Guest Post: No Sugar, No Baking? by Heather Cosby

Heather is back and I’m so glad. She did a little scientific experiment for us. The hypothesis: You can still produce delicious baked goods without the sugar.

Like I said in my first post, I love to bake. In fact, I thought that if I had some success with baking without using sugar, I might be able to keep up this challenge for more than a month. So I rounded up my favorite assistant and the friend we had over and started in on this recipe for oatmeal banana muffins. I’ll admit I was a little skeptical about the proportions in this recipe, but I thought I’d stick to the original for my first foray into sugar-free baking with one little change: substituting maple syrup for the 1 tbsp of sugar.

The girls were giddy with excitement as they took turns dumping in the flour, peeling bananas, and turning on the mixer. As we finished up, I stuck a finger in the batter while the girls weren’t looking and took a little taste. Plainly stated, it was disgusting. I threw in another tablespoon of syrup and another banana to sweeten it up. Still gross. I thought maybe baking them would decrease the bitter, soapy flavor of all that baking powder in there and bring out the sweetness of the bananas. Dead wrong. They just tasted like flour.

But, the girls loved them and gobbled them up (proof that kids will eat most anything as long as they’re involved in the making of it). That evening, I saved a handful for Anna, threw the rest away, and tried again with this recipe for sugar-free carrot cake from 101 Cookbooks, a site I knew I could rely on. My only substitution here was raisins instead of dates, since that’s what I had on hand. I was encouraged by her description of the cake, not to mention the pictures, and yet, when I realized that 2 1/2 tsps of baking powder was just 1/2 tsp shy of the previous recipe’s tablespoon, I grew wary. I soldiered on but… I was thwarted once again. Though slightly more palatable, due to the butter I think, these were nothing I’d want to make again. According to this site, sugar tenderizes baked goods by stealing all the moisture that would otherwise glutenize the flour, so while I was wanting soft, light fruit muffins, I was making dense, glutened fruit bread.

I will say this. The frosting was to die for. If you take nothing else from this month of self-denial, remember this little proportion: 2 oz cream cheese to 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup. Whip with a whisk till creamy. Your future pancakes, carrot cakes, waffles, apple-spice muffins, and ginger cookies will thank you. Your self-control will not.

ps I’m not as brave as Heather and haven’t even tried any sugar-free baking, outside of my normal bread. Anybody have a success story to share? — tmr

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3 Comments

  1. http://stayandeat.blogspot.com/2010/09/poor-mans-cake.html

    Heather, I just posted this recipe that I’ve made several times for Peter. It has honey, and I don’t know if that counts for you.

    [Reply]

  2. I wasn’t sure about honey. I know it has essentially the same nutritional equivalent as sugar, whereas pure maple syrup has about 2/3 the sugar content. But honey certainly has lots of other good qualities that sugar doesn’t and is tried and true in baking. So have at it!

    Here’s another honey recipe a friend emailed me after reading this post. It’s got a cute back story as well.

    Are you allowed to use honey in your recipes or does that qualify as sugar? Here is a recipe that my kids love that I make pretty often. Good luck! I did no sugar for an entire school year once. It was a bet I had going on with my young women… they didn’t kiss for the school year and a few leaders and I didn’t eat sugar. It was a serious competition and so fun. The good thing for me is that I don’t love to bake so that part didn’t bother me. But I do love to eat sugar so it was a crazy difficult challenge. Wish I could get the courage to do it again!

    Jenny’s Super Healthy Muffins

    3 c Whole wheat flour

    4 Ripe bananas

    1 c Unsweetened apple sauce

    1/2 c Butter (softened)

    3 Eggs

    1 c Sour milk (put a tsp of lemon juice in milk

    to make it sour)

    1 T Baking soda

    1 T Baking powder

    1 T Cinnamon

    1 1/2 c Honey

    1 c Chopped nuts (optional)

    Mix ingredients all together well. Bake in greased and floured pan on 350 degrees. For mini muffins, cook approx. 17 minutes. For a loaf pan, cook approx. 35-45 minutes. Check with a knife in the center.

    [Reply]

  3. Heather, I am loving your guest posts– your writing is hilarious. And by the way, your girls are adorable. Thanks for “taking one for the team” with these recipe trials. How funny that your girls still ate and enjoyed the “failure.” I can’t wait to try the cream cheese frosting recipe.

    [Reply]

    lizzie Reply:

    Ditto on the cream cheese frosting. Sounds amazing. And so easy. Wow.

    [Reply]

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