Once you stop eating sugar, your taste buds recalibrate and you can begin to taste the natural sweetness found in so many foods. Milk and cream have an incredible sweetness to them, as do fruit, tomatoes, and even some cheeses. Enjoying the natural flavors of all foods brings a pleasure and satisfaction to eating that I’d not experienced. It also puts a stop to all of those maddening sugar cravings that I couldn’t satisfy no matter how much I ate. Life without sugar is really good.
Alternative sweeteners cost more compared to regular table sugar. My goal is to not sacrifice quality while being mindful of costs. It’s a balance when it comes to sugar-free baking and cooking and requires some creativity at times. I have found, however, that any extra cost is worth the health benefits I receive.
Agave nectar is one of my favorite ways to sweeten baked goods. It comes in both light and raw or amber forms. I use the light for a general substitute for white sugar and the raw or amber as a brown sugar substitute or when I just want to add a rich, full flavor to my baked goods. It’s especially delicious in fruit breads and in anything with pumpkin or squash.
I’ve found that when converting a recipe, starting with half as much agave is a good starting point and in generally sufficient. Agave is very sweet. Cut back on liquids in an equal amount to compensate for the extra liquid added by the agave. For example, if you substitute ½ cup agave for 1 cup of sugar try to cut the other liquids back by ½ cup in some combination. Sometimes cutting the oil or butter down too low will significantly alter the outcome of your recipe.
Dates are wonderful in recipes with chocolates or dark, quick breads. They also add a moistness that compliments gluten-free baked goods because they can tend to be dry. Date sugar is also a fun way to add a natural sweetness to foods.
Unsweetened fruit juice concentrates and fruit purees are other ways to add sweetness to your foods. Apple and pear are neutral flavored and won’t change the taste of your food. Other juices and purees can be added to compliment the flavors already present in the recipe.
I love Stevia. It’s the only sweetener I use in my coffee and it’s wonderful with fruit and cottage cheese. I have found that it’s an acquired taste and many people can detect something ‘different’ about anything baked with Stevia unless they’re used to it. Occasionally I use a little in my baking but, all in all, I leave it out.