Do you want strangers emailing you? Google says you do!

Did anyone get an email in the last few days from Google's Gmail team?  Did it have the subject

"Gmail update: Reach more people you know"

Want to know what it means?  Well, Google have just introduced a new Gmail feature – the ability to send email to Google+ users whose email address you don't actually know. You'll notice this when you compose new emails as Gmail will start to suggest Google+ connections as recipients without revealing their email addresses to you until the recipient either replies to your email or follows you.

While some Gmail users may find this feature useful, others may see it as a threat to their privacy - but what you may not realise is that Google has already switched this feature on in your account without telling you.  This means, right now, your Google+ identity could be being suggested as an email recipient on someone's latest get-rich-quick scam email.

Fortunately Google have provided a way to control how visible your Google+ identity is to strangers and you can therefore control who can use your Google+ identity to send you email.

Here's how to access this control:-
  • Go to Gmail on your desktop (not on your smartphone).
  • Click the gear in the top right of your screen.
  • Select Settings.
  • Scroll down to the Email via Google+ section (stay in the "General" tab).
  • Click the drop-down menu and choose No one.
  • Click Save Changes at the bottom of the page.
This will stop your Google+ identity being suggested to others who don't already know you.

As usual, let me know what you think by commenting below.

How to make bread without adding sugar.

The BBC reports that a campaign group has been formed to reduce the amount of sugar added to food and soft drinks in an effort to tackle obesity and diabetes in the UK.  The group, Action on Sugar, has been set up to help people avoid "hidden sugars" and to persuade manufacturers to reduce the quantity of sugar they put in their food products.

Now most of us are not surprised to learn that there is a lot of sugar in fizzy drinks, or sweets, but when you find that breakfast cereals, low-fat yoghurt, pasta sauces and soups all have added sugar in them you begin to wonder.  Even our staple food - bread - has a lot of added sugar.  One average slice of shop-bought processed bread can contain as much as 3g (0.1oz) of sugar. This means that a slice of toast for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch will mean a woman would have had a quarter of her recommended daily intake for added sugar from the bread alone!

So why not bake your own bread? that's supposed to be healthy - isn't it?

Well, yes, you can, but let's look at the ingredients of a typical recipe for a 2lb / 1kg basic white loaf:

Skimmed milk powder
4 tbsp / 55g
Sunflower Oil
4 tbsp / 30ml
3 tbsp / 42g
2 tsp / 9mg
Strong white bread flour
Fast Action Dried yeast
1x 5g sachet

Let's assume you can get 12 slices from the loaf.  Then, if you look at a nutrient breakdown of these ingredients the table looks like this:

 Calories  Carbs  Fat  Protein  Sodium  Sugar 
Per Serving:

So here we have a basic, home-made loaf with a whopping 231 calories and 6g of sugar in every slice!  Ok, you could maybe cut thinner slices, but when it's fresh, the loaf can be hard to cut (and equally hard to resist!) so I've erred on the side of caution.

However, in our household, we've been using our own basic bread loaf recipe.  We use ordinary bread-making ingredients and it works. Every time.  It takes about 10 minutes to prepare and you can add Omega seeds to it, or herbs to flavour it and I have to say it's been the standard loaf in our house with two or three loaves baked per week for almost three years.

First the ingredients:
Water (tepid)
Olive Oil
1 tbsp / 30ml
1 tsp / 5mg
Strong white bread flour
Fast Action Dried yeast
1x 5g sachet

You see? No milk powder, less oil, less salt - and no added sugar! (you don't need extra sugar to activate fast-action dried yeast - there's enough in the bread flour to do the job)

Now the method.  You may need to vary this for your Breadmaker.  For mine I simply add the ingredients to the baking pan in the order listed.  If I want to add Omega seeds or herbs, I add these on top of the flour.  Finally I sprinkle the contents of the yeast sachet evenly on top of the flour and put the pan in the breadmaker. I then bake the bread using the 'Sandwich' setting on my breadmaker which I find gives a better constituency and texture.

Once again, let's assume 12 slices from the loaf.  The nutrient breakdown now looks like this:

 Calories  Carbs  Fat  Protein  Sodium  Sugar 
Per Serving:
< 1

So you see, by cutting out the sugar and adjusting the other ingredients, I have a loaf that is
  • healthier than shop-bought bread
  • has better texture and taste than shop-bought bread
  • is considerably better-tasting than the original breadmaker recipe
  • Has considerably less sugar than the original bread recipe and a lower amount than shop-bought bread

And in the great tradition of cooks everywhere, here is one I made earlier
(this one has Omega seeds in the loaf)

I hope you try this bread and like it.  Let me know how you get on and share with me any ideas you have for other reduced-sugar breads.