Wendyl Wants to Know: Full steam ahead if you like lots of sugar
Aunt Betty's Toffee & Date Steamed Pudding
When the cold weather arrives, so too does a craving for puddings. Sadly, not many modern homes are equipped with pudding bowls or the knowledge of how to steam a pudding, so we go for products we can pop in the microwave for a quick, old-fashioned pudding hit. This pudding has "with natural colours and flavours" on the label but should say "mostly sugar" to be more accurate. Each pudding has 10 teaspoons of sugar and takes 36 ingredients to make something the size of a small coffee cup. This food producer has opted out of using three-number codes to list ingredients and has listed names instead. Which gives consumers one less hurdle to jump when they want to know what they are eating.
Invert sugar syrup
This is the first time I've found the largest ingredient in a product is sugar, which is worrying. But there's more. Further down, the ingredients panel features glucose syrup, sugar and golden syrup. The nutrition panel tells me each serving, a tiny 105g tub, contains 42.7g of sugar or 10 teaspoons. I emptied one of the tubs and piled in 10 teaspoons of sugar - it reached 2/3 of the level of the pudding. Dissolved sugar doesn't take up as much space, but it was still quite shocking.
This ingredient is sugar treated to split it into glucose and fructose. It's sweeter than sugar, and in processed foods stays moist and less prone to crystallisation.
This is a very moist product so not surprisingly the water content is quite high.
You bake with this.
Another form of sugar.
Ordinary table sugar which you would use in everyday cooking.
Dates (6 per cent)
Per serving this means there are about 6.3 g of dates. Dates are a great source of fibre, have tannins in them and also have essential vitamins and minerals.
A humectant is something which keeps food moist and glycerine is a common additive in processed foods to do this job. Glycerine is a byproduct of soap-making and biodiesel production where vegetable oils or animal fats are reacted with an alcohol to produce fuel and glycerol. Some vegetarians have concerns about consuming glycerine in their food. Sorbitol is a natural carbohydrate alcohol found in many berried fruits but is commercially produced from glucose. It's also a sweetener, commonly used in chewing gum. Sorbitol can cause bloating and flatulence as it's only partly absorbed by our bodies, the remainder fermenting in the large bowel. In some people it acts as a laxative and aggravates irritable bowel syndrome [WN1].
Rice bran oil
Rice bran oil is a good choice as it is free of trans fats.
We're very familiar with this ingredient, really just another form of the inverted sugar syrup mentioned at the top of the ingredients list.
These are the proteins and carbohydrates found in milk after dehydration.
(Sodium aluminium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate)
The first is made from aluminium, phosphoric acid and sodium hydroxide to form a substance similar to baking soda, which is the second ingredient.
Just as we use at home.
Most likely the dried, powdered ginger we use in baking at home.
Buttermilk is the liquid left over after making butter and it's lower in fat than regular milk. It's also high in potassium, vitamin B12, calcium, and riboflavin as well as a good source of phosphorus.
Dried egg white
Egg white is usually added to produce a light, airy effect in baking. This will be commercially dried egg white.
Flour made from rice rather than wheat.
Modified maize starch
This is cornflour, most likely in here as a thickener.
This is a salt formed from calcium and chlorine and is used in food to prevent it from collapsing.
(Sodium alginate, pectin, propylene glycol alginate)
Sodium alginate is a salt extracted from brown algae. Pectin is a gel found in fruit and is necessary to make jam set and propylene glycol alginate is extracted from kelp. All are gums used to thicken this product.
(Xanthan gum, sodium phosphate)
Xanthan gum is a natural vegetable gum and sodium phosphate is a salt. Both are stabilisers - different from preservatives - that help maintain the physical characteristics of food.
(Sorbic acid, potassium sorbate
Sorbic acid is a naturally occurring preservative and considered quite safe, as is potassium sorbate which is the potassium salt of sorbic acid.
(Monoglycerides of fatty acids, soy lecithin)
Monoglycerides can be made from vegetable or animal fats or can be made synthetically. They are basically a form of fatty acids. Soy lecithin occurs in animal and plant tissues, in this case soya beans. Both are in this product to keep oils and waters mixed together.
Nice to see that Aunt Betty's have made an effort to use a natural flavouring. It would be nice to know what it is.
(Citric acid, lactic acid)
Citric acid comes from fruit, lactic acid comes from milk. Both are probably in here as preservatives.
To help the product rise.
(Caramel I, -carotene)
Caramel I is technically natural as it comes from burning sugar with an alkali and this is regarded as the safest of all the caramel colours. -Carotene is beta carotene, the natural orange colouring found in carrots.
I'm quite astonished it takes 36 ingredients to make this when most traditional steam puddings need about six or seven. But none of the ingredients should give you anything to worry about as far as toxins or unnecessary chemicals go. Unless you consider sugar a toxin, and some do because it can lead to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. I have a recipe for a steamed pudding for six with only 50g sugar. If your family really love steamed puddings then why not make them yourself?
* 10 teaspoons of sugar in each serve the size of a small coffee cup.
* A massive 36 ingredients for something which should take six.
* None of the ingredients should cause concern.