The Allergen-Friendly Baking series continues and today we are discussing all things sweet. Please keep in mind that this Guide to Sugar and Sweeteners is not intended to promote the idea of any sugar being evil or even that one sugar is superior than the other–we will talk about the affect sugar has on our bodies in another post. Rather this guide is for informational purposes to help you understand what is available in terms of sugar & sweeteners in baking and how you can use them interchangeably. Have you ever wondered what exactly sugar does in a baked good or even how you can replace a liquid sweetener for granulated sugar? The this guide to sugar and sweeteners is just what you need!
Sugar & sweeteners play an important role in baking. It not only do they provide a sweeter taste to your food they also aid in texture, color and volume in your baked goods. If your recipe has a high sugar content you can count on your final product to have a more moist, softer bite to it. Did you know that sugar also plays a role in the shelf life of food? It is the reason why it has become commonplace in almost every processed and packaged food we buy. That’s right, sugar & sweeteners makes food last longer.
Liquid sweeteners tend to have a slightly more nutritious profile then compared to regular sugar but they also add a different texture, flavor, and color to your baked good. If you are using a liquid sweetener in your recipe, you will need to decrease your wet ingredients slightly to adjust.
No longer just used for coating your pancakes, French toast, and various breakfast goodies, maple syrup is a perfectly competent substitute for regular sugar in baking. Some would argue that it’s a healthier option because if you buy maple syrup in 100% pure form, it is far less processed than sugar.
There are different grades to syrup which basically results in differences in color, consistency, and flavor. Grade A has 3 hues to it: Light, Medium and Dark Amber and Grade B. The lighter the grade, the slighter the maple flavor.
Replace white sugar in a recipe: For every 1 c. of sugar, use 3/4 c. of maple syrup. Decrease the liquid in the overall recipe by 3 Tbsp. To use sugar in place of a cup of maple syrup, use 1 1/4 c. of sugar + 1/4 c. more liquid.
The controversial sweetener has taken a lot of heat in the past couple of years. Like any new sweetener that claims itself as a natural good-for-you healthy food, it became popular overnight. Unfortunately as quick as it rose it also was fastly criticized once it was revealed that it contains a high amount of fructose. Some companies were actually adding corn syrup to their agave (Eek!)
Does this mean this sweetener is the enemy? No. The great thing about agave is that it’s far sweeter than sugar so you end up consuming less. Go organic and choose the lighter color–it tastes better in baked goods. The lesson we learn here? No sweetener is ever truly “healthy” and all sugars should be consumed in moderation.
For every 1 c. of sugar, replace with 2/3 c. of agave. You will also need to adjust the wet ingredients (which will vary depending on the recipe) by 1/4 – 1/3 c. less.
Vegans, please don’t yell at me for including this in the guide–simply scroll down ;) Just as any sweeteners go, the less processed the better. Consuming raw honey is the best option because it retains all of the nutrients. Honey is a high-calorie food, almost equal to sugar though it does contain antioxidants and helps prevent free radicals that sugar does not. It is denser and contains mostly fructose which means it is inevitably sweeter than regular sugar. What does that mean? Less is more when substituting out regular sugar.
Keep in mind that honey will alter your baked goods so if you don’t like the flavor alone, honey is probably not the right choice for you. For every 1 c. sugar in a recipe, replace it with 3/4 c. honey and replace the liquid in the recipe by 3 Tbsp. To use sugar in place of honey, use 1 1/4 c. of sugar + 1/4 cup more liquid.
Sugar has a variety of granules that actually affect the baking process. For example: the size of the granule actually determines how much air can be incorporated into the batter during the creaming of the sugar and fat. Also, the size of the granule will affect how quickly the sugar will dissolve in the batter. Keep in mind that if you have a favorite sugar that tends to be larger in granule form, you can always run it through the blender until it is more powdered.
What we commonly find in sugar packets, processed foods and soda drinks, granulated sugar (or sucrose) is also what our pantries are stocked with and what we bake with. It is a finer crystalized version of cane or beet sugar that has been highly processed, stripping any vitamins, minerals, nutrients from it. Some refineries are still using animal bone char to whiten their sugar, however you are safe if you buy white beet sugar, raw cane sugar, or those sugars specified as organic or vegan. You can always call the manufacturer in order to verify for certain.
The granules in sugars come in a few forms (from coarsest to finest): coarse, granulated, and superfine (bar or caster).
Raw sugar is the product of what is left in processing right before the molasses is removed. This is why you have that beautiful light brown color in the sugar. There are several types of raw sugar including Demerara, Muscovada, and Turbinado, all ranging in differences of texture, taste, and color.
You can always place this sugar into your blender to create smaller granules. The size of the granules can make a difference in texture in your baked goods so some people prefer to do that.
Raw sugar is a one-to-one replacement for table sugar in a recipe.
Surprise! Brown sugar is actually raw or partially refined sugar mixed with molasses. Compared to white sugar, brown will hold more moisture in a recipe and it works best in recipes that you want to create a beautiful moist bite
It yields a soft, moist texture As a general rule of thumb the lighter the color, the slighter the flavor. Use dark brown sugar if you want a rich molasses and caramel-like flavor in your baked goods.
Have a recipe that calls for brown sugar and you don’t have it in your kitchen? Easy. Simply use this equation to make your own:
1 c. sugar + 1 Tbsp. molasses = 1 c. brown sugar
Brown sugar can also be substituted for white sugar on a one-to-one replacement.
Also known as confectioners or icing sugar, powdered sugar is granulated sugar that been ground to a fine powder. It is also combined with cornstarch to prevent it from clumping together (also known as anti-caking). This sugar is used best when making glazes, frostings, icings, and some cookies that require a packed crunch.
To make your own powdered sugar at home, mix 1 c. granulated sugar + 1 Tbsp. cornstarch. Blend together at high speed until in powdered form.
There are several different types of alternative sweeteners available on the store shelves. Naturally based, these sugars come in a variety of forms: powdered or liquid, as well as many added flavors. Each have it’s own rule to substituting out in a recipe so make sure that you read the directions on their packaging carefully to best understand how to replace for granulated sugar.
Coconut Palm Sugar
Derived from the coconut palm tree, coconut sugar has become a very popular alternative “health” sweetener. High in calories and nutrients (though that is not really saying much because you would have to eat a lot to benefit from those nutrients) coconut sugar is said to have a low glycemic index, making it safe for diabetics. Be careful though because this starts to sound a lot like agave’s popularity.
Coconut sugar has a mild caramel flavor to it and as pictured to the side it is coarser and darker in color than raw sugar. The plus side is that it is not highly processed like table sugar which means less chemicals are involved which leaves more minerals in tact.
To replace in recipes, use a one-to-one replacement.
Date sugar (not pictured) – Date sugar derives from exactly what its name depicts: chopped dates that have been dehydrated. It’s very sweet, has the tendency to clump (some manufactures actually include flour for anti-caking) but the kicker is that it doesn’t melt or absorb liquid the way that regular sugar does. This will limit its usages in recipes.
To replace white sugar, for every 1 cup of granulate sugar, use 2/3 c. date sugar.
Stevia is an all-natural herbal product that is a low carbohydrate and low sugar sweetener. It is said to be 300 times sweeter than table sugar so the good news is that you have to use less in a recipe to attain ultra sweetness. Easy on your blood sugar levels and almost calorie-free, Stevia is highly popular among diabetics and those trying to watch their weight.
Stevia comes in powdered or liquid form as well as different flavors for each so you have a few options when using it in a recipe.
For replacement, use these equations:
For powdered: 1 tsp. Stevia = 1 c. sugar; 1/2 tsp. Stevia = 1 Tbsp. sugar
For liquid: 1 tsp. Stevia = 1 c. sugar; 6 drops Stevia = 1 Tbsp. sugar
Xylitol (not pictured) - Xylitol is a sugar alcohol made into granules that is found in fruits, vegetables, some plant materials, and birch wood. An increasingly popular alternative to sugar, xylitol has fewer calories and lacks the ability to elevate blood sugar the way table sugar does. Due to its “healthier” benefits, xylitol has become a safe option for diabetics and those looking to control their weight. It also adds volume to baked goods the way real sugar does, which is unlike most alternative sweeteners out there. This doesn’t mean that the same results will occur as when using granulated sugar.
Xylitol is a one-to-one replacement for white sugar.
Hopefully this guide provides some understanding to your baking needs. Is this the end of the conversation? Absolutely not. Did I forget your favorite sugar or do you have a question about what was said here? Leave it in the comments and let’s start a conversation about baking with sugar!