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Going Sugar-Free

Posted on November 21, 2018 | No Comments on Going Sugar-Free

History has it that when Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortos reached Tenochtitlan in 1519, he noted the vast quantities of a mysterious dark beverage that the then-Aztec emperor Monteczuma consumed and how it was carefully whipped by his attendants beforehand. The beverage, he later discovered, was made from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree, which has been cultivated for as early as 1,100 B.C. in Mexico and Central and South America.

The Spanish conquest also paved the way for cacao to reach Europe, where it quickly became a court favorite. Before long, the Spanish began growing cacao on plantations, using African workforce to help manage them. Changes were also made in the preparation of the beverage, adding milk and sugar to counteract the natural bitterness of chocolate, and removing chili pepper and replacing it with another indigenous Mexican spice—vanilla.

For many years, chocolates have been associated with luxury before it reached mainstream status as we enjoy it today. It is perhaps the world’s most popular food item. We use it to flavor cakes, ice cream, candy bars, and even savory dishes.

But chocolates are sadly also associated with decadence—a fact that can largely be blamed to the ingredients we add to it (sugar, milk, vegetable oil, etc.) than to the actual chocolate itself.

When tasty can also be healthy
True, eating too much chocolates and chocolate-based food may spell disaster to most people, especially to those afflicted with diabetes mellitus. But that shouldn’t be the case, as studies have found that chocolates, especially the dark ones, do have health benefits.

In fact, it has been shown that chocolates contain alkaloids, such as theobromine, which has been found to have vasodilatory effects. Another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that taking small amounts of polyphenol-rich dark chocolate as part of a usual diet reduced blood pressure in a small sample of otherwise healthy individuals with slightly increased blood pressure.

This said, we decided the scout the metro to find a rich chocolate cake that will be suitable to a person with diabetes. And here we discovered Chocolat.

Cake sans sugar
Entrepreneurs and husband and wife team Jake and Denise Lazaro first thought of setting up a bakeshop when Jake’s father’s cake supplies store didn’t do well. “We instead converted it to a bakeshop specializing in moist chocolate cakes,” Jake shares. The result: Chocolat, a theme cake shop with four branches around the metro (SM Mall of Asia; Xavierville Ave., Loyola Heights; Addition Hills, San Juan; Sgt. Esguerra, Quezon City).

“We use tried-and-tested recipes for our cakes,” Denise said. “These are our favorite recipes and we make sure that our cakes are homemade as if our moms made it.”

Chocolat also ventured to the “health-conscious” market when they introduced their Sugar-Free Chocolate Mousse Cake.
“We experimented with several alternative sweeteners before we perfected this recipe,” Jake said. But developing a sugar-free cake proved challenging to the couple. “Artificial sweeteners do not make the cake rise, resulting in a thin base cake, which doesn’t look appetizing to most people.” It wasn’t until they discovered isomalt that Jake and Denise were able to come up with a good enough sugar-free cake.

“Sadly, sugar-free cakes still aren’t that large of a market for Chocolat,” the couple said. Although they enjoy concocting healthier versions of their favorite desserts, going sugar-free is not always possible. This is made more complicated by the fact that artificial sweeteners are very expensive.

“People also have this misconception that if something is sugar-free, then they can splurge on it, which couldn’t be any farther from the truth,” Denise said. “These sugar-free cakes are indeed sugar-free, but they definitely aren’t fat-free, as they contain heavy cream, butter, and eggs. There’s nothing wrong about enjoying a rich and creamy dessert as long as you eat it in moderation.”

“We believe that chocolates are comfort food and that eating something we really like gives us a feeling of natural high,” Jake added. “Nondiabetics may not be able to appreciate the taste of sugar-free cakes because they do not taste as good as the ones with real sugar, but diabetics do appreciate these stuff because they are a close alternative to the things that they can’t have. It’s definitely an area sugar-free cakes that we still want to add and develop more products.”
Having a piece of Chocolat’s famed chocolate cake reminded me of Joanne Harris’s novel Chocolat. It is a story of a strong-willed woman named Vianne who opened a chocolaterie in the fictional French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. While the townspeople are supposed to be abstaining from worldly pleasures for Lent, Vianne tempts them with chocolate creations, much to the dismay of the local curate who’ll do anything to drive Vianne out of the town.

But the curate’s iron-fist control over the townspeople proved much too injurious than the effects of chocolates. Indeed, chocolates made them realized that something enjoyable doesn’t necessarily translate worldly and evil. But still, chocolates are one of those things that we need to take in moderation.

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