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Can pastries really be made with less sugar? With Meezen By Anaïs, they can!

Crédit Photo : Ingrid Acquier

Since graduating from Le Cordon Bleu Paris institute with a Diplôme de Pâtisserie-Boulangerie, Anaïs has set up Meezen By Anaïs, an online platform that provides courses, resources and advice on making pastries with a low glycaemic index and less sugar. The idea? Reduce the sugar content without compromising on taste.

Could you introduce yourself?
My name’s Anaïs, and in 2018 I left my job in finance to sign up on the Boulangerie-Patisserie programme at Le Cordon Bleu Paris institute. I’m committed to developing food with rich flavours, a low glycaemic index and less sugar. As the daughter of someone who’s diabetic, when I signed up for the dual Boulangerie-Pâtisserie diploma I had just one idea at the forefront of my mind: understand the chemistry behind the ingredients with a view to substituting them with others that have a lower glycaemic index. 

On graduating, I decided to team up with a dietician specialising in nutrition who could help me work through my stringent specifications and fine-tune my approach. I calculate the glycaemic loads and nutritional values of every single one of my pastries to minimise their impact on blood sugar levels and reduce the amount of sugar they contain. Based on my calculations, I then gradually adjust my recipes to produce pastries that tick 3 key boxes: they deliver an explosion of flavours, their texture is identical to that of ordinary pastries, and they are visually appealing. In 2021, I launched Meezen By Anaïs to teach my approach to both amateurs and professionals via online training programmes.

Why did you choose to train at Le Cordon Bleu Paris institute?
I was looking for a course that combined culinary excellence with a modern approach to pastry. Being supervised by several different Chefs and having the opportunity to draw on the experience and insights each one could offer was unbelievably enriching. The year I spent at the institute was one of the best years of my life.

Could you tell us a little more about Meezen?
Meezen By Anaïs is an online business that provides training, resources and advice on producing cakes and pastries with a low glycaemic index and less sugar. I have developed a brand-new approach to pastry called Pâtisserie Sensée© (“Reasoned Pastry”), which I teach to both amateurs and professionals who are keen to create decadent yet healthy food. The idea is to place pastries back on the pedestal they deserve by creating indulgent treats that are underpinned by a wealth of different taste sensations rather than excessive amounts of sugar.

I aim to help my students and their families gently desensitise themselves to sugar over time whilst continuing to enjoy cakes and pastries. Introducing your taste buds to pastries that contain less sugar allows you to continue indulging whilst re-educating your palate to different flavour profiles. After a while, that makes traditional cakes and pastries, which contain a lot of sugar, less enjoyable. 
I'm highly selective about the sweeteners I use, because 'sugar-free' options are currently all the rage, and we’ve seen a number of products appear on the market with good marketing strategies but relatively little (if any) nutritional value.
Each satisfying portion of my cakes has:
- Less than 15g of any kind of sugar (and not just added sugar);
- A low glycaemic load;
- Under 6g of polyols (if I use them in recipes that need to retain their colour, such as in lemon creams, for example);
- More fibre and protein than is found in traditional recipes.

Which of the pastries/cakes you’ve created are you most proud of?
It would have to be my CookieZen cookie recipe, whose popularity soared after I made it freely available online via a complimentary mini-course. It contains a number of elements that allow people to gain an insight into my approach: rich flavours created by using carefully selected ingredients (nut brown butter, vanilla infusion, single-origin chocolate, roasted ingredients), unrefined flours and sugars that you wouldn’t even realise are unrefined, and the addition of natural fibres. These cookies have gone down a storm in low GI circles and have been adopted by thousands of people, to whom I’m eternally grateful.

Could you give us a few tips for making pastries less sweet but just as delicious?
You have to really focus on your recipe’s flavours, using ingredients like spices, herbs, flavourful flours (such as chestnut or buckwheat), single-origin chocolate and roasted nuts. I particularly enjoy playing around with spices, and often use hot or cold infusions to maximise their flavour.
The second challenge when you cut back on sugar is achieving a good texture, because sugar plays such a key role in creating squidginess or crunch. You consequently have to reduce the sugar little by little to avoid compromising the cake’s integrity.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
Creating healthy and flavour-packed recipes that spark comments such as “You’d never know it was a low-GI or low-sugar cake”. But I guess more than anything, I enjoy sharing my knowledge, offering my students guidance and seeing the impact my work has on their and their families’ lives.

Photo Credit: Ingrid Acquier

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