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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Experiments with Xylitol

Xylitol?  What is Xylitol?  Until recently, I had never heard of the stuff.  I've come to learn that Xylitol is, "Xylitol is an all natural sweetener that looks and tastes like sugar. Xylitol is naturally occuring in many fruits and vegetables. Once extracted and processed it yields a white, crystalline granule that can be used in any recipe that calls for sugar." (Source: Emerald Forest Sugar).  The people at Emerald Forest sent me a sample of their sweetener and I put it to the test in two recipes.  I'm not being compensated for mentioned this item on my blog, but I did receive the product for free.  The following represents my opinion based on using the product in two recipes.

First, I used the "Best Brownies" recipe found on their website here.  I wanted to use a website directly from the source the first time before I began experimenting.  The only change I made was to use regular all purpose flour instead of whole wheat pastry flour.  I also omitted the nuts, and used butter instead of vegetable oil (the recipe said either/or).  Additionally, I skipped the cream cheese frosting that was also in the recipe.
The results?
The resulting brownies were much more cake-like than brownie-like.  They were pretty dry and a bit on the bitter side.  Though, perhaps that is because I skipped the cream cheese frosting, which I'm sure would have helped in those areas.  If I were eating these because I was diabetic and needed a low or no sugar brownie recipe, this would not be the recipe to satisfy my brownie craving.  

Since I wasn't overly excited with the results of my first Xylitol experiment, I decided to make cookies, too.  This time, I adapted a recipe for Peanut-Butter Cookies with Xylitol liberally.  The original can be found here.  The change I made was to add unsweetened cocoa powder and add a small amount of vegetable oil to make up for the extra dry ingredients.  To get a true comparison, I prepared the dough with everything besides the Xylitol.  Then I split the dough in half.  In one half I used real sugar and in the other I used Xylitol.  I kept this a secret though, as I didn't want to influence my taste tester!

Here is a side by side of the two cookies:
on the left is the Xylitol cookie, on the right is the cookie with real sugar
You can see a color difference between the two cookies.

The biggest difference in the cookies, though, was consistency.  While the real sugar brownies seemed to bake normally and dry out a bit, the Xylitol cookie seemed to remain unchanged after its time in the oven.  Even after baking (with extra time added to the recipe) the dough was still very wet and seemingly raw-dough-like.

I gave the husband the moister Xylitol one to sample first.  Then I gave him the real sugar cookie.  He didn't know I used Xylitol in the cookies at all!  Surprisingly, he said while he didn't like the flavor of either of the cookies, he said he preferred the first cookie (Xylitol cookie) over the second one.

So, as you can see, I'm still really undecided about using Xylitol in baked goods.  I think it affects the consistency and texture of baked desserts considerably.  I'll have to give it another try before I make up my mind about it.  However, I do think this would be good in drinks, like Sweet Tea or even a homemade Lemonade.  I intend to try this out soon and will post the results here!

Emerald Forest was nice enough to offer bloggers and blog readers a coupon code for use on their website.  So, if you are interested in giving Xylitol a try make sure to enter the coupon code "FIRST" at checkout on Emerald Forest's website.  


Cupcake Activist said...

I'm a little weary of sugar substitutes, especially when it comes to baking. I like the real stuff.

Rachel Lynn said...

While I've never used Xylitol and don't know much about it, I would definitely recommend doing more research into it before deciding to switch over. Keep in mind that while it occurs "naturally" in fruits, the refining process used to get it to the point at which the consumer gets it might not be so healthy.


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