Monday, February 13, 2012

Liquid Sweetener Substitutes

An absolute necessary liquid sweetener used in grain free cooking and baking is agave nectar. It's used because it is a sugar free sweetener without chemicals or colorings and is raw and very low on the Glycemic index.
It's not only necessary for sweetening but is needed for moisture and as a binder when using coconut and nut flours. Coconut flour is always looking to absorb moisture. It will absorb about twice as much liquid as you use for flour or more. You will notice when you use grain free recipes they are always more wet when going in the oven than a traditional glutenous batter or bread mix. 
If you do not use the right amount of liquid in a recipe using coconut flour it will be VERY dry and may not even set up properly. Now I do not mean crusty bread dry I mean so dry you need 2 cups of water just to swallow it down dry. It's UN-apetizing and any recipe that I find that is that was goes straight to the trash. 
Part of my dilemma when baking savory dishes with coconut flour that you don't necessarily want sweet come out too dry for me. So I am slowly playing about with recipes until I get them just right.

Palm sugar is another very low Glycemic sweetener that is natural and used in sugar free cooking. It is not a sucralose base and tastes more dark like brown sugar in a way so its fabulous in rich muffin and bread recipes and not soo much in say whip cream.
I have tried using this as a substitute in replace of agave in some recipes either because I didn't have it or simply for experimentation sake. It has the same great flavor but the recipe is always unpleasantly dry. So I had put some thought into how can I use pal sugar instead of agave when I need to. All I need is to hit one sale on Palm Sugar a month and POOF I have so much of it it becomes necessary to make it work sometimes.

Palm Sugar Syrup:

1 1/2 C palm sugar
2/3 C filtered water
Bring water to a boil. Stir in palm sugar and return to a simmer for 3 min until thick and bubbly. Let cool completely. Stir constantly the second you look away it will be all over your stove. Store in a air tight glass jar in your pantry until use.
Use as 1:1 substitute for Agave Nectar in most recipes.

I have become so thrilled with my banana bread recipe. It's just sweet enough and has a delicious fruity taste that can only come from a fruit I can safely say I have never ate before in my life. DATES!
I had been fascinated by recipes using dates as sweeteners on many of the blogs I read. Of course I have to try it being they are so inexpensive compared to any other sweetener I buy. they last a long time, and are natural and unprocessed.
I buy my dates pitted and dried. They are only like 20 cents per 100g and go along way. Medjool dates are the sweetest variety but using a different variety may just mean you will have to use a few more. 
When you go to buy your dates just be sure to look at the ingredients. Don't be fooled by purchasing pre-chopped dates that are pitted and dried. They are coated with Dextrose which is one of the mysterious names for sugar in a simpler form than glucose. The dextrose is to make them sweeter and edible on their own and to help them from sticking together into a huge big blob. Buy your dates without the dextrose and chop them yourself.

You can use Date Syrup in any recipe but depending on your taste you may want to stick with only baked and stronger tasting recipes such as muffins, sweet breads, cakes, and so on. Only because they will have a date taste slightly and that may not suit you in a recipe you are not expecting it in. 

Date Syrup:

In a large glass measuring cup:
36 pitted dried dates
2 C filtered water
Microwave for 3 min until water is bubbling and dates are brown and soft add:
1/2 C palm sugar or sucralose brown sugar blend
Microwave another 2 min until bubbly and thickened slightly

Puree imediately in a food processor while dates are soft.

Recipe can be cooked on stove top as well. Let cool completely before use and store in an air tight sealed glass jar. 
Use as 1:1 substitute for Agave Nectar in most recipes

Use these recipes in any of my recipes where noted or for experimentation. Use in any of your own recipes. let me know what you think and how they work for you. I would love to know!

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