Monday, May 24, 2010

Restocking the Pantry with Sugar Alternatives

The idea of a pantry without sugar may sound a little bit, well... empty. But many less processed alternatives to common table sugar exist. Alternative sweeteners will not only bring the desired sweetness to your foods, but can also add flavor and make for a moister texture. This is a partial list of alternative sweeteners (broken down into liquid and granulated options) you might want to consider next time you're baking or cooking:

Liquid sweeteners

  • Maple syrup: This option is sold in grades, A or B. Grade A is lighter in color and taste. Grade B is darker with a stronger maple flavor.
  • Honey: Adds a unique taste to dishes. When used in baking to replace sugar, honey adds moisture and density to baked items.
  • Brown rice syrup: It has the most delicate flavor of the liquid sweeteners and is a nice choice for salad dressings.

Granulated sweeteners

  • Date sugar: It can taste a bit like dates, but performs well in baked goods.
  • Evaporated cane juice: It can be found under brand names such as Sucanat, Rapidura or Florida crystals and is the closest in texture, flavor and performance to regular table sugar, adding both bulk and sweetness at comparable amounts.

When substituting a liquid sweetener for sugar in baking, reduce the total liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup. If there is no liquid listed in the recipe, add 3-5 tablespoons of flour for each ¾ cup liquid sweetener used.

With so many alternatives to experiment with in your own kitchen, you may find refined table sugar no longer such a necessary staple of your pantry.

- Misha Henshaw, dietetic intern, and Debra A. Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University

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