If you're looking to expand your sweet tooth and give a new twist to your recipes, look no further than adding agave, maple syrup, Stevia or honey. Each one adds its own distinct flavor and can replace sugar in your baked goods. However, replacing them equally will make your cakes and other baked goods turn out differently as they have different textual qualities. Here is a handy guide to keep in mind when using sugar alternatives in baked desserts.Â
Agave is a natural sweetener derived from the same plant as tequila and has a low glycemic index number, which is helpful when you're concerned about high blood sugar. It also contains saponins and fructans, which are also found in quinoa and other plant roots, and has been known to have anti-inflammatory qualities as well as boost the immune system. If you're replacing sugar for agave in your recipe, use 2/3 of a cup of agave for every cup of white sugar. Since agave is a syrup it will moisten your baked goods so reduce other liquids by 1/4 cup. Lastly, increase the cooking time by 6% and bake at 25 degrees lower than what the recipe calls for.
Maple Syrup is a great natural sweetener that helps your heart and immune system since the levels of antioxidants and enzymes help keeps your cells energized and healthy. If you want to replace sugar for maple syrup, use 3/4 of a cup for every 1 cup of sugar and cut back 3 tablespoons of liquid (it's usually best to reduce the largest quantity of liquid that the recipe calls for). Also add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for every cup of maple syrup as the syrup is slightly acidic and it will help to bake evenly. Drop the oven temperature down by 25 degrees since the syrup will caramelize and brown more than sugar. Maple syrup comes in grades A and B (A being finer, clearer and lighter and B being thicker, richer and deeper in color); grade B is best used in cooking as it will add a fuller flavor.
Honey is a great natural energy booster as well as a way to build up your immune system. It has also been known to be a natural remedy for many ailments such as sore throats and even hangovers! It tends to be a lot sweeter than sugar so replace every cup of sugar with 3/4 cup of honey. Much like syrup, decrease the liquid in your recipe by 2-4 tablespoons and add a pinch of baking soda as well to even out the added acidity. Lastly, decrease the temperature by 25 degrees when baking. Honey will make baked goods darker and denser than sugar with a fuller flavor and a nice moistness to it.
Stevia is a great alternative to sugar since it comes in a variety of forms including powder and liquid concentrate. It is best when used in recipes that use bold flavors like chocolate, coffee or lemon. Research has shown that it can lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels making it a good replacement in recipes for people with insulin problems including diabetes. When using Stevia in lieu of sugar, replace every cup of sugar with 1 teaspoon of powdered Stevia or liquid concentrate. To add bulk and to give your baked goods the same consistency that sugar would give, try adding applesauce, apple butter or even plain yogurt.
Do you bake with sugar alternatives?
Photo: mynameisharsha on flickr