In our quest to eat wholesome, unprocessed foods, we eventually had to examine our choice of sweeteners. If you have ever walked down the baking aisle in your grocery store, you’ll notice numerous options for sweeteners. You’ll find white sugar, brown sugar, sugar in the raw, Truvia, Splenda, and the list goes on and on. Their packages make grand promises of low-calorie, no-calorie, all-natural, and some, oddly enough, sugar-free. Obviously, no sweetener is really great for you.
White sugar is clearly refined and processed (anything as white as white sugar has got to go through an insane refinement process) and my common sense concludes that if it has been refined, then it has probably been stripped of any nutrients that the original product may have contained in its raw form. Since we’ve decided to reduce the amount of processed foods from our diet, we decided that white sugar had to go. It’s been a few months now since we made that decision (we decided to get rid of our white sugar around the same time we decided to get rid of white flour).
We never used any of the other alternative sweeteners found in our mainstream grocery store. I’ve always been wary of low-fat products even before our wholesome living lifestyle switch. I suppose I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that if a product is labeled “reduced fat” then there usually has to be something else substituted in to make the product taste similar to the authentic product. So we have never had any of those sweeteners in our home and I am not going to address them here.
So, what do we use? Well, we decided to go as natural as possible. We primarily rely on raw (unprocessed) honey, local maple syrup and, for baking, Rapadura, which is an unrefined sugar. Since it is unrefined, Rapadura contains many of the minerals and vitamins found in sugar cane. We use either honey or maple syrup in our coffee in the morning. Now that I have tried it, I prefer honey or maple syrup over white sugar. It is quite delicious.
Honey and maple syrup can be substituted for sugar in baking recipes up to a point. I do not like to substitute in any more than 3/4 a cup. If the recipe calls for more than 3/4 of a cup of sugar, then I add in Rapadura to make up the difference. For instance, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, I add in 3/4 cup of honey and 1/4 cup of Rapadura. You can substitute in Rapadura for white sugar in the exact amounts if you’d prefer. Since honey (and maple syrup) are both liquids, I also reduce the baking temperature by 25 to 50 degrees depending on the recipe. Here is an example. I made chocolate chip cookies the other day and I was supposed to bake them for 8 minutes at 375 degrees, but instead I baked them for 10 minutes at 325 degrees.
Once I figure out all the substitutions and temperature changes for each of my favorite recipes, I am rewriting my recipes as “natural” versions and saving those to use so I won’t have to redo/refigure out each recipe all over again when I want to bake something. So far I’ve baked chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, chocolate zucchini bread, and blueberry muffins with great success. I have used honey or maple syrup as the sweetener (with a tad bit of Rapadura as needed) and whole wheat flour in each of those recipes.
Here is a chart that I found helpful when we were considering what types of sweeteners to use in our home:
How sugars compare
|Amounts based on 100 grams
|White sugar||Raw brown sugar||Evaporated cane juice||Sucanat||Rapadura||Honey|