How good are lower sugar baking recipes?

Raspberry honey frozen yogurt

Alternative sweeteners and lower-sugar desserts are all the rage, as evidenced by two popular new cookbooks - Baking with Less Sugar by Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery fame and Real Sweet by blogger Shauna Sever. Each aims to create delicious desserts using alternative sweeteners, unrefined sugar and/or less sugar. If you have been wondering just how well these alternative sweeteners work, how the lower sugar desserts taste, and whether the texture of cakes and other pastries will be negatively affected, we now have some answers.

T. Susan Chang (who formerly wrote the US portion of the monthly cookbook roundup on EYB) tackled the two cookbooks mentioned above in a recent review for The Washington Post. She made several recipes from each book and reported the results. One recipe that impressed her was Joanne Chang's Raspberry honey frozen yogurt, which she noted was "falling-off-a-log easy: pretty much like making a smoothie in the blender and then churning it in an ice cream maker." And the taste? Says Susie, the end product was "subtle, tart and versatile."

Turning to Real Sweet, Susie first tried a brownie recipe that called for muscovado sugar, an unrefined, molasses-rich product that is rather pricey. The dark sugar "gave Sever's Dark, Fudgy Muscovado Brownies a strong figgy undertone, but brownie mavens, take heed: these are really more caky and crumbly than fudgy." Susie tried a few other desserts from Real Sweet, but was more impressed with Joanne Chang's book.

So are these lower sugar baking books as revolutionary as they claim to be? As Susie notes, "to some extent at least, sweet is sweet," saying that she didn't notice a tremendous difference in the products versus those that have larger amounts of sugar or that use refined white sugar. Baking with Less Sugar has 16 online recipes, and Real Sweet will have several as well (it is indexing now), so you can sample these cookbooks to see if you agree.

Photo of Raspberry honey frozen yogurt by T. Susan Chang

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