The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How to bake without sugar

skanandron's picture
skanandron

How to bake without sugar

I'm looking to start baking with honey, agave, maple syrup and/or stevia tea instead of sugar.  I especially like the idea of using stevia tea as a sweetener.  I can easily use the tea in place of water.  If I'm using milk as a liquid, I can still make a stevia infusiuon.

What impact will removing the sugar have on non-yeast baked goods (I'm thinking muffins at the moment)?  Do I need to reduce the liquid, or replace the sugar with another solid, like more flour?  If so, would one flour work better than another?  Are there any other adjustments I need to make?  Would it make a difference if I use honey, agave, or maple syrup instead of, or with the stevis tea?

Thank you

 

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

Honey may be 'natural' and considered by some to be 'healthy', but it is just a concentrated form of sugar, as is maple syrup.  If you're using sugar substitutes because of diabetes, I'd just cut down on the sugar in the recipe by about a third, and eat less.

skanandron's picture
skanandron

I'm not concerned about diabetes.  I just don't think we need so much sugar in our diets. 

I don't expect to use much honey.  It does have health benefits, but most of those are lost when the honey is heated.  So I get my honey raw, from a local apiary.  I may use maple syrup now and then for flavor, but mostly I'd like to avoid the sugar entirely.  Which leaves me with stevia tea, and my original question of how would I need to modify a recipe if I were to remove all the sugar?  If the type of recipe matters, I'm looking at making breakfast muffins.  The amount of sugar most recipes call for isn't trivial, so how do I compensate for it's removal?

clazar123's picture
clazar123

If sugar plays a major role in the texture of a product, then there are no good substitutions. If it is merely a sweetener and the texture is not an issue, then it can be done. Adding a syrup like agave,honey or maple syrup (or even sorghum or molasses) will definitely affect the texture of a baked product. More forgiving baked goods might be dense cakes or breads like brownies,scones,biscuits or sweet breads (like banana bread), waffles,puddings, creams,fruit desserts and sauces. Light,fluffy goods will be trickier or not possible.  Light,cakey muffins may not be possible unless you use a commercial cake mix (sugar free) but with all other kinds of unpronounceable stuff.I'm not so sure it is a "healthier" alternative.

My recommendation is to choose one item, kepp a log and make it over and over until you get a recipe and product you like. Then move on. Google for what role the ingredients actually play in forming the product,also. Why do we add oil instead of butter? Why do we add milk instead of water? What happens if I DON"T incorporate all the eggs individually? These are only a few questions-there are tons more.

An alternate choice when it comes to reducing sugar in your diet is to just eat less sugar of any kind.Natural does not mean less calories. And that means less of the baked goods altogether. I went a year with no added sugar and no sweets.That was tough and some days went better than others.  I have come to view sugar (and fat and salt and starches) as being addictive. Withdrawal is painful! The exercise was such an eye opener into  how important it is to just eat balanced. Now I consume sugar but it does not consume me. Same with fat,starch or salt. I enjoy what I eat and eat only what I enjoy. My palate is totally different. I find I actually dislike many of the things I used to think of as "good tasting" food.

HAve delicious fun!

skanandron's picture
skanandron

Thank you.

You and I seem to be of like mind in many things (although fat and salt are both necessary).  The muffins aren't for me, but for my husband for breakfast.  He has a two hour train commute to work, and likes muffins for breakfast.  I want to work on a much better muffin then he's able to get now.  He takes in more sugar than I like, so I'd like to try to remove it from his muffins. 

I avoid artificial intredients, and won't use any sugar substitute.  Stevia is an herb.  I have an organic source, and I sometimes grow it in my garden.  It contains no sugar, very few calories, and doesn't have the impact on the body that sugar has.  I don't trust the process that turnes a green herb into a white powder, so I don't buy it in the store, I use the herb itself.  Hence the tea.

Is sugar a factor in the texture of muffins?

 

 

tgnytg's picture
tgnytg

A major component of flour is starch.  Starch is a polysaccharide molecule, meaning that it is composed of a chain of many, many sugar molecules linked together into a stable form that grains and plants use to store energy. Through digestion, starch is broken down into it's component molecules and enters the bloodstream as simple sugar. The sugar in a muffin is a small proportion of the total carbohydrates. The big difference from a dietary point of view is that starch is absorbed into the bloodstream slowly while sugar is absorbed more quickly (sugar has a higher glycemic index than starch).

If you are looking to reduce the amount of sugar consumed, you should really consider eliminating flour (and therefore almost all baked goods) from your diet.

If you are looking to reduce carbohydrates (sugar), I suggest you look into diabetic or low-carb (such as Atkins) foods.

Also, sugar is hygroscopic meaning that it absorbs water. If you eliminate sugar, you may need to also decrease the amount of liquid in the recipe.

Cheers, TomG

Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

If there is a lot of sugar in a recipe, sugar provides structure and tenderness to the bread, which stevia tea won't provide.  Sugar also holds on to moisture and keeps breads from drying out as quickly. Some 'muffin' recipes are really as sweet as cake, so I'd stay away from those as a prototype.  Perhaps try a savory muffin as your base recipe, which won't have much sugar in it or maybe none, and use the stevia tea as a sweetener there, and other ingredients like cinnamon, etc., or whatever you are liking.

Have fun experimenting!

Yumarama's picture
Yumarama

The sugar in (American type) muffins is typically included with the fats, salt, spices and beaten get a "creamed" batter which incorporates some air when the sugar crystals are bounced around the other ingredients. Removing the sugar from that process will change the texture of the muffin and likely will give you a more compact product that also isn't as moist - sugar is hygroscopic, meaning it attracts and holds water. This moisture-holding ability also helps keep the muffin (or other baked items) fresh longer.

Can you make something muffin-ish without sugar? Sure you can. Will your husband like the muffin-like product? One way to find out... make some with stevia instead.

And be prepared to argue that "different" doesn't mean not good. It might take some time to get used to the new texture and taste.

---

Edit: LOL - looks like three of us all chimed in with the same sort of points at the same time. 

skanandron's picture
skanandron

I think I'm getting a handle on this.  I took another poster's advice and looked up what the ingredients do.  It seems the sugar also holds the gluten in the flour in check.

So... Maybe I could start replacing the sugar with a low glycemic flour.  Would adding food grade glycerin help compensate for the hygroscopic action of the sugar?

I'm going to try this, replacing a little of the sugar at a time and see what that does. 

mimifix's picture
mimifix

You're on the right track in looking at muffins. Originally, these baked goods had very little fat and sweetener. Contrary to popular ideas, it's very possible to make tender baked goods with little or no sugar. A while back I posted a muffin recipe that used one tablespoon of honey but you can leave it out and just add one extra tablespoon water. Also, try using fruits or juice concentrates (the ones with no added sugar).

Mimi   http://bakingfix.com/thefix/?p=499

 

Silverfox's picture
Silverfox

I know where your coming from in terms of reducing your refined sugars, I have not used granulated sugar as a sweetener for almost 2 years, I have been using xylitol. I made 100 % whole wheat (fresh ground at home) apple muffins using honey as the recipe calls for, my next batch will be sweetened with xylitol as an experiment. I have used it for baking other dishes but not breads or cakes.

gerhard's picture
gerhard

Xylitol and other sugar alcohols have laxative effect on folks and also produce a gassy stomach, if you are not diabetic that may be too high a price to pay for the calorie savings.

Gerhard

Silverfox's picture
Silverfox

I'm not a doctor but I'd rather have a bit of gas than contract diabetes, it's a horrible disease to have to live with as well as huge finacial burden, my husband was insulin dependent, as well as my mother and grandmother. All the processed refined foods these days are packed with sugar, I just want to reduce refined sugar as much as I can where I can.

Ginny

gerhard's picture
gerhard

Ginny the original poster mentioned that he was wanting to cut highly refined sugar for reasons other than diabetes.  I also said if I was not diabetic I would not choose sugar alcohol sweeteners, eaten in sufficient quantity they can have a quite violent laxative effect which is not at all pleasant.  Given the choice I would always choose the more natural product, although alcohol of sugar is made from natural products they are in a form completely unfamiliar to the human digestive system which is why many experience side effects. 

Just my opinion

Gerhard

Silverfox's picture
Silverfox

I know what the original poster  asked, you brought up diabetes.

Just my opinion.

ananda's picture
ananda

Hello skanandron

You may wish to bear in mind that the syrups you mention will have a moisture content, whereas sugar does not.   If you work on 20% moisture, you will be about right.   Use this figure as a means to re-balance your formula, both in terms of the amount of sweetness, and the amount of moisture re-djustments needed.

I would also back up rainbowz's comment about sugar as an aerator in cake mixing where creaming is used.   Syrups will not work like this.   You may need to add more baking powder to achieve correct aeration in muffins.

Best wishes

Andy

Redmer's picture
Redmer

I'm a newbie. Used to bake with Grandma when I was a kid and trying to bring it all back. In those days, we didn't care about sugar content. But now, I'm cooking for my diabetic mother. 91 years old and on dialysis. 

I don't know if I need to eliminate all sugar. She currently eats white bread with 2 grams of sugar. I am mostly curious how to know the sugar content of a cooked loaf. 1 teaspoon of sugar = 5 grams but I know the yeast converts sugar. 

So, what rate does yeast convert sugar? If a recipe call for 1 tablespoon PDF sugar, how hat will the sugar content of the loaf be?

thanks for any help!

gerhard's picture
gerhard

It is a mistake to just consider the sugar you put in the recipe, the starch in the flower is a larger source of cabohydrates.

Gerhard

Redmer's picture
Redmer

I understand but am trying to learn the sugar content of the baked loaf, after the yeast has converted the sugar.

 

suave's picture
suave

This is not a simple question since the yeast will not always need sugar (sucrose) as the source of food.

Redmer's picture
Redmer

Thanks for the replies.

I think I'm getting a handle on this, but is there a way to know the end sugar content of a loaf based on the amount of sugar called out in ingredients?

gerhard's picture
gerhard

I don't think there is an answer to your questions, during the proofing process enzymes will be converting starch to sugar, how quickly this occurs and how many enzymes are present will vary as will how much sugar the yeast will consume.  In general if you are making a sourdough that has long cold fermentation more starch will be converted than a recipe that contains commercial yeast and a short warm proofing period.

Gerhard

Redmer's picture
Redmer

Ah! Got it! I wasn't thinking of the starch to sugar conversion. Thanks for bearing with a newbie!