Baking With Less Sugar

...And No Sacrifice of Flavour

I’ve been reducing the sugar in my baking for many years and I’m not alone.  The North American tolerance for sweetness has steadily increased. However, our palates are malleable and we have the power to bring it back down.  Still, I’m not willing to sacrifice the flavour of my desserts.  And my son Bram has the sweet tooth of Buddy the Elf, so when I adjust the sweetness of a recipe I walk a fine line.    

This recently released cookbook is a professional baker’s approach to the sugar conundrum.  Author Joanne Chang has credibility in this department.  I watched her beat celebrity chef Bobby Flay in a sticky bun throwdown many years ago and she is the owner of a number of busy bakeries in the Boston area.  Sugar is integral to her work but she was concerned about the health challenges posed by overconsumption and challenged herself to make successful desserts in alternative ways.  She was a Harvard math major and this contributes to her success.  Baking is after all, a chemical reaction based on a mathematical formula.  

The chapters are based on the sweetener, starting with white sugar in reduced amounts and moving to chocolate, honey, maple syrup and molasses and fruit.  I am curious to see how traditionally cavity-inducing Yellow Birthday Cake with Fluffy Chocolate Ganache Frosting works with less sugar.  Also Cinnamon Sugar Monkey Bread, Double Chocolate Whoopie Pies and Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches.  I have my eye on Fresh Peach Ricotta Tart for the summer.

This is not a diet book.  Much has been reported about how low fat sweets contained increased sugar, with dire consequences for obesity levels.  This book swings the pendulum, in many cases reducing the sugar and increasing the fat with crème fraiche, mascarpone cheese, etc.  The theory of this book is that reducing the sugar allows the other ingredients (nuts, chocolate, fruit) to shine and I tend to agree.  I tried Blueberry Bran Muffins and Cranberry-Cornmeal-Maple Bread for breakfast.  Both were good although the cranberry bread was more interesting.  Made with fresh cranberries and sweetened with maple syrup, this quick bread was reminiscent of pancakes.   I added orange zest for a pop of flavour.

Fudgy Mascarpone Brownies were just that – fudgy brownies with the sweetness of a 70% chocolate bar.  Kabocha Squash Spice Cake was moist and flavourful with warm spices and dates.  The level of sweetness led to some cognitive dissonance as my brain struggled to register it as dessert.   But I liked it, and so did Buddy the Elf.  It’s a process.

In my view, this book would be a thoughtful addition to your repertoire and worth a try.  Recommended?  Yes, for all of us who want to reduce sugar without sacrificing quality.


Categories: Book Review