At my favorite local coffee shop there is a sign in front of the banana muffins saying “Sugar-Free”. I asked the girl, who was waiting for my order, if they were sweetened with anything besides bananas. ”Oh ya, agave”. ”So they’re not sugar-free, they’re just cane-sugar free.” I reasoned, to an unreceptive audience…. Sugar is sugar my friends! Whether it’s cane sugar, agave, coconut sugar – they all contain roughly the same number of calories and have a similar effect on your blood sugar. I don’t even think foods sweetened with honey should be allowed to call themselves “sugar-free” - which they often do. And forget the fake stuff; if it’s sweetened with artificial sugar it should be legally required to prominently state on the front of the package, “Sweetened with Chemicals”. (The one exception is stevia, which has no calories but is not artificial, though I do have some flavor reservations, so don’t recommend it for baking.)
The only grounds on which I think you should be allowed to use the “Sugar Free” claim is when extracted sugar is not added. So I proudly present to you, sugar-free banana bread – made without a drop of added sugar (or oil!) and yes! it is sweet and moist and unbelievably good.
The trick to getting away with using less sugar is to use extremely ripe bananas whose starch has been largely been converted to sugar, ie. the kind of bananas the fruit flies love. I also add apple sauce (homemade and unsweetened) which lends more natural sweetness and moisture hence eliminating the need for oil. (I add eggs so there is some wonderfully nutritious “oil” that you’ll get from the yolks without needing additional butter or vegetable oil.) I use vanilla powder (not extract), cinnamon and nutmeg, all which tickle your sweet-receptors and make you think the bread is sweeter than it is.
Any great tricks you’ve found for reducing the need for added sugar in foods, especially baking? Any egregious labeling “liberties” you’ve noticed with respect to sugar-free etc?
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