Healthier Baking with Sugar Substitutes

Healthier Baking with Sugar Substitutes

Sugar is a tasty ingredient that enhances everything by making it ‘sweet,’ and everyone now and then craves sweets.

It goes without saying, however, that anything in moderation is better, including sugar, because when sugar is consumed to excess it can wreak havoc with the way your body processes it, which leads to a rise in blood sugar levels and insulin secretion from the pancreas.

After a while the pancreas stops producing insulin because of extreme sugar consumption, and that’s never a good outcome for anyone. High sugar foods are also very fattening, and loaded with calories and is a culprit increasing the risk of  type II diabetes and heart disease.

For the sugar-health-conscious, there are quite a few sugar substitutes that people have been using for years to counter the effects of an over consumption of white processed sugar.

Sugar is used in so many food products that it can be difficult to avoid. However, there are many healthy choices that can be substituted for sugar when cooking.  All the sugar substitutes listed below are viable, practical and health-wise alternatives to processed sugar.

The difference in nutritional value alone should make anyone at least want to try to begin substituting and hopefully after a while sugar alternatives will become a way of life. It only takes a little bit of time to get used to living a sugar free lifestyle, and once you kick the habit, your body will love you for it.

Natural Sugar Substitutes

Pure Maple SyrupThis is an excellent substitute as it is wholly natural, tapped straight from its source, the maple tree and it has a boat load of antioxidants to keep your body in-tune while it fights off those nasty buggers called free radicals as they roam the body. Be sure, however, it is 100% pure maple syrup and not a ‘white sugar’ laden substitute.

Honey – An obvious choice, as it too is loaded with antioxidants and has been used for years by tea lovers around the world, but, don’t stop at your teacup. This gem can be added to anything that calls for plain white sugar and is undeniably a better choice. To get the most out of your honey, you may want to consider buying some that is locally and strawberriesorganically produced without any additives or preservatives. This will give you the best nutritional value from the honey in your cooking.

Pureed Fruit: Fruit has sugar, but, it is a natural sugar and so not nearly as harmful as the processed variety. Using pureed fruit in baking instead of sugar is a great option for healthier baking. Bananas, apricots and berries work great.

Apricot Puree: Apricots are high in nutrients with vitamin C, fiber, and iron. Add to baked goods in lieu of sugar, also eat it as a snack by mixing with plain non-fat Greek yogurt or enjoy it with hearty whole-grain bread.

No Sugar Added Applesauce: Another excellent substitute, as it’s sweet, natural and some bakers even prefer it to processed sugar because baked goods such as cookies are more because of it.

Raisins: Perhaps raisins used as a sugar substitute may not be your first plan but think about it. They’re sweet wholesome and delicious and when broken down in a food processer and added as a sugar substitute to your favorite dishes you may be pleasantly surprised how good your recipe tastes using raisins instead.

Cinnamon: This spice is grand for flavoring your favorite drink, hot or cold and many baked goods that you would normally add sugar to. Plus it has no calories and is great for an cocoa-powderimmunity boost, too.

Unsweetened Cocoa Powder: This one is another great sugar alternative, plus it satisfies the chocolate craving. If you want to kick it up a notch create your favorite beverage, unsweetened, and toss in cocoa powder with a dash of vanilla. It will soothe the senses without the extra sugar buzz.

Cranberries: If you love cranberries this is the sugar alternative for you. They’re tart and sweet at the same time. Enjoy delicious multigrain pancakes, scones or muffins loaded with cranberries instead of sugar. Cranberries, too, are loaded with antioxidants, so give your taste buds a treat and remember cranberries aren’t just for the holidays.

Dates & Figs: Both add flavor, dimension and tons of nutrition as a sugar substitute to a slew of recipes. Baked goods such as cakes, muffins, even hearty breads will soon become a staple in your breakfast, lunch or dinner regimen using figs and dates as a substitute for sugar.

Orange, Lemon or Lime Juice: If you love citrus you’ll do well to squeeze a handful of either into your next hot or cold drink and forego the sugar, besides your body will show its appreciation, especially around flu season, as citrus is loaded with vitamin C.

Coconut Sugar: One great alternative to refined sugar is coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is made by heating the sap from coconut palms until it has been reduced to granules that can be used in the same way as regular sugar.

coconutIt has a similar flavor to brown sugar, but a lower glycaemic index, which means that it has less effect on blood and insulin levels within the body.

If you adore coconut, here’s a way to enjoy some without the guilt. Simply swap out the refined sugar with coconut sugar added to your favorite smoothie and clothes your eyes. You’ll think you’re on a tropical island and best of all it’s full of potassium, and let’s face it, are any of us really getting enough potassium in our diet, chances are a big ‘no.’  This also makes a great substitute in several baked goods.

Erythritol: This is a sugar alcohol that comes in powder form and made from a plant. It has been deemed safe and approved by the FDA.

 

 

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Dark Cocoa Banana Muffins

Dark Cocoa Banana Muffins

Another great cupcake recipe I found in the April 2014 issue of Better Homes and Gardens.

The muffins came out perfectly, so soft and moist! Dark chocolate and banana is a great flavor combination. You can bake this recipe into a dessert bread as well. Just pour the batter into a 9-inch bread pan and enjoy.

Dark cocoa according to Health News Library (HNL) has great health benefits, like potassium, copper, magnesium, and iron in high concentrations. You know what that means, right? Dark Chocolate is great for your heart and lowering high blood pressure.

HNL states, “The copper and potassium help prevent against stroke and cardiovascular disease. The iron protects against anemia, and magnesium helps prevent type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease” (read more here: Dark Chocolate Helping with Health Concerns).

Now for the featured recipe: Dark Cocoa Banana Muffins and here is what you will need:

ingredients for Dark Cocoa Banana Muffins

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon instant coffee powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup buttermilk (we forgot to add this to the cutting board)

½ cup sour cream

2 eggs

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 bananas, peeled

Honey for topping

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

 

Grease twelve 2 ½ -inch muffin cups; set aside.

Mixing dry and wet ingredients for Dark Cocoa Banana Muffins

 

In a large bowl stir together flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, coffee powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a 2-cup measure whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, eggs, and butter. Add all at once to flour mixture. Gently stir just until moistened.

 

bananas cut for topping Dark Cocoa Banana Muffins

Peel and trim ends from bananas and cut each into 6 pieces. You should do this before mixing dry ingredients in with the wet. Once the wet ingredients hits the dry portion, it activates the soda. As a rule of thumb, once you have mixed the wet and dry together, get it in the oven as soon as possible.

Next, spoon the batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about three-fourths full and press a banana piece into each prepared cupcake batter, but the banana should not be covered completely, only push in half way.

Now the next part says to drizzle with honey, then bake for 15 minutes. But it is not recommended to heat honey above 100 degrees, it kills the enzymes that benefit good health.

Ask A Scientist says, “Honey bees keep the temperature of their brood nest at just under 100 degrees. Many figure that honey should not be raised above this temperature to preserve many of its good qualities. If honey is heated above that, there is disagreement on what the temperature is at which the helpful enzymes are damaged. It is likely in the 120 to 140 range.”

They go on to say, “Honey distributed by large distributors and sold in larger stores is usually heated to 180 degrees.This is to dissolve even the smallest crystals that might act as “seeds” that promote crystallization. Although crystallization does not harm the honey in any way, it is considered less desirable (in the US but not necessarily abroad). The enzymes that are not visible are sacrificed for the sake of “good” looks.”

Here at Splendid Recipes and More, we use raw honey, in its whole form. To liquefy the honey: boil some water in a sauce pan. Place the amount of honey you want to liquefy into a small glass jar and dip the jar into the hot water. The honey will soften and become runny, but will not heat to above 100 degrees.

 

 

cooling Dark Cocoa Banana Muffins

Now bake the muffins for 15 minutes or until tops are firm, then remove and cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

 

 

Dark Cocoa Banana Muffins (end article)

 

Remove from muffin cups. Drizzle with honey and serve warm. Here we drizzled with raw honey. As a side note, 1/3 cup dark brown sugar dosen’t sweeten the muffins to well. But adding the honey will sweeten every bite. If you don’t wish to drizzle with honey, increase your dark brown sugar to add the sweetness you desire. Enjoy!!

 

What Others are Saying About Muffins with Bananas and Cocoa:

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Chocolate Mexican Coffee Cake

Chocolate Mexican Coffee Cake

The process for making chocolate and cocoa powder is made by first grinding cacao nibs into a cocoa mass, which is then liquefied into a paste known as chocolate liquor. After the cocoa butter is forced out of the chocolate liquor by either a press or a special technique known as the Broma method, the remaining cocoa solids are processed to make fine unsweetened cocoa powder. Natural cocoa powder is lighter brown in color than Dutch-processed cocoa, tastes slightly bitter, and has a deep chocolate flavor.

Coffee: Has been proven to reduce risk for diabetes and Parkinson’s. It also stimulates enzymes that protect against colon cancer. It is Chlorogenic acid and it is one of the main caffeic acids found in coffee that has antioxidant properties. It’s also found in sunflower seeds, carrots, tomatoes and artichokes. Its ability to lower blood glucose levels may benefit those who have diabetes.

For more information on the benefits of coffee link here: Benefits of Coffee

So now we can have some confidence that the Chocolate Mexican Coffee Cake, even though a dessert does have benefits for Your health.
Here is what you will need…

First ingredients needed  for Chocolate Mexican Cake

¼ cup of dark cocoa powder
½ cup of butter or 1 stick, soften
½ cup of olive oil

brewing coffee

One cup strong brewed coffee

steps to mixing coffee-butter-cocoa powder for Chocolate Mexican Coffee Cake

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Over a med-high burner using a medium sauce pot mix all 4 ingredients and bring to a boil and remove from heat.

stiring in marshmallows to coffee mixture for the Chocolate Mexican Coffee Cake

Add  the one cup of small marshmallows or the 24 large (depending which you are using at the time) allow marshmallows to melt; stirring to incorporate well. Then set side.

2nd ingredients for the Chococlate Mexican Coffee Cake

Here are the dry ingredients…
2 cups of  flour
2 cups of  sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup buttermilk

mixing ingredients for Chocolate Mexican Coffee Cake

In a large bowl sift the flour. What is the purpose of sifting flour? Flour will compact during storage and handling. Sifting will allow for no air pockets in the cake and will prevent the cake from being lumpy. The cake will also be a lot fluffier.

If you don’t have a flour sifter you can substitute for a stainless mesh colander as is shown here in the first image. Next mix in the sugar, soda and cinnamon. Beat the eggs in a small bowl then add to dry mixture along with the vanilla and buttermilk.

mix cake batter with coffee-chcolate mixture

Add first batter mixture into the sauce pan containing the coffee-chocolate mixture. Mix until well incorporated.

pouring batter on to a lined jelly roll pan and spreading batter out evenly

Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper and pour the contents of the sauce pan over the lined jelly roll pan and evenly spread out the batter.

Bake in heated oven for approximately 17 minutes. Allow to cool completely and add icing.

Here is what you will need…

8 oz. Cream cheese, room temperature
16 oz. powdered sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
6 tbsp. strong brewed coffee

In a food processor, combine cream cheese and powdered sugar. Next add 5 remaining ingredients. Process well. Spread icing over cooled cake. Top with chopped pecans or toasted chopped almonds.

presenting a Chocolate Mexican Coffee Cake

What Others are Doing With Chocolate and Coffee