Americans use more sweeteners than anybody else in the world, says the USDA, and baking without sweeteners is not an option. What is an option is using “good” sweeteners in baking products.
Health conscience bakers should determine the various roles sweeteners provide in their baked goods and how sweet a baking product should be.
The sweetness standard in the U.S. is common table sugar, technically called sucrose, which comes from beets and cane. Neither performs better, but for melting caramelizing, cane sugar melts easier.
Common types of Baking Sweeteners
It’s best to use the sweetener a recipe calls for, but six natural sweeteners are kitchen ready.
Brown sugar is made with beat or cane sugars and molasses is added to provide a moist and firm product. Brown sugar is divided into light and dark, with the dark containing a little more molasses and produces a stronger flavor.
Thick and sweet corn syrup also comes in dark and light versions, and again the dark is stronger flavored.
Everyday granulated sugar is an all-purpose product that is refined and all molasses is removed.
Sugar that is granulated to fine crystals is called superfine sugar and is best in cakes and meringues.
Other types of baking sweeteners
Molasses is a sugar by-product of sugar’s refining process. This sweetener has three forms, dark, light and blackstrap. Light molasses is light in flavor, while dark has a richer flavor and blackstrap is bitter and not used in most baking.
Honey, thick and very sweet product courtesy of bees, adds a unique flavor to baked products and is used without whipping in recipes. Should honey crystallize in storage, simply put the open jar in a pan with hot water and the honey will return to its liquid state.
Confectioner’s sugar, commonly known as powdered sugar, is ground finely. It contains cornstarch to help blending and mixing but it can contain lumps, which need to be sifted out.
What Sugars Do in Baking
Without sugar, baked goods would not turn out anything like we’re accustomed to.
Yes, they make baking goods sweet … and golden brown, a chemical process called the “Maillard reaction.” Sugar when it’s heated reacts with proteins from other recipe ingredients
Not to get too technical, but sugar is hygroscopic, meaning it attracts and hold water molecules, which are suspended evenly in the baking batter. This is what makes batter turn from soggy to moist, crispy edges on cookies and cakes.
Using too little sugar causes crumbing and baking goods won’t properly brown, which is why sugar substitutes don’t work in baking, and the flavor is weak.
Too much sugar causes browning to occur too fast and the interior is not completely baked, making the end product heavy.