A point came during my two sugar-free weeks when I had a moment of panic. “I’m going to have to get rid of all my baking books, because I won’t be able to bake anymore!” Then I went downstairs, stroked their sleek spines, and snapped out of it. Life is about balance, and tossing out my precious volumes would be a little excessive.
I have a LOT of baking books. In addition to the books pictured above, I have a number of massive tomes with sections on baking. (For example, “The Joy of Cooking,” the two Martha Stewart’s Classics (old and new) cookbooks and assorted Nigella Lawson books.) I have three books dedicated to chocolate. And then there are my two huge textbooks from pastry school:

I have little-to-no intention of living a totally sugar-free life. As I’ve said before, healthy living exists on a continuum. There was a time when I ate sugar (and white flour!) with impunity while shunning fat, in a halo of misguided dietary righteousness. Over the years, my food choices gradually improved. I ate less overall, and made sure most of the foods I did eat were nutritious and unprocessed.
Originally, I cut back on sweets simply because sugar was “empty calories.” Then sugar’s role in obesity began to emerge. Then the evidence began mounting that sugar contributes to heart disease. Finally, recently, I began learning more and more the role sugar (specifically the glucose and fructose molecules that make up table sugar and other caloric sweeteners) plays in cancer. I wasn’t thinking about empty calories anymore…I was wondering how much sugar, if any, should be included in a healthy diet.
And that’s about the point at which I almost tossed my baking books!
How much sugar is too much? That’s a tough one. In “Anticancer,” David Servan-Schreiber, M.D., suggests limiting dessert to two or three times a week. In “Foods that Fight Cancer,” Richard Beliveau, Ph.D., recommends eating about an ounce-and-a-half of dark chocolate (over 70%) daily. Elsewhere, I found the suggestion to limit caloric sweeteners to two teaspoons, two to three times a day.
I enjoy baking, even though I have little time to do it these days. Between cookbooks, magazines and recipe files, I probably have thousands of recipes for scones, muffins, tarts, pies, crisps, cobblers cakes, cookies and breads at my fingertips. They aren’t all sugar laden.
I’m sort of approaching it like a grand experiment, or maybe even an adventure. I’m determined to sleuth out the recipes that are already low in sugar, or can be modified to be so (this can be tricky, since baking is chemistry, and is harder to tamper with successfully than, say, cooking). As for those recipes that are super sweet? I’ll surely want to dip into those that are a few times a year, on very special occasions. Very special, because another issue I’m reading up on is sugar addiction. More on that soon, I promise.