A fly in your soup, a wasp after your jam - ground scorpions in your sponge cake? Though it sounds like the kind of kitchen blunder that’d warrant a strongly worded letter, the latter is in fact the new business venture of one Scottish bakery.
Edinburgh-based Cyril Barthelm, of Patisserie Maxime, has unveiled his brand new project to much curiosity—and a good deal of squirming, no doubt—vowing to help change our feelings about snacking on insects.
His approach? To grind them finely and sprinkle into cake mix.
Experimenting with scorpions, crickets, mealworms and tarantulas, Barthelm has been whipping up Bake Off worthy sponge cakes and tasty looking chocolate brownies, all enriched with his ground insect flour.
But why, you ask? Is the squidgy goodness of a chocolate brownie not even sacred, you cry?
Well according to the baker, he’s pushing the envelope all in the name of nutritional value, and ethical food consumption.
“I've been reading and watching documentaries about how meat supplies and quality are falling all over the world and that eating insects might be a way forward,” he tells BBC.
“For example the volume of water needed to feed animals is far higher than for insects. However, there is still the perception in the western world that eating insects is not very appealing so I thought if I ground them up into flour first before making cakes then they could be perceived as nice to eat.”
Naturally, mealworm flour baked into a fluffy iced cupcake is likely to carry far more appeal than the raw ingredients. But as all savvy bakers may attest, ingredient swapping is rarely easy—the same goes for insect flour, it seems.
“It has been challenging to turn the flour into cakes as it is much finer than wheat flour,” notes Barthelm. “But by blending the two I have managed to create many different types of cakes.
“It is a matter of education. In the west we are brought up to see insects as disgusting but that's not true. Insects are very nutritious.”
According to the baker’s research, his creations may well indeed be far more nutritious than anything you’d see knocked up on GBBO.
Insects such as termites, for example, are said to contain considerably more protein per kilogram compared with beef. Caterpillars meanwhile, may contain 20g more protein per portion than salmon, 30g more than pork, and 263g more than tofu.
But if you’ve managed to shake off your fears of eating creepy crawlies, there may still be one catch—insect flour, according to Barthelm, is proving to cost 100 times more to produce than the plain variety.
So while an innovative idea, bug cakes may not be flying into a bakery near you, just yet.