What better time than the holidays to expand your baking horizons with natural sweeteners? After all, they have the sweetening power of white and brown sugars, plus unique flavors that make cookies, pies, cakes, and quick breads rich, complex, and deliciously satisfying. The following recipes capitalize on the taste and texture of four common natural sweeteners. If you want to try substituting them in your own recipes, check out the substitution list below. Then simply keep the sweeteners on hand to make baking with them as easy as reaching into the cupboard.
SWEET SWAPS Honey Use 3/4 cup honey per 1 cup sugar, and reduce the liquid used (e.g., milk, water) by 1/4 cup if using more than 1 cup honey in a recipe. Check baked goods 10 minutes before the end of cooking time; honey can make them brown faster. BEST IN: Raw treats that preserve honey's natural enzymes, quick breads, muffins, and spice cakes.
Brown rice syrup Replace equal amounts of brown rice syrup for sugar, and reduce liquid amounts by 2 Tbs. for every cup of brown rice syrup used.
BEST IN: Custards and pie fillings. Avoid in baked goods because the enzymes used to make the syrup may interfere with baking powder.
Maple syrup Use equal amounts of maple syrup for refined sugar, then reduce the liquid used by 3 Tbs. for every cup of maple syrup.
BEST IN: Desserts that call for oats or dried fruits, which absorb liquid.
Date sugar Use equal amounts date sugar for refined sugar.
BEST IN: Cookies, quick breads, and oatmeal bars. Date sugar won't dissolve completely in liquid, so use it in recipes where the color and bits of texture are a plus.