Hit the Sweet Spot: Holiday Baking with Less Sugar
Updated: Apr 1, 2022
The 2020 holiday season is taking us in all-new directions (insert no kidding lady eye roll here). No matter how this season is coming at you, one new direction could be finding the “sweet spot” in your holiday baking.
Sugar is a mixed bag and is a trigger word in the nutrition world. Sugar is necessary for the food science of how baking works, but it’s also a negative in health science when we consume too much of it.
So how do we find the perfect balance of creating great-tasting and texture baked goods, without over-shooting it on sugar content?
As a general rule, most baked goods can handle a 25% sugar reduction in what the recipe calls for. Some recipes, if made with whole grains (a little sturdier), can go as low as a 1/3 reduction in sugar before you have to start adding other things like fruit purees.
Easiest items to cut back on sugar? Pies, custards, compotes don’t rely on the food science chemical reaction of sugar as much. It’s about just finding the right flavor balance.
Reduction of sugar works best in recipes with other strong flavors such as chocolate, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, citrus, and roasted nuts.
Quickbreads and cakes can handle a bit of sugar reduction and taste great. They most likely won’t last as long due to drying out quicker. Sugar keeps baked goods moist.
With artificial (non-nutritive) sweeteners, I often go towards the side of caution. As a dietitian, I’ve looked at the research and it’s still a mixed bag. If going that route straight up Stevia or monk fruit powder are best bets, but I try to focus on whole food ingredients. Experiment with sweeteners such as honey, agave, maple syrup, and fruit purees. While those all contain natural sugar, you can often useless, and they provide moisture and the ability to reduce some of the fat in the recipes as well.
What doesn’t work as well with sugar reduction? Candy because sugar is the primary ingredient. This year you could skip the candy recipes or choose to make a smaller batch. Ice cream or frozen desserts don’t work well either as sugar is the ingredient that keeps the dessert from freezing solid.
Try out this holiday recipe that hits the sweet spot in sugar reduction! Great to give in gift bags as well! Cheers to good health and a positive 2021 ahead! Holiday Cranberry