What are the best natural sweeteners? Information on the types of natural sweeteners, and how to use sweeteners in healthy recipes.
A Guide To Natural Sweeteners
Choose natural sweeteners to fit the personality of your blend. If texture’s a concern, use a liquid sweetener. Combining sweeteners can yield great results.
With regards to substitutions, it is often best to swap a liquid sweetener for a liquid sweetener, granular for granular, and powder for powder.
Regardless of what swap you try, amounts may vary, and it may not be a 1:1 swap.
A prudent approach is to start small and add to taste.
No, not the “maple flavoured” syrup found at your local breakfast joint, which is just a sad imitation made from corn syrup or refined sugar.
Pure 100% maple syrup is the boiled sap from the sugar, red or black maple tree, and might just be the nectar of the Gods, discovered by the North American Indians. This gorgeous viscous syrup of joy is rich in manganese and zinc, which assist with lowering cholesterol and improving heart health; as well as boosting antioxidants and supporting strong immunity.
Maple syrup comes in grades of A and B, and in light, medium and dark varieties. The grading system is a guide for colour and flavour, not quality or purity. The darker the colour, the stronger the flavour. Pure organic Grade B maple syrup is produced from the sap harvested later in the season.
I absolutely love the deep, rich earthy flavour, and use it in everything – oatmeal, smoothies, desserts, dressings, baked goods, and on top of ice cream and pancakes.
I use maple syrup in large quantities when I want that distinct maple, caramel flavour. The strong personality of maple syrup can overpower the natural flavour of the other ingredients. If this personality is not appropriate, it is best to use it as an accent sweetener with a few tablespoons to heighten other more neutral sweeteners.
I have had huge success substituting maple syrup for granulated sugar in recipes. Generally, use ½ cup of maple syrup for every cup of sugar, and then halve the other liquid in the recipe. Then add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda per cup of syrup used, and lower the oven temperature by about 25 F.
You can also use maple sugar, which is made by boiling maple syrup down even further and evaporating and crystallizing it. It is sold in pressed blocks or as a ground sugar powder. You can use ½ – ¾ cup of maple sugar for every cup of refined sugar in baked recipes. But I mainly use maple sugar as an accent sweetener or topping on baked goods. I also love to make gourmet nuts by rolling them in maple sugar, cinnamon, or chocolate! Maple sugar is fantastic, but quite expensive, and can be a bit overpowering in large quantities, so I won’t post recipes using it very often. But it is worth a mention if you want to be really decadent!
Try to purchase organic maple syrup wherever possible. Some would argue that all maple syrup could be considered organic as it is produced deep in the forest where no herbicides and pesticides are used. However, organic is more than just the absence of these things. There are more stringent guidelines for quality control and production practices.
Always purchase maple syrup in glass or tins. Store these original containers in the fridge for up to a year. Try not to purchase in plastic, because it allows air into the container, which compromises the quality. If you do purchase in plastic, or decanter from large bulk containers at the health food store, transfer the batch to a glass container and refrigerate.
Maple syrup can be expensive. Purchase in bulk and freeze maple syrup in glass jars. Just leave an inch at the top to allow for expansion. But I never do this, as I can always find a use for it! What can I say? I go mental for the maple!