In 1987 when this song came out I was only 10 years old and much more into Strawberry Shortcake and Jem & Holograms than hair metal. In just a few short years so much would change, the dolls had been long forgotten and my room was filled with Guns N’ Roses tapestries, Sid Vicious posters and Def Leppard’s Hysteria on vinyl. One thing that always remained the same though, as far back as I can remember, is my love of sweets and baking. My very earliest memory was being so proud to bring home a gumdrop Christmas tree from an after school art class, I was maybe 5 or 6. I also very fondly recall my first after school baking class where we learned to make raspberry danish and pretzels. Then there was the time I had to ask my mom to buy almond paste as I was determined to make Italian macaroons for a middle school project. She got very frustrated trying to find it and was pretty annoyed at how expensive it was. The cookies came out okay. Ingredients were there, technique was not.
Today, there is a lot of talk about the evils of sugar from obesity and increased risk of diabetes to tooth decay and heart disease. It’s true that sugar, especially too much of it, can be bad for you. But it’s also true that sugar can be good, like crazy ass amazing good.
From years of baking, and the last four months at school, I have learned that sugar provides flavor, aroma, taste, color, tender texture and prolongs freshness. It’s the magic ingredient that makes shortbread crumbly, turns chocolate chip cookies that amazing golden brown color and produces that deep, wonderful flavor in caramel sauce. The issue is, IMHO, not sugar, but how much of it you eat and how it fits into your overall diet. Unlike many bakers and pastry chefs today, I can’t seem to get behind gluten free or lower sugar baking. I’m an all or nothing kind of girl, black or white, in the pool or out of the pool, etc. I like my baked goods with (unsalted Cabot) butter, (King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose) flour, (superfine) sugar and (kosher) salt. While there are some desserts that are classically low fat (angel food cake) or gluten free (mousse) most sweet recipes do involve a decadent amount of sugar, but that’s what makes them taste good! I will concede the point that there are certain populations that cannot, for health reasons, indulge in sweet, sugary goodness. For them I feel true sadness and would suggest fruit desserts, using herbs & spices to enhance flavors and trying traditionally lower sugar recipes (biscotti, pie dough, biscuits) to satisfy a sweet craving. I would also say to those that claim you can’t tell the difference when using sugar substitutes or fruit purees in place of sugar that YES you can tell the difference. It may taste good, but it doesn’t taste the same and the color, texture and flavor won’t blow your mind like the traditional sugar recipe would. So go ahead and pour some sugar in there!