Now, in my first “A Little Advice” post, I went through the various types of starches you could use to make your baking a little bit healthier by using various ingredients outside of the usual AP, bleached, processed flour. Here, I will do the same for you when it comes to different types of sweeteners.
Outside of using granulated, white sugar, there are other sweeteners available to you, and with a little bit of ingenuity, they are very simple to incorporate into your everyday baking. First, I’ll start with the ones that I never use because they are awful for the human body. If you are trying to be healthy, please, Please, PLEASE! skip these two(3) sweeteners.
- Agave Syrup (and High Fructose Syrup):
- Why? Because your body reacts to agave like how it reacts to high fructose corn syrup. In fact, studies have shown that agave is WORSE for you than high fructose corn syrup because it more processed than high fructose corn syrup. If you are counting calories, you are better off using granulated sugar because compared to sugar’s 40 calories per tablespoon, agave has 60. So, your body can’t process it AND you are taking in more calories than any other sweetener. It’s not worth it.
- Anything Artificial (ex: Sweet’n’Low, Equal, Splenda, etc):
- Why? Because your body isn’t designed to process artificial sweeteners (or any form of processed foods). The sweeteners trick your body into thinking it’s digesting sucrose, and your body releases insulin to help break it down. Well, when there’s no sucrose for the insulin to break down, the insulin remains in your body, signalling your brain that you’re still hungry and you should eat more. It’s not until that that insulin has been used will you’re body stop craving the carbs your promised your body in the first place. If you want to use artificial sweeteners for their lack of calories, use Stevia. It is a natural, zero-calorie sweetener that won’t mess up your body. I just don’t use it because I strongly dislike the taste, but most artificial sweeteners are disgusting to me anyways (I grew up with my mom using Equal in everything, so I have become impartial to that one in particular. Now, when I try any of the other ones, I just cry).
So, now that that’s over, here’s what sweeteners I am totally down for and highly recommend.
- Turbinado Sugar (or Sugar in the Raw):
- This sugar is perfect for baking. I don’t recommend it for items that have short baking times or are firm/ dry in texture (like cookies or scones) because it doesn’t give the sugar enough time or moisture to break down. Instead of getting a soft, supple bite, you get a very grainy, gritty cookie that is unappealing to the taste buds. The sweetness doesn’t permeate throughout whatever you baked with the sugar.*
*Although I have never tried it, I don’t see anything wrong with putting the sugar into a food processor or grinder and running it. This way you break down the tiny cubes, and aid in the breaking down of the sugar before you add it to any dough or batter. That’s just my theory. It SHOULD work, but I have no guarantee.*
- Honey or Maple Syrup:
- The problem with using honey or maple syrup in baking is that they don’t provide the same molecular structure to baking that granulated sugar does. Whatever you are baking will lose it’s solidifying abilities (for the lack of better wording) because these sweeteners are already liquid and loose naturally. Now, I personally don’t bake with them unless I’m making homemade granola, but I will use them in syrups and sauces to cover whatever it is that I just baked. Honey and maple syrup pair perfectly with a multitude of flavors (my favorite is the classic maple and bourbon/ spiced rum combination). These delicious sauces automatically add a richness to everything and guarantees that anything you make will be super moist. I also enjoy adding them to no-bake things because they dissolve easier and are great for adding a hint of sweetness (when I’m making whipped cream, I prefer to use honey rather than powdered sugar).
- Coconut Palm Sugar:
- This is a specialty sugar that I use specifically for my paleo-inspired desserts and diabetic friendly recipes. Because coconut palm sugar has such a low glycemic index (basically meaning that your body doesn’t absorb it all at one time. Instead it slowly takes it in, gradually raising your blood sugar), it doesn’t cause your blood sugar to spike. This is perfect for those who suffer from diabetes. Now, it is not as sweet as sugar, but it is perfect for adding sweetness to any dish. The only real downside to using coconut palm sugar is that it does have the same calories as regular sugar; but it’s not really a downside because it is contains more nutrients than regular sugar. Coconut palm sugar is considered a notable source for iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, some antioxidants, and fatty acids, so what’s not to love?
- Granulated Sugar:
- Now, I know I sound like the Anti-Granulated Processed Sugar Bitch, but my issue is that it is literally in everything (along with high fructose corn syrup). The entire point of baking for me is explore every other baking possibility out there. I want to experience and better already existing recipes. I can’t accomplish that using granulated sugar, but I do know when it is necessary. It just dissolves so easily and is the perfect addition to anything you bake if you are looking for that ideal, fluffy, soft texture that is strongly associated with baking (muffins, cakes, cookies, breads, etc). So, yes, I do recommend using granulated sugar, but only sparingly and when necessary. In fact, I’m all for it when compared to agave/ high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. So bake on my friends! Bake on.