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Sugar substitutes in baking

 
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Hello! Yesterday I downloaded Kate Downham's awesome chapter on making jam without sugar, and that got me thinking about other ways to substitute for sugar, primarily in baking. I love to bake but don't like all the sugar and how it makes me feel. I also just ordered a stevia plant from our local herbal society and am looking forward to putting that into the suburban farmstead in early May.

I would love to tap the hive mind here for recipes, ratio substitutions, and cookbook recommendations, especially for maple syrup and honey used in place of sugar. Helpful uses for that stevia welcome as well.

Anyone have a good sugar-free carrot cake recipe? Zucchini bread? What about fruit pies without sugar? Crumbles?

I probably don't need to say this with this crowd, but please, I'm not interested in any synthetic sugar substitutes.

Thanks - looking forward to your thoughts and ideas!
 
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I very rarely use white sugar when baking. Generally I use either fruit or maple sugar, occasionally honey.

This is my family's favorite carrot cake recipe, which uses dates:
https://www.straightupfood.com/blog/2012/04/22/carrot-cake-donuts/

Here's her zucchini bread recipe which also uses dates:
https://www.straightupfood.com/blog/2013/01/07/zucchini-bread/

I love these biscuits. Best with honey but maple syrup is good too:
https://www.rhiansrecipes.com/biscuits/

 
Lisa Brunette
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ADDENDUM.

So the problem I have with the recipes above is the same problem I have with a lot of "healthy eating" recipes. I probably should have mentioned this before, but introducing a lot of nuts and commercially dried fruit in replacement doesn't work for me. I have something called Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, and it means I can react to a lot of high-histamine foods, like nuts - as well as dried fruit. I've questioned many of the alt foodie techniques for this reason, as the more vegan things get, the more I react. I also question for regular people who don't suffer from mast cell whether it's really better (for their health and the environment) to make so much flour out of nut meal and the like.

I actually don't have mast cell reactions to sugar... But I don't like the way it makes me feel otherwise.
 
Lisa Brunette
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Sonja Draven wrote:I very rarely use white sugar when baking. Generally I use either fruit or maple sugar, occasionally honey.

This is my family's favorite carrot cake recipe, which uses dates:
https://www.straightupfood.com/blog/2012/04/22/carrot-cake-donuts/

Here's her zucchini bread recipe which also uses dates:
https://www.straightupfood.com/blog/2013/01/07/zucchini-bread/

I love these biscuits. Best with honey but maple syrup is good too:
https://www.rhiansrecipes.com/biscuits/



Thanks, Sonja... the date substitute is interesting, but I don't think it's for me. It's hard to get unsulphured dates anyway, and I have trouble with commercially dried fruit. But the technique of creating a sort of sugary mash with dates and vanilla extract is something I might be able to apply to my own fruit harvesting, once my fruit comes in. So thanks for the links!
 
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my wife can’t do cane sugar. we also don’t really like things to be too sweet. generally, if she’s making a pie or crumble, the fruit portion either gets no added sugar, or a minimal amount (depending on the fruit). she’ll usually use some coconut sugar in the crumb top.

i use maple syrup in my favorite acorn flour spicebush cookies, but those are rare enough ingredients for most folks that i’m not sure it’s worth hunting down the recipe right now. i adapted it from a pretty standard sugar cookie recipe...the advice i’ve seen given is subbing 3/4c maple syrup for each cup of sugar in a recipe, and then reducing the other liquids in the recipe by ~3Tbsp per cup of syrup used.
 
Lisa Brunette
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greg mosser wrote:my wife can’t do cane sugar. we also don’t really like things to be too sweet. generally, if she’s making a pie or crumble, the fruit portion either gets no added sugar, or a minimal amount (depending on the fruit). she’ll usually use some coconut sugar in the crumb top.

i use maple syrup in my favorite acorn flour spicebush cookies, but those are rare enough ingredients for most folks that i’m not sure it’s worth hunting down the recipe right now. i adapted it from a pretty standard sugar cookie recipe...the advice i’ve seen given is subbing 3/4c maple syrup for each cup of sugar in a recipe, and then reducing the other liquids in the recipe by ~3Tbsp per cup of syrup used.



Thanks, Greg! That sub ratio suggestion is exactly what I'm looking for! Much appreciated. And I have a Shumard oak and am thinking of getting a spicebush, so your recipe isn't beyond the pale.
 
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Unfortunately my honey recipes are inaccessible at this time. It's not rocket science though. What I do to modify a recipe to substitute honey for sugar is to start with about 1/3 to 1/2 the volume of honey as the recommended amount of sugar. Use a little less liquid than the recipe calls for. Taste it before cooking to get a reasonable idea of how sweet it will turn out.

Stevia is more challenging. I've grown a fair amount of it. The sweetness varies quite a bit from plant to plant if they are started from seeds. (which seems rather hard to do successfully) The commercially grown plants available for home gardens were more consistent. I read somewhere that those are from cloned plants. Processed stevia sold in grocery stores is made to be a 1 to 1 replacement for sugar. What I did when I grew it is to harvest all the plants, powder it, then mix it all together. A little experimentation will then give an idea of how much to use.

Here's some recipes from the National Honey Board.

Our local beekeeping organization had annual honey themed meals until the virus hit so I've eaten many things with honey. I think my favorite was coconut breaded shrimp with an orange honey glaze.
 
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I use very low sugar, my health issues and tastes are both very little sweetener. If I really want something sweeter I tend to blender up an apple (raw or cooked) or other fruit and add it. No recipes, sorry, I'm not a recipe user. Just wanted to share the concept, think about "can I add a chunk of fruit to this?" or substitute juice for the liquid called for?
I don't end up with things like "a perfect angel food cake" but I do end up with tasty things that aren't over-sweetened for my taste or going to make me ill if I eat them.
 
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I like using honey and stevia for natural sweeteners too...I also do what Pearl does and blend up fruit for lots of baking recipes. I use dates as a sweetener a lot--I mostly add them to smoothies, but I bet you could make some kind of date paste using water and mashing up really ripe fruit into a consistency that you could fold into whatever you're baking.
 
Lisa Brunette
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Mike Barkley wrote:Unfortunately my honey recipes are inaccessible at this time. It's not rocket science though. What I do to modify a recipe to substitute honey for sugar is to start with about 1/3 to 1/2 the volume of honey as the recommended amount of sugar. Use a little less liquid than the recipe calls for. Taste it before cooking to get a reasonable idea of how sweet it will turn out.



That's helpful - thanks, Mike! I imagine if you're using really thick, raw, unfiltered honey, you don't have to adjust the liquids as much.


Stevia is more challenging. I've grown a fair amount of it. The sweetness varies quite a bit from plant to plant if they are started from seeds. (which seems rather hard to do successfully) The commercially grown plants available for home gardens were more consistent. I read somewhere that those are from cloned plants. Processed stevia sold in grocery stores is made to be a 1 to 1 replacement for sugar. What I did when I grew it is to harvest all the plants, powder it, then mix it all together. A little experimentation will then give an idea of how much to use.



Good to know - thanks!


Here's some recipes from the National Honey Board.



Love it!
 
Lisa Brunette
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Pearl Sutton wrote:I use very low sugar, my health issues and tastes are both very little sweetener. If I really want something sweeter I tend to blender up an apple (raw or cooked) or other fruit and add it. No recipes, sorry, I'm not a recipe user. Just wanted to share the concept, think about "can I add a chunk of fruit to this?" or substitute juice for the liquid called for?
I don't end up with things like "a perfect angel food cake" but I do end up with tasty things that aren't over-sweetened for my taste or going to make me ill if I eat them.



I love it, Pearl! "Can I add a chunk of fruit to this?" That suits the way I'm going with my baking anyway.
 
Lisa Brunette
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Erin Vaganos wrote:I like using honey and stevia for natural sweeteners too...I also do what Pearl does and blend up fruit for lots of baking recipes. I use dates as a sweetener a lot--I mostly add them to smoothies, but I bet you could make some kind of date paste using water and mashing up really ripe fruit into a consistency that you could fold into whatever you're baking.



Yeah, someone else in this thread linked to some recipes that draw on the date paste method, but they don't grow well in my region, I've never seen any at farmer's markets, and so I'd be stuck with trying to source them from a long distance, and paying a premium for unsulphured/organic. But the idea of thinking of fruit as a sweetener is a good one. Thanks!
 
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I can't use wheat, and we are (when we're behaving ourselves, which has not been the case, in months - and it shows) primarily eating keto. So, I've done a ton of research - both in theory and practice.

Allulose, xylitol, and erythritol are all 100% natural plant product, no more processed than sugar, possibly less so. That said, there are some differences, but they all give baked goods the moisture and volume of sugar. Allulose is not as sweet, at about 70% that of sugar, but is easily balanced with stevia or monkfruit - which, like stevia is simply dried and ground to powder or infused into glycerine (very nice) or alcohol (can have a major aftertaste).

Xylitol is actually beneficial for your teeth, and is nearly an exact 1:1, with sugar substitutions, and has been around in sugar free candies and such longer than saccharin. I won't allow it in our house, anymore, even though it was my favorite sugar sub, because it is lethal to dogs. I'm not sure about cats.

Erythritol is sweeter than sugar, by about 1/3, so I typically use only about 2/3 cup for every cup of sugar called for. In most recipes, this seems to work well, but some recipes need more moisture &/or volume. When that happens, I usually try to add some egg whites, to fill that role - if it's volume, that works best, if you whip the whites, and gently fold them in. The other downside to erythritol is that some brands can have a cooling feel, in the mouth. That said, this is my go-to, for brown and powdered sugar replacement, in baking. My favorite brand is Swerve, because it has given me the least cooling effect.

The most difficult thing with all of these, is giving a precise substitution that works across the board. As your taste buds adjust to the lack of sugar in your diet, your tolerance for sweetness may become lower - much lower. Or, it may not. Or, it may vary by day. You'll probably find yourself wanting/ needing to adjust any recipes you use, for this reason, alone. Sometimes, I still want something ridiculously sweet, have a bite or two, and have to just leave it. Other times, the mere thought of something sweet kind of turns my stomach, and still other times, I want what I want, and I want what I want, when I want it!
 
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I often use applesauce as a substitute for both oil and sugar.  If using commercial applesauce be sure to read the label.
 
Lisa Brunette
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John F Dean wrote:I often use applesauce as a substitute for both oil and sugar.  If using commercial applesauce be sure to read the label.



Thanks for the reminder about applesauce - I have done that for a specific recipe, but now that I'm branching out beyond recipes, I'll think about it as a regular modification.
 
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Lisa Brunette wrote:
Yeah, someone else in this thread linked to some recipes that draw on the date paste method, but they don't grow well in my region, I've never seen any at farmer's markets, and so I'd be stuck with trying to source them from a long distance, and paying a premium for unsulphured/organic. But the idea of thinking of fruit as a sweetener is a good one. Thanks!


You are in the midwest, look into jujubes (a good thread: https://permies.com/t/44734/Growing-Jujubes-seed-general-Jujube )
and figs (Chicago Hardy is a variety that grows pretty far north too) (a random thread on them https://permies.com/t/58325/experience-growing-Chicago-Hardy-Fig they are GREAT sweeteners and grow in the midwest.
 
Lisa Brunette
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Pearl Sutton wrote:

Lisa Brunette wrote:
Yeah, someone else in this thread linked to some recipes that draw on the date paste method, but they don't grow well in my region, I've never seen any at farmer's markets, and so I'd be stuck with trying to source them from a long distance, and paying a premium for unsulphured/organic. But the idea of thinking of fruit as a sweetener is a good one. Thanks!


You are in the midwest, look into jujubes (a good thread: https://permies.com/t/44734/Growing-Jujubes-seed-general-Jujube )
and figs (Chicago Hardy is a variety that grows pretty far north too) (a random thread on them https://permies.com/t/58325/experience-growing-Chicago-Hardy-Fig they are GREAT sweeteners and grow in the midwest.



Awesome, Pearl. Thanks! I'm in your state, by the way, just on the other side from you.
 
Carla Burke
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Lisa Brunette wrote:

Pearl Sutton wrote:

Lisa Brunette wrote:
Yeah, someone else in this thread linked to some recipes that draw on the date paste method, but they don't grow well in my region, I've never seen any at farmer's markets, and so I'd be stuck with trying to source them from a long distance, and paying a premium for unsulphured/organic. But the idea of thinking of fruit as a sweetener is a good one. Thanks!


You are in the midwest, look into jujubes (a good thread: https://permies.com/t/44734/Growing-Jujubes-seed-general-Jujube )
and figs (Chicago Hardy is a variety that grows pretty far north too) (a random thread on them https://permies.com/t/58325/experience-growing-Chicago-Hardy-Fig they are GREAT sweeteners and grow in the midwest.



Awesome, Pearl. Thanks! I'm in your state, by the way, just up the river from you.



100% agree with Pearl - and had completely forgotten about the Chicago fig! I wanted to get a couple, and forgot to even look, this spring. Lisa, if you're not far from Pearl, you're probably not far from me. I'm in the Lake of the Ozarks area. Not exactly neighbors, but nothing seems to be, in this state, lol. (For those who don't know Missouri well, the Lake of the Ozarks gives Missouri more coastline than California, and bridges are few and mostly far between, or in clusters, with huge parts of the lake completely lacking. So, for example, where we are now would (in most other states) only be an hour or so from my birthplace, because of the lake, is actually a 5 1/2hr drive.
 
Lisa Brunette
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100% agree with Pearl - and had completely forgotten about the Chicago fig! I wanted to get a couple, and forgot to even look, this spring. Lisa, if you're not far from Pearl, you're probably not far from me. I'm in the Lake of the Ozarks area. Not exactly neighbors, but nothing seems to be, in this state, lol. (For those who don't know Missouri well, the Lake of the Ozarks gives Missouri more coastline than California, and bridges are few and mostly far between, or in clusters, with huge parts of the lake completely lacking. So, for example, where we are now would (in most other states) only be an hour or so from my birthplace, because of the lake, is actually a 5 1/2hr drive.



Thanks, Carla! Nice to connect w/ you and Pearl here.
 
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Don't forget grapes!  Grape juice can be really really sweet.  Peaches and pears too can provide a high sugar content.  So can some prickly pear fruits.  
 
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Depending upon what is being baked ...wine can be used as a sweetener.
 
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I substituted honey for the sugar called for in my pickled figs recipe. After two years, the figs seemed to have reached a peak in flavor perfection. The bonus is that, after I open them and refrigerate, they seem to still keep indefinitely. Also, the syrup can be reused ad infinitum. Honey is truly miraculous.
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