Desserts are an indulgence that we pander to too easily but there are healthier alternatives.
SUGAR, some scientists argue, is as addictive as cocaine. The brain sees sugar as a reward and, as a result, wants lots of it.
While other researchers disagree with the drug analogy, there’s no denying we consume too much sugar and our easy attitude towards dessert is not helping our health.
As desserts is mostly sugar, it makes sense to reduce its content in the recipe or use an alternative sweetener.
These include coconut sugar or agave syrup, which have a low glycaemic index and are higher in nutrients than processed white sugar. Additionally, they’re also very expensive that you would balk at using a lot of it.
Then there are other concerns, like the carbohydrate in the flour (carbs also contain sugar), trans-fat in the butter, oil or dairy as well as additives like food colouring, artificial flavours, stabilisers and preservatives.
Arguably, all these things are fine but only to a certain extent. And if you don’t take steps now when you can still freely enjoy the sweet stuff, in a not-too-distant future, you may be too ill to eat any of it.
In a time when food is easy to find, we need moderation and discipline when it comes to the things we eat. We also need healthier options, with new ingredients or new ways of making the food we love.
As the three following entrepreneurs demonstrate, desserts can be made to be healthier and still satisfy our sweet cravings.
However, do note that just because it’s a so-called healthy treat doesn’t mean you can eat a lot of it. Regardless of dessert choices, keep a balanced diet and be mindful of portion size.
Freaking Wholesome is a home-based business founded by Lim Ee Lin in February last year. She makes vegan desserts, using only fruits and nuts to make her cakes, cupcakes and dessert bars. These products are also raw – they’re not cooked or baked like traditional pastries.
“Most of the ingredients are not exposed to heat higher than 44 degrees Celsius,” says Lim. “The natural enzymes in food will be destroyed at more than 48 degrees Celsius so I set it at 44 degrees as a safety net.”
One ingredient that is cooked is the peanuts in Lim’s version of the Snickers bar.
“Peanut is a legume and not from the nut family, so it’s better to roast it. The caramel is made from dates and coconut is used to replicate the creaminess and mouthfeel that dairy products have.”
Lim starts her “cooking” by soaking the nuts overnight to soften them and to release the natural phytic acid to make it more digestible.
Nuts are a flour replacement and she mostly uses cashews, as it is white in colour. Fruits such as strawberry are pureed, while sweetening comes from dates or organic rice syrup.
The cakes are then set in the freezer overnight. Frozen, it has the texture of ice-cream but it is best eaten chilled as the flavour will come through a lot more.
Since no preservatives are used, the dessert only lasts three days in the fridge.
“The calorie content is quite high, almost like conventional cakes because of the nuts and coconut oil. For example, the strawberry beetroot cupcake has 147 calories and the orange cranberry bar has 205 calories. But these are good calories,” she adds.
Compared to regular cupcakes, Freaking Wholesome’s version is quite dense because the frosting is mixed with ground coconut. However, the strawberry layer on her cake has a lighter texture. The sea salt caramel bar is a favourite among my colleagues, although the general texture of Lim’s desserts reminds some of raw cookie dough.
ADDRESS: Pickup in Bangsar South and delivery only, no physical store
PRICE: Bars and cupcake set at RM50 each, cake at RM110
CHIA seed is a dry, whole-grain food with a mild, crunchy texture. Its nutrients include omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrate, protein, fibre, antioxidants and calcium.
In large quantities, it needs to be soaked in liquid for safe consumption. The expanded seeds have a gel-like texture and can be used as a dessert base.
Self-confessed sweet tooth Elyn Pow started making chia seed pudding in 2015. Coming from a family with a history of diabetes, she was worried about her sugar intake and wanted a nutritious dessert that also satisfies her cravings.
In three years, her company Rawsome has expanded into two cafes with distribution in several supermarkets.
Rawsome also offers main meals like salads and quinoa nasi lemak. There are now more than 30 chia pudding varieties. Fruity flavours like mango and passionfruit are the most popular, followed by the chocolate ones that is made from raw cacao powder. There’s also kombucha, which is a prebiotic drink, in jelly form.
“Some of the puddings have a digestive biscuit base to give it texture, and that’s also the case for the jelly because a whole jar of chia seed is not interesting on the mouth,” says Pow.
“We also layer the jar with different coloured ingredients to make it attractive.”
Pow uses only coconut sugar in the pudding. “It’s not the same as gula Melaka,” she informs me. “The taste and the way it’s processed are different. It’s also expensive. Even in bulk it costs more than RM30 per kilo. What’s more amazing is that it comes from Indonesia but we have to buy it from an American importer!”
Each pudding is made fresh upon order and can last for seven to 10 days in the fridge. Some people eat it as a meal replacement, although I don’t find it particularly filling. But I do enjoy it as a snack or dessert.
The mango chia has a fresh zing and a good texture from the biscuit base. The Mutella has just enough “naughtiness” from the Milo and Nutella, while the Chocoholic is flavoursome and clean-tasting.
I’ve never had kombucha but I finished the passionfruit kombucha pudding very easily.
ADDRESS: No. 8, Ground, 1st and 2nd Floor, Jalan LGSB 1/3 Pusat Komersial LGSB, off Jalan Hospital, 47000, Sungai Buloh and 20A, Persiaran Zaaba, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000, Kuala Lumpur
TEL: Sg Buloh — 012-683-4943
TTDI — 03-7733-8632
PRICE: RM13.90 per jar
SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM
SERINA S. Bajaj’s motivation for making vegan ice-cream is to have a classic dessert that everyone can enjoy. Amidst our health concerns and dietary restrictions, whether religious, ethical or medical, we still want to eat something sweet without feeling bad about it.
“The dairy portion in the ice-cream at Kind Kones is either coconut or nut milk, depending on the flavour,” says Serina.
“The challenge is to make it creamy, because vegan ice-cream is generally not very creamy. You need enough fat content in the milk to make ice-cream, and we make the nut milk ourselves from cashews or almonds.”
Beyond the vegan aspect, Kind Kones doesn’t use preservatives, artificial flavours, emulsifiers or stabilisers. The ice-cream’s shelf life is about a week, although Serina tells me each batch usually runs out by the third day. It also offers two types of ice-cream cones; a vegan, eggless wholemeal cone and a gluten-free cone made of almond meal.
“We sweeten the ice-cream with coconut sugar, real maple syrup or agave syrup because we’re mindful that people are coming in for dessert. But we try to preserve the natural taste of the fruit, like the sourness of the lemon and raspberry,” says Serina, who also founded Raisin’ the Roof cafe in Bukit Damansara.
“Calling ourselves vegan is intimidating but it’s also intimidating to a lot of people. People think vegan food is rabbit food but we’ve had so many non-vegans come in and give positive reactions, so it’s a matter of everyone giving it a shot.”
Ice-creams with a coconut milk base like chocolate or mocha are creamy with only a hint of coconut flavour. The vanilla ice-cream is made from cashew milk, and has the clean, rich taste of high-quality vanilla ice-cream. The lemon and raspberry ice-creams are fresh, tart and full of flavour.
According to Serina, nut milk ice-creams tend to be coarser than coconut ones but I don’t find that to be particularly noticeable or distracting.
Overall, the ice-creams here are comparable or even better than conventional dairy versions.
ADDRESS: LG-7, 1 Mont Kiara, 50480, Kuala Lumpur
PRICE: RM9.90 for single scoops, RM1.90 for the vegan cone and RM3.90 for the gluten-free cone.