Sugar is not the only option when it comes to sweeteners for baking. Other sweeteners, natural sweeteners, have spread from the shelves of specialty stores to more mainstream ones, where they are more accessible than ever before. Agave syrup, for instance, is just one of many. The only drawback to having all these items available is that it can be difficult to figure out how to use them. Sugar will always be one of the mainstays of baking. Not only do most recipes call for it, but you can’t simply substitute any old natural sweetener in a sugar-based recipe and get similar results. Every sweetener has its own unique properties and requires special attention. Sweet!: From Agave to Turbinado, Home Baking with Every Kind of Natural Sugar and Sweetener is a cookbook that gives these sweeteners plenty of attention.
The cookbook starts off with a discussion of sugars and why they’re so important to baking, to give the book a jumping off place for a discussion of other sugars/sweeteners and the characteristics that they can impart to a baked good. There are some recipes that use everyday sugars, and from there the recipes go on to include “specialty” sugars like demerara and muscovado, as well as other sweeteners. Some recipes call for a mix of sweeteners, while others only use sugar alternatives. Recipe categories include breakfasts, cakes, pies, custards, candies and frozen desserts, and there are even a few savory/main dish selections included to show the sweeteners’ versatility.
The cookbook is written by Mani Niall, the author of Sweet and Natural Baking and founder of Mani’s Bakery in LA, which specializes in using all natural sweeteners (and other healthy, all natural ingredients) in its cakes, cookies and other baked goods. There is something of a healthy slant to the cookbook, but it seems to be less overt than in the previous book. The recipes are easy to follow and most sound tempting, so it’s easy to see how a cookbook like this one could end up being something of a driving force in motivating home bakers to move out of a rut and experiment with something new in the kitchen.