The cause of many failed recipes is bad ingredients. Not bad as in spoiled or expired; bad as in low-quality or the wrong ingredient.
High-quality and the correct ingredients are the difference between a delicious recipe and a…well, disaster. Or at least a low-quality product.
Today, we’ll be looking at all non-sugar sweeteners. For the many, many types of sugar (and when to use them), see previous post here: “Ingredients Matter: Sugars.“
Corn syrup: made from cornstarch that is converted into corn sugar and then turned into a liquid. Used in icings and candies. Adds moisture and smoothness to baked goods.
-Light: clarified and flavored with vanilla; used in baking (can be used interchangeably with dark).
-Dark: more pronounced caramel flavor (can be used interchangeably with light).
Honey: nearly the same, in terms of sweetness, as granulated sugar. Flavor is determined by the type of flowers harvested by bees: thus you can find some very creative honeys to use. (Lavender honey is particularly popular here in WA state where I live.) However, as it is of a different substance (liquid rather than granules), it will have an effect on how the product bakes. In particular, use caution with making cookies. It is difficult (and impossible with some recipes) to get light, fluffy cookies if you substitute honey.
Maple syrup: boiled down sap from sugar maple trees. Make sure you buy “pure maple syrup,” not flavored corn syrup. General rule: the lighter the color, the milder the flavor.
Molasses: residue/by-product created during the sugar refining process. The juice that remains after sugar crystals are removed is boiled down further to create molasses. Sold sulfured (stronger, more robust flavor) and unsulfured (milder and lighter flavor; best choice for baking). Three strengths: light, dark, and blackstrap. Most recipes will use light.
Sorghum: made from sorghum cane juice. Often used in South (of United States).
Syrups, misc.: you can find syrups from a variety of products: almond, coconut, and rice are just a few. Should a recipe call for it, look in a speciality market -or- look online & find a substitute.
Treacle: comes in light or black. Easiest to find in United Kingdom. Basically the same as molasses.
*Note: artificial sweeteners are often used in cooking and baking in an attempt to “diet down” the recipes. And manufacturers (and chemist) are getting better at producing substitutes. However, I generally prefer to stick with the real stuff, and eat in moderation. But for those with health concerns, I will (probably) be doing future posts on “Healthy Substitutes.”
*A rough substitute guide is to substitute honey or other liquid sweetener for granulated sugar, use 3/4 C. honey per 1 C. sugar -and- reduce the total liquid in the recipe by 1/4 C. (if no liquid is called for, add an extra 1/4 C. flour). Make substitutions with caution, though, as the “make-up” of the ingredient (such as sugar being granulated) greatly affects recipe results.