Thursday, August 20, 2015

Family Recipes Are Sacred And Not Meant To Be Tampered With

Every year, for our wedding anniversary, and other special occasions, I make a special dessert. By special, I'm referring to a dessert requiring more time & steps than what I normally have the patience for. I'm a simple girl. A little of this. A cup of that. Mix. Pour, roll, press into pan. Bake. Plate it up. Take a photo or two. Done.

This year, I made a rustic lemon cream tart. It's a recipe combining two old family recipes...the cookie crust and the filling. It all starts with a sugar cookie crust, bake, make filling, bake again, chill. Not a lot of ingredients, but the prep is time consuming. Every minute is worth it. This dessert is a melting pot of rich, buttery, sweet, tart, and creamy.

A few days after posting the photo of our anniversary dessert, an acquaintance sent me a message asking for the recipe. Not a problem. About a dozen or so people already had. I love sharing recipes. Like with the others, I sent the recipe along with a short note. Then, about an hour later, I received a reply.

"How could I make this dessert dairy free and low fat? I'm doing the blah-blah-blah diet and...."

My brain spun like a hamster wheel.

"You could Google dairy-free, low fat lemon tarts...? I've got nothing."

I didn't receive another reply nor did I expect to. This happens quite a bit.

Let me first explain, I deeply sympathize with anyone who has genuine food allergies or mandatory food restrictions due to health issues. I can't even begin to imagine the daily challenges of eating out, grocery shopping, and preparing meals and desserts. I know a handful of "hoomans" in this predicament and I've witnessed firsthand their frustrations.

On the other end of the stick, there are the ones who restrict foods by choice. Low carb-ers. Fat free peeps. Clean eating. Paleo. South Beach. The Zone diet. Whatever. Hey, I've been there, done that. I wore my Atkins Diet tiara a few times. Fad diets. Most of us have tried 'em once or twice.

With each of my brief love affairs with Atkins, I tried my best hand at tweaking desserts. The goal was to duplicate my favorite family recipe sweet treats or, at the very least, come up with a few desserts that were tolerable.  With over 30 years baking experience under my apron strings, I should be able to nail this, right?

Brownies. Fail. Pumpkin pie. Meh. Lemon curd. Slightly better than meh. Cheesecake. My mouth will forever be traumatized by the outcome.

End result? I learned nothing new. My trials and tribulations only verified what I had already known for decades. Don't mess with old family recipes. If you're looking for a low fat, gluten-free chocolate cake, fine. Google it. Spend a little time on Pinterest. Buy a cookbook catering to the gluten-free society. Trying to tweak Grandma's Triple Chocolate Ooey Gooey Butter Cake isn't going to create the same cake you grew up with. Once you replace this or that or adjust the measurements, it's no longer the original recipe.

Those recipes are sacred and not meant to be tampered with. 

Baking is a science. Replacing ingredients or altering measurements is a bad idea to begin with. It's not like making chili where you can adjust the amount of hot sauce and garlic or replace half the beef with ground pork. At the end of the day, you're still gonna get chili. Baking isn't as forgiving. Not even close. Try replacing real butter with fat-free butter wannabe crap and see what happens. Or, use Splenda instead of granulated sugar. The end result will yield a completely different texture, taste, etc.

All of the above was the grounds for my reply to the lady who wanted to know how she could make my rustic creamy lemon tart dairy free and low fat. You can't. I'm sure there are dozens of recipes out there for lemon tarts catering to food allergies and restrictions, but mine isn't. The majority of my dessert recipes are ones that have been handed down for decades...well before I was born. And decades before butter replaced Crisco. I leave these recipes alone.

They deserve the respect of being made as-is. 

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