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Alternatives to table sugar?
For many families it is a good tradition to bake Christmas cookies and cakes in the Advent season. This usually requires sugar. Since sweetening alternatives such as coconut blossom sugar, agave syrup, maple syrup, birch sugar, erythritol and stevia have recently taken over supermarket shelves, many consumers are wondering whether these products can also be used for baking. The answer is: in principle yes. However, there are a few things to consider:
Coconut blossom sugar does not taste like coconut, but has a caramel-like note. This is because it is extracted from the nectar of the coconut tree and not from the coconut. It is practical that it can be dosed like conventional sugar. If you prepare a batter with coconut blossom sugar, for example for marble cakes or muffins, you have to expect that it will not rise as well and that slightly larger air bubbles will appear in the cake batter. The cake also gets a little darker. In terms of taste, however, it can still convince.
Maple syrup is not as sweet as table sugar and it also has fewer calories. If the pastry is supposed to taste just as sweet, you have to use more maple syrup than sugar. Things are different with agave syrup: it has a higher sweetening power than sugar, so you can reduce the amount of agave syrup by a quarter. Due to its high fructose content, the pastry turns brown faster and more intensely. The following also applies to maple syrup and agave syrup: depending on the type of pastry and the recipe, the viscous consistency ensures that the dough can become too liquid. Therefore, it is recommended - especially for recipes with large amounts of sugar - to replace only a part with thick juice or syrup and / or to reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe (e.g. milk or oil).
Birch sugar is also known as xylitol and is one of the sugar substitutes. It tastes like conventional sugar, can also be dosed in the same way, but contains fewer calories. While batter and shortcrust pastry with birch sugar work quite well, yeast dough with birch sugar does not work so well. Erythritol is also a sugar substitute - with the difference that it contains no calories. Erythritol in the form of powdered sugar is more suitable for baking than the crystalline form. Since it has a lower sweetness than table sugar, you might have to use more erythritol than sugar.
The calorie-free sweetener stevia is only suitable for baking in the form of sprinkling sweetness, since otherwise the dough lacks the necessary volume and the baking result is hardly satisfactory.
When choosing a product, you should take into account that e.g. Coconut blossom sugar, agave syrup and maple syrup are not local products, but have very long transport routes behind them. The sweetening alternatives mentioned are neither cheaper nor healthier per se than table sugar. Hedda Thielking, resp