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EW bakes with sugar substitutes

Eating Well’s ’sugar’ cookies

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.

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  • Lisa (Homesick Texan)
    January 11, 2008

    That’s a shame about stevia since it’s probably the healthiest choice out of the lot, but I’m not surprised.

  • Tracy
    January 11, 2008

    Did any of the testers mention the “fizzing” with Splenda? When I was pregnant I had gestational diabetes, and so I experimented with Splenda to make some cookies I could actually eat. The cookies didn’t turn out well, but the most disconcerting thing was that, when I added the Splenda to the butter to cream it, the whole mixture fizzed. It was really off-putting!

    Needless to say, I didn’t do much baking while diabetic for that short period!

  • Jamie
    January 11, 2008

    One time I made a fat free sugar free cheesecake and it turned out so chalky and gross tasting. I used fat free cream cheese and sweet and low (the stuff in the pink packets) yucky. I guess I should have been aware that sweet and low isn’t really good for baking. My grandma said it was good but I just couldn’t believe that. yuck.

  • pumpkinpie
    January 11, 2008

    I made a magic peanut butter hot fudge cake once. It was supposed to end up with a fudge sauce underneath and peanut butter cake on top. My version with Splenda baking blend ended up with the sauce on top and cake on bottom, very dense and flat. Sugar also acts as a leavener.

  • Zoe
    January 20, 2008

    I use Splenda all the time in cooking and baking. But I wouldn’t use it 100% in something like sugar cookies, where the sugar is the main flavor and the artificial taste (and texture) is going to be really noticeable. I use it more in things that have other flavors going on to help it blend in, like cinnamon or fruit or chocolate or nuts.

  • chris
    January 10, 2009

    Not surprising about Stevia. It does have anti-diabetic effects but its more of a medicine than a sweetener.

  • Jalie
    January 29, 2009

    I think you should research stevia more. You have to use more fiber in it. I found NuNatural with fiber and made chocolate chip cookies and they were delicious. I google sugar cookies to perhaps make some with Stevia and found this site and think maybe sugar cookies should stay just that. The Japanese have been sweetening their coke with stevia for the last 25 -30 yrs..It has no calories, wont cause cavities or raise blood sugar. There are powder forms and liquid forms. OUR government wont let it be sold as a sweetener and only a supplement because sugar is such a big business and the sugar lobbyists etc…John Tesh mentioned a study in which 3 out of 28 rats preferred sugar over cocaine. Stevia is called Honey Leaf – it is a plant that grows in Paraguay. I don’t think there are any side effects. You know you could chew on sugar cane all day long and not get cavities. Processing the sugar removes all the nutrients out of it and makes it practically poisonous. Stevia is more than just a supplement but because of the FDA it can only be labeled as such. There are recipes on the web. read more about it. It about as controversial as using Hemp to make the best kind of paper there is. If you find out who will lose money over such things you’ll find out who is keeping the public uniformed and some things illegal.

  • Jen B
    March 17, 2009

    I have been using a new product called Stevia Extract in the Raw for baking. I made these delicous peanut butter cookies with it and my kids could not even tell. You can cut at least 20 calories per cookie by substituting Stevia Extract in the Raw for sugar. Check the recipe out at http://www.steviaextractintheraw.com

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