Stevia

I left this out during sugar week, but a few readers out there asked if I’d mention it. I don’t really want to go down the slippery slope of non-sugar sweeteners since there are a lot of them. But stevia is extremely popular these days so…why not?

Stevia, as I mentioned, is not a sugar. It has nothing even sugar-like in it. It’s an extract from the sweetleaf plant that goes by the technical name of steviol glycoside. It’s incredible powerful stuff. The pure form clocks in at something like 300 times the sweetness of sugar, though packaged stevia is only about 50 times as sweet as an ingredient. Even so a mere teaspoon will replace an entire cup of sugar.

But to say a chemical compound is sweet doesn’t necessarily mean it performs like table sugar — especially in baking applications. Stevia is funny in that its sweet flavor comes on much slower than table sugar, so in that sense it’s not quite an equivalent. Then there’s the question of bulk. Sugar does a lot more than make, say, a muffin sweet. It acts as a moisture-retainer and its sheer weight provides a counterbalance to the leavening. So if you’re wanting to bake with stevia you need to take the various factors into account. Many people add apple sauce, yogurt or pulped fruit to compensate.

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5 Responses to Stevia

  1. Linda says:

    I was encouraged to try it once and hated it. Others kept telling me how much they liked it. Then I discovered it has a slight licorice flavor and that cleared things up. I hate licorice anything. Maybe others have had the same aversion. If you don’t like licorice, that is probably why.

  2. Jane says:

    I also find that – like most of the non-sugar sweeteners – stevia tastes almost but not entirely *unlike* sugar (to paraphrase Douglas Adams). Really, if I’m going to worry about the sugar content of my food, I’d rather eat real sugar less often than try to replace it with something else. (And avoid commercial products that put sweeteners in places they have no right to be, but that’s a different rant entirely.)

  3. Ryan Turner says:

    I find stevia tastes extremely unsatisfying. Sure, it is detectably “sweet”, but only in the most technical definition of the word.

    Just not the same.

  4. Antuanete says:

    I was also trying stevia in various baked goods and wasn’t really excited. One problem is, I bought really concentrated stuff, 90% stevia in powder form, and it makes hard to mix that stuff in dough (less concentrated powder or syrup would be better for beginners). Also, I found out that combining stevia with tart fruits or berries (apples, cranberries etc.) creates weird, sour flavor on tongue (I don’t associate it with licorice, though).

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