jude

 

Pumpkin and Date Scones

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As you can see, I like a bit of scone with my butter, and it seems that many of you do too, if the facebook post is anything to go by :) I’m making this post quick and short, so I can get this up in time, just in case any one would like to make these for Mothers Day morning tea.

I’ve been making these just recently to have something in the freezer to quickly take out and heat, for morning tea. Autumn has bought some very cold mornings recently, and my house is even colder, so when I’m sitting at my desk (editing the new book), a warm cup of tea and scone is just what the doctor ordered. I love scones, any flavour just about (so long as it’s not chocolate or too weird), and think pumpkin and date is in the top 5. And, there’s no reason you can’t chop up a lot of glace ginger and put that in also.

So whether you are making these for a Mothers Day treat, or just a warm something on a busy working day, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. I’ll be making a batch at Mum’s tomorrow for her freezer, so she too has some treat goodness for a cold morning on hand….   x  Jude

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