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Sugar and Sugar Substitutes

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Refined sugar has many functions in food other than providing sweetness.

Sugar Cubes

In small amounts, added sugar helps yeast begin producing gas for raising yeast dough. Sugar tenderizes doughs and batters, helps brown baked goods, and makes the crumb of these products moist. Sugar aids in the structure of cakes. It is the white sugar in cookie dough that helps spreading to occur during baking.

For these reasons, we suggest replacing only one half of the refined sugar in a recipe with another type of sugar. You can increase or decrease the amount replaced incrementally to achieve the results you want. If you simply want to reduce the amount of sugar you are consuming, many recipes can be modified to decrease the amount of sugar simply by reducing the sugar by one third.

Sugar by Any Name

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Refined sugar is 99 percent pure sucrose, a simple carbohydrate. All of the sweeteners listed here are also simple carbohydrates. Each has a unique flavor, and each brings different qualities to baked goods.

Refined fructose is sweeter than granulated sugar. It can be substituted in baking recipes with little trouble. Simply add one third less. Fructose attracts more water than sucrose, therefore fructose sweetened products tend to be moist. Baked products made with fructose will be darker than if they were made with white sugar.

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Honey is a liquid sugar made by bees, and consists of several components: fructose, glucose, maltose, and sucrose. It is sweeter than sugar, and has a distinctive flavor. Baked goods made with honey are moist and dense, and tend to brown faster than those made with granulated sugar. Use 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey in place of 1 cup sugar, and reduce the other liquid ingredients by 2 tablespoons. Unless the recipe includes sour cream or buttermilk, add a pinch of baking soda to neutralize the acidity.

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Molasses is a byproduct of refined sugar production. It is made up of sucrose, glucose, fructose, and also contains small amounts of B vitamins, calcium, and iron. Molasses imparts a dark color and strong flavor to baked foods, but is not as sweet as sugar. When substituting molasses for sugar, use 1-1/3 cups molasses for 1 cup sugar, and reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 5 tablespoons. Molasses is also more acidic than sugar; add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of molasses used in substitution for sugar. Replace no more than 1/2 the sugar called for in a recipe with molasses.

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Maple syrup is made from the sap of sugar maple trees, and is a combination of sucrose and glucose. The sap is boiled down into the sweet, delectable syrup we pour over our pancakes and waffles. It is also very good in cookies, pies, and cakes. There are several grades of syrup available. Grade A maple syrup is golden brown and has a light flavor. Grade B is heavier, darker, and has more of that mapley flavor. Like honey, it's very sweet; use 3/4 cup for every cup of white sugar. Decrease the amount of liquid by 3 tablespoons.

Brown Rice Syrup# consists of maltose, glucose, and complex carbohydrates. It is an amber hued syrup resembling honey, but it is not as sweet as honey. It can be substituted cup per cup for granulated sugar, but the liquid ingredients should be reduced by 1/4 cup per cup of rice syrup. Enzyme treated syrup, as opposed to malted syrup, will tend to liquefy the batter of a baked product. Use the malted syrup for best results.

Fruit juice concentrates, such as apple juice concentrate, orange juice concentrate, or white grape juice concentrate, are wonderful substitutes for sugar. Juice concentrates are made up of fructose and glucose. Use 3/4 cup for every cup of white sugar, and decrease the amount of liquid by 3 tablespoons.

Artificial Sweeteners

The following artificial sweeteners have been approved by the FDA and are available for home use. They provide sweetness, but lack the browning, tenderizing, and moisture retaining properties of granulated sugar. There is no need to substitute artificial sweeteners for the small amount of sugar used for proofing the yeast in breads. Instead, use milk or potato water for the liquid: the sugar found in either of these is enough to jump start the yeast.

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Saccharin is 200 to 700 times sweeter than sugar. It can be used in baked goods. However, the manufacturer recommends substituting it for only half of the sugar in a recipe. Substitute 6 (1 gram) packets for each 1/4 cup sugar. It is sold under the name Sweet and Low.

Aspartame is 160 to 220 times sweeter than granulated sugar. This sweetener is heat sensitive, it loses its sweetening power when heated, and can not be used for cookies or cakes. The manufacturer does recommend adding it to pie fillings for no-bake pies, and to puddings after they have been removed from the heat. Substitute 6 (1 gram) packets for each 1/4 cup of sugar. It is sold under the names Equal Zero Calorie Sweetener and NutraSweet No Calorie Sweetner#.

Acesulfame potassium is 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is heat stable so it can be used in baking and cooking. Use acesulfame K in combination with granulated sugar when baking. Substitute 6 (1 gram) packets for each 1/4 cup sugar. It is sold under the brand names Sunette and Sweet One.

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Sucrolose is made from sugar, but is 66 times sweeter than sugar. Granular sucrolose is the form used when baking. Substitute 1 cup granular sucrolose for each cup of sugar called for in the recipe. Recipes made with this product tend to bake faster than usual. It is sold under the Splenda No Calorie Sweetener brand name. Also available is a product called EZ-Sweetz. It is a liquid sweetener with zero calories, zero glycemic impact, zero aftertaste, and zero worries. It is suitable for diabetics and tastes like sugar. Suitable for hot and cold foods.

Remember, these substitution guidelines are just that -- guidelines. You can tailor your recipes for your tastes by adding more or less sweetener to your recipes. Also, you may not get exactly what you were looking for. It might be better! Live a little -- experimentation is fun!

See also: Baking with Sugar Substitutes

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