Contrary to what people might presume about pastry chefs, not all of us have an insatiable sweet tooth. Not that I don't enjoy a slice of rich, creamy cheesecake now and then, but my tastes lean toward bold natural fruit flavors and of course, dark chocolate. I like to think of sugar as an equal partner in some desserts and a condiment or garnish in others.
Much to my disappointment, the food industry has embraced sugar as an inexpensive ingredient which gives a serious return on their investment. Thirty years of research and sales history show sweetness sells and nowhere is this more evident than the dairy case, especially when it comes to yogurt.
Yogurt enjoys its reputation as a healthful food and many people reach for the convenient, single-serve containers to fill a nutrition void. Yet our taste buds have become so accustomed to experiencing sweetness in our foods we don't register the high amount of sugar packed into most flavored yogurts.
Artificial and alternative sweeteners boast "low calories" or other health benefits, yet are often many times sweeter than sugar on the taste buds.
I am a big fan of Greek-style yogurt. This plain Jane of the dairy case contains zero added sugars and packs a protein punch. Most days I blend low-fat Greek yogurt into a breakfast shake, but reading about the Daily Herald's Fittest Loser contest inspired me to create a low-sugar dessert with Greek-style yogurt as the base.
A parfait dessert with low-fat Greek yogurt standing in for pudding allows me to illustrate how a dessert can offer layers of flavors and textures without sugar hogging the spotlight. It all comes together with a crunchy and savory partner to balance the creamy yogurt.
Blueberries work well for the fruit layer of the parfait. Available fresh or frozen all year, this berry holds it shape while cooking and results in a brilliantly colored sauce. Unlike compotes that cook fruit in a syrup, my sauce uses orange juice as the liquid base.
One tablespoon of honey perks up the orange juice's flavor and provide a background note while cornstarch thickens the sauce without clouding the texture.
With the creamy essence from the Greek yogurt and the citrus burst from the blueberry sauce, our parfait needs a contrasting element to complete the dessert. Granola brings diverse flavors and crunch to the recipe.
Hold the store bought varieties; the secret to this dessert lies in the homemade granola. Old fashioned oats mix with chopped walnuts and almonds for the base. Unsweetened coconut flakes (available at Whole Foods Market and Pete's Fresh Market) provide chewy texture and unique flavor without adding sugar to the granola.
A mere ¼ cup each of honey and coconut oil, spiced with cinnamon and vanilla extract, rounds out the liquid used to coat the nut mixture before baking. With no added white sugar in this recipe, honey plays the sweetener as a supporting ingredient very tastefully. Slow and low baking enhances the savory flavors of the nuts, oats and coconut.
Both the blueberry sauce and granola keep well and as a bonus, this Greek yogurt parfait comes together as an upscale dessert that you can feel good about eating.
• Annie Overboe, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, lives in Villa Park. Write her at email@example.com.