Article 3 Go-To Natural Sweeteners You Should Try

From apple sauce to maple syrup, meet some of our favourite sweet ingredients!

July 15, 2016

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Silver Hills Bakery

Collaborating in the kitchen on baking projects is a delicious family tradition. But if you’re trying to feed your kiddos a healthy diet with less refined ingredients, it can bring up some tough questions. If you swap out the called-for sugar, will it ruin your favourite recipes? Will your healthy experiment flop with your picky eaters?

Rest assured, substituting natural sweeteners for refined granulated sugar can yield delicious results. Here are our favorites and how best to use them.

Fruit Purées

You may already know the easiest way to try this: use store-bought unsweetened applesauce. But it’s almost as simple to whip up your own fruit purée using dried or fresh fruits you have on hand: raisins, dates, bananas, apples. At Silver Hills Bakery, we love fruit purées, we use apple sauce to sweeten our Steady Eddie bread while raisin nectar adds depth and colour to our Squirrelly bread.

What it is

Fruit purées add a subtle sweetness to baked goods. First, prep your chosen fruit: overripe bananas (purée right before baking to avoid browning), apple chunks (peel, quarter, cook until soft), pitted dates (soak in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes) or raisins (nearly fill a lidded jar, cover with water, refrigerate 24 hours). Then toss your ingredient into a food processor and blend with about one tablespoon of cooking/soaking liquid, or one teaspoon of lemon juice for bananas. You want smooth, thick purées and pastes that have a consistency similar to peanut butter.

Why you’ll love it

Fruit purées add subtly sweet flavour and moist texture to baked goods. They also deliver fibre, a key nutrient most of us are lacking in. In addition, apples are high in vitamin C, and dates, bananas and raisins offer key minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron, along with vitamins B6 and C.

Best in

Baked goods such as muffins, sweet breads, brownies, cookies and even cakes. Date paste is a staple in raw-food desserts. To substitute for sugar in your favourite recipe, try using half puree, half organic cane sugar or just swap 1:1 You can store raisin or date purée in the fridge for up to one month.

Maple Syrup

What it is 

The boiled sap of maple trees, this minimally processed, traditional natural sweetener boasts a luscious flavour that is too delectable to relegate to breakfast.

Why you’ll love it

Choose darker, more robust Grade B maple syrup: It’s richer in polyphenols that work like antioxidants in the body and may help ward off chronic inflammation. It also provides lots of manganese and other minerals—zinc, potassium and calcium—that support immune system function.

Best in 

Heat-stable maple syrup is heavenly atop oatmeal, in hot and cold beverages, baked into homemade granola and stirred into glazes and sauces. In baking, replace sugar with the same amount of maple syrup. Reduce total called-for liquids by about one-half cup.

Coconut Sugar

What it is

Coconut sugar offers an aromatic caramel-like flavour that resembles brown sugar, with a touch of molasses. Slightly less sweet than white sugar, it’s made from sap extracted from coconut blooms then heated and evaporated into granules.

Why you’ll love it

A lower glycemic sweetener, coconut sugar does not spike blood sugar levels partly because it contains prebiotic inulin fibre, which slows glucose absorption. Plus, it’s rich in minerals like zinc, calcium and potassium (notice the mineral theme yet?) along with amino acids and antioxidant polyphenols.

Best in

Baked goods. Versatile and readily available, granulated coconut sugar is a simple 1:1 swap in recipes and measures just like sugar. If you prefer a slightly less coarse texture, throw it into the food processor and whirl it briefly. Dissolved coconut sugar makes a healthier simple syrup. For a more nutritive powdered sugar substitute, add one tablespoon arrowroot powder to each cup of coconut sugar and blend until smooth in a food processor.

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