There is really nothing that can replace real sugar when it comes to baking, especially when it comes to sweets and pastries. Sugar sweetens, enhances other flavors and acts as a preservative in most baked goods. It also adds a lot of calories that not everyone wants and can, for other medical reasons, be off-limits to some people. There are lots of sugar alternatives on the market, but when it comes to baking, do any of them really stack up? In this month’s issue of Eating Well, their test kitchen tackled this very question, testing sucralose (Splenda), xylitol (XyloSweet),erythritol (Sun Crystals/ZSweet) and stevia in batches of “‘sugar’ cookies.”
The test kitchen used the substitutions recommended by the manufacturer in each case and came up with the unsurprising result that none of the sweeteners really stacked up to sugar. In the photo above, you can see the Splenda, Stevia, xylitol and sugar cookies, from left to right. Splenda cookies were sweet, but looked and felt nothing like the “real” sugar cookies. The xylitol cookies were also acceptably sweet to taste testers, but were way too soft to compare to the original. Erythritol didn’t do well in taste, texture, appearance or sweetness in cookies, and neither did Stevia, which was judged to be “unacceptable” on all counts.
It is worth noting, however, that the Splenda baking blend did turn out a pretty good result compared to regular cookies, so it sounds as though that would be the best option to experiment with if you really want to use artificial sweeteners.