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How to Replace Sugar With Agave in Baking

By Fred Decker

Sweet treats are one of life's simple pleasures, but the very ingredients responsible for baked goods' allure -- fat, sugar and starch -- also provide compelling reasons to minimize your consumption. Eating sweets only in moderation is the quickest way to reduce their impact on your health, but finding healthier substitutions for common ingredients is also helpful. For example, many bakers use agave nectar as a substitute for conventional sugars. Agave's pure, sweet flavor doesn't alter the taste of your baked goods, and its low glycemic index means you can enjoy them without spiking your blood sugar.

Measure 2/3 cup of agave syrup for every cup of granulated sugar called for in your recipe. Reduce the other liquids in your recipe by 1/4 to 1/3 cup if it originally called for white sugar, or by 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup if it originally called for brown sugar.

Mix the agave syrup thoroughly into the fat or liquids called for in your recipe, whichever is more practical. This ensures that the sweetener is thoroughly blended into your dough or batter, resulting in a more consistent texture.

Spray your pans heavily with pan spray, grease and flour them, or line them with parchment paper. Baked goods made with agave are more likely to stick, and diligence in preparing your pans will make it easier for them to unmold.

Reduce your baking temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit, if necessary. Agave-sweetened baked goods brown more quickly than sugar-sweetened recipes, so sometimes it's necessary to bake in a cooler oven and increase the baking time slightly.

Tips

Using all agave will change the texture of your baked goods, leaving cookies cakelike instead of crisp or chewy, and giving butter-based cakes a denser crumb. If texture is more important to you than low GI, start by replacing only half of the sugar in your cakes and a third of the sugar in your cookies. As you gain experience in baking with agave, you'll learn which recipes adapt well to higher proportions of the nectar.

Agave can be used as a direct 1:1 replacement for other liquid sweeteners. Pale agave is sweet and almost flavorless, while amber or golden agave has a pleasant caramel flavor. This makes golden agave a better replacement for brown sugar, which is a flavoring agent as well as a sweetener.

Unless you're a skilled and experienced baker, start with recipes that have already been tweaked to take advantage of agave's strengths. Once you're comfortable using agave, you can begin adapting your own recipes.

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