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How to Bake with Sugar Substitutes

Two food bloggers share their favorite sugar substitutes for baking, and tips for getting the sweetest results.

stephanie-nero
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Sugar is sweet—but if you’re living with diabetes or trying to manage your weight, you’re probably trying to live (and cook) with less of it.

If you’ve tried alternatives to traditional white sugar in your cooking, you might have noticed it can affect recipe results, especially with baked goods. Since we don’t believe cutting sugar should mean sacrificing flavor, we wanted to know: Which sugar alternatives are best for baking?

To answer that question, we asked two food writers famous for their delicious, better-for-you dessert recipes to fill us in on their favorite sweeteners: Carolyn Ketchum from All Day I Dream About Food, and Katie Higgins of Chocolate-Covered Katie.

Carolyn first began experimenting with reduced-sugar and sugar-free cooking after being diagnosed with gestational diabetes. “When the diabetes decided to stick around, I refused to give up my lifelong passion for baking and cooking,” she says. “Many high carb recipes can be made over into low carb treats without sacrificing flavor.”

Katie—or, as her readers know her, “Chocolate-Covered Katie”—creates vegan dessert recipes that can be customized for any diet (including non-vegan). Her site is for “anyone who wants to be healthy but refuses to give up eating delicious desserts,” she says. “My favorite food is chocolate, and I eat it at least once a day.”

Carolyn and Katie were kind enough to fill us in on the pros and cons of their favorite sweeteners to use in baking, and some recipes to try them in.

Fruits and Spices

Katie: “I try to sweeten recipes with natural ingredients as much as possible. I will often include applesauce, mashed banana or spices like cinnamon and ginger in a recipe to heighten the flavors, allowing me to cut back on the sugar without sacrificing taste.” Try our Ginger-Topped Pumpkin Bread, made with natural ingredients like pumpkin puree, unsweetened applesauce and cloves.
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Erythritol (er-RITH-ri-tol)

Carolyn: “Erythritol-based sweeteners aren’t absorbed by the body so they’re virtually calorie-free and they’re less likely to cause stomach upset compared to other sugar alcohols. They also have bulk properties that I’ve found helpful in achieving the right consistency in baked goods. However, some people experience a mouth-cooling sensation, similar to sucking on a mint, with erythritol.”

Stevia

Katie: “Stevia, an extract from an herb that’s up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, is another choice ingredient of mine. I’ve found it works best when used to cut back on some sugar in a recipe but not all. This gives a lower-sugar recipe without a strange aftertaste you might get from using stevia as the exclusive source of sweetness in a recipe.” For a fudgy treat sweetened with Stevia, Katie recommends her Black Bean Brownies, shown here with her Creamy Coffee Fudge Frosting, also made with Stevia.
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Carolyn: “Stevia is very cost-effective because it is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, so a very little goes a long way. But as stevia contains no bulk, you need to add other ingredients, such as yogurt or applesauce, to achieve good results, or purchase a brand of stevia that includes a bulking agent. Most people find it has a distinct aftertaste similar to licorice and, while not necessarily unpleasant, it doesn’t always combine well with other flavors.”

Stevia and Erythritol

Carolyn: “For most of my sugar-free baking, I prefer a combination of erythritol-based sweetener and stevia extract. I find that combining the two sweeteners works best for me. I can achieve better texture and just the right amount of sweetness, while minimizing any aftertaste. For most people, these two sweeteners have little effect on blood glucose levels, making them very diabetes-friendly.” Give this pairing a try in Carolyn’s Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Cake (shown above) or Chocolate Orange Swirl Bread.


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Xylitol (ZY-li-tol)

Katie: “For diabetics, xylitol is a great option, as it’s absorbed into the bloodstream much more slowly than sugar and is lower in carbohydrates. A non-artificial sugar substitute, xylitol can be used in a 1-to-1 ratio to replace sugar in almost all recipes, the exception being recipes that call for yeast.” Put this sweetener to use in a batch of Katie’s Blueberry Muffins.
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Blackstrap Molasses

Katie: “Another favorite sweetener of mine. This thick gingerbread-flavored syrup is high in calcium, with 40% of your daily calcium needs in just 2 tablespoons!”

Thanks to Carolyn and Katie for sharing their tips! Tell us, what are some other sugar alternatives for baking that you’d like to know more about?

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