Did you make a New Year’s resolution? If so, there’s a 38% chance that you made some sort of weight or fitness-related resolution that will require you to restrict your desert intake this year. You can all stop reading now, because this article is for the other 62% percent of people in the world who will be enjoying their deserts, and want a water-conscious way to do so.
In October, we wrote about candy, breaking it down by ingredient so you could find the most water-conscious way to satisfy your sweet tooth. This week we’re looking at baked goods such as pies and cakes. Of course, pies and cakes will still need toppings or fillings, so here’s a short summary. Chocolate: high in virtual water. Nuts: high in virtual water. Sugar-based sweets, like caramel: OK. Fruit: low in virtual water.
Since that’s out of the way, let’s start with your basic pie crust. A home-made crust is made of flour, butter or other shortening, and sugar. The flour and sugar together add up to about 350 liters of virtual water, depending on what proportions your recipe calls for – not bad. If you’re using butter for shortening, that amounts to a lot of virtual water: 951 liters for 12 tablespoons. Animal-based lards can add even more virtual water impact, depending on what sort of animal they’re made of. However, if you’re the crafty sort, you can render your own lard from animal fats, and while this, like all animal products, can have a pretty hefty virtual water footprint, the upside is you’re using a part of the animal that wouldn’t otherwise get eaten – and rescuing something usable from the trash.
What about cakes? Recipes will vary, but they tend to have the same basic ingredients as pie crust, plus eggs, baking powder, and milk, with maybe some vanilla for flavor. These additional ingredients can really push cakes well past pies into a virtual water-unhealthy place. Each egg can have 102 liters of virtual water in it, and a cup of milk has over 250 liters of virtual water. Add in the additional butter and sugar to make a basic buttercream frosting, and that a slice of cake on your birthday may be an indulgence, but cake shouldn’t be an “all the time” food for the water-conscious consumer.
If New Year’s Resolution season hasn’t been enough to put you off of sweets, you’re probably not going to stop because of anything we say here. That said, next time you’re debating between the chocolate tiered cheesecake or the simple strawberry pie, lean toward the pie. Or better yet, just have a nice crisp apple; it’ll make your body and your planet a bit healthier.