Monday, 20 May 2013

Why Bake Everything Myself?

Before I attend to the business of the day, I'd like to announce that my Facebook page is up and running, as well as my Twitter. Find them at:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sweetie-Pie-Bakes-Stuff/149724028448663
http://www.twitter.com/sweetiepielmk/

I’ve had a few people ask me over the past few days why I bother making everything from scratch. As I mentioned in my post on homemade sprinkles, there are a few reasons. Of course, one gets the satisfaction of having made your sweets and baked goods from scratch, which is a good enough reason by itself before you consider any others, but also I a) get to control the exact ingredients in my products, which is important for someone living a life with any kind of restricted diet (wheat intolerance, lactose intolerance, veganism, organic living, et cetera), and b) it’s much, much, much, much cheaper.

Take this example. When I first began living a wheat-free lifestyle, I went to my local supermarket to get some shopping. At first I thought “this whole wheat-free thing isn’t too bad: I like rice and potatoes, and sure can’t I get maize pasta. No biggie-smalls!” I didn’t worry too much about buying wheat-free bread because I don’t really eat sandwiches or toast, and making soup from scratch to avoid wheat-based thickeners is no skin off my nose. I then thought “you can buy pretty good wheat-free biscuits now, I’m told”, so I went to the ridiculously titled ‘Health Food’ aisle, where things like dairy-free and gluten-free products are hidden. 

Having found the shelf where the biscuits were kept, my heart skipped a beat: not only was the selection as exciting as a magnolia wall, but a packet of Bourbon biscuits, my favourite biscuit, was €2.49. A few weeks previously, I could have bought a normal-person packet of Bourbon biscuits for less than a euro, and that would have enough biscuits in it to make me sick, but this wheat-free packet of biscuits had eight biscuits in it; just eight. Once I had engaged my maths brain, I worked out that this meant the wheat-free ones were over 30c per biscuit, and the normal wheaty ones were less than 5c per biscuit. I left the shop with no biscuits, and a bad taste in my mouth.

However, all was not lost. I discovered a few weeks later that I could eat spelt and not abreact, and once I had done my research, I began happily baking as I always had; and it meant a much cheaper lifestyle.

Let’s crunch a few numbers. Here is an example of a cost sheet; these are the prices as of today, obviously subject to change:

Bourbon Creams
Euro per packet
Grammes per packet
Grammes used in recipe
Cost of grammes used
for biscuits
Spelt flour
2.89
1000
115
0.33
Cornflour
1.19
500
30
0.07
Cocoa Powder
3.45
250
25
0.35
Butter
2.19
450
115
0.56
Icing sugar
1.09
500
55
0.12
Vanilla essence
3.99
60
5
0.33
for fillling
Butter
2.19
450
115
0.56
Cocoa Powder
3.45
250
25
0.35
Icing sugar
1.09
500
255
0.56
Milk
0.75
1000
15
0.01
Vanilla essence
3.99
60
5
0.33
Total Cost
1.80
Pieces
18 – 20
Cost per item
0.10 – 0.09

Compare that to the aforementioned €2.49 packet of eight Bourbon creams. See? You could even make these cheaper again by using margarine instead of butter, omitting the vanilla essence, et cetera, without massively impacting the taste. It will a little, obviously, but not enough to make a huge difference.

Of course, what you save in money your trade for time. But if you get into baking as a hobby, it’ll become a fun way to pass time and save money at the same time. This allows you to make all kinds of different and interesting baked goods that you wouldn’t even be able to get in the shops; I haven’t yet come across a wheat-free gingerbread man, for example, but I can make as many gingerbread men as my wallet will allow at home.

Now, for ingredients: if you buy a packet of biscuits from the shop, there will more than likely be a long list of ingredients which are difficult to pronounce. Glucose syrup, hydrogenated vegetable fat, humectants, surfactants, emulsifiers, a few vaguely titled ‘flavourings’, dehydrated reconstituted egg protein, and whey powder are all commonplace in mass-produced biscuits, and God knows what else; as you may have guessed, none of these is particularly good for you. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that biscuits and sweeties and lovely things aren’t supposed to be good for you, and are just fine enjoyed in moderation, but there is such a thing as damage control. It’s good to know exactly what has ended up in your biscuits and, if you make them from scratch, you can. You can ensure that nothing but a hundred percent natural everything has been used, you can even make sure that the ingredients are organic and fair trade, if you so please. Obviously, that will make them a little pricier.

So go ahead, become like me: an obsessive baker and saver of money. You know it makes sense.

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