Alternative Sweeteners Challenge

Maple-Honey Spice Cookies

Monday, February 23, 2009

maple-honey spice cookies

I wanted to make some thank-you cookies this evening and decided that this would be perfect for the Alternative Sweeteners Challenge.  I had a recipe I wanted to try adapting.  I thought it would be easy, since I saw that it called for honey and molasses; I’d just substitute maple syrup for molasses.  Then I noticed that it also called for more than twice as much sugar as honey and molasses combined.  I did a bit more adapting, but I stuck with my local honey and maple syrup.  If I were going to make them again, I might use a lighter honey—I love the honey flavor and the way it mixes with the spices, but the maple syrup got a bit overwhelmed.  (This batch includes my go-to honey, which is fairly dark.)

Maple-honey spice cookies
1/2 c butter
3/4 c maple syrup
1 egg
2 1/3 c flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
2 t ginger
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 t cardamon
1/4 t mace
1/4 c chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Melt butter and then combine all ingredients.  Drop onto greased baking sheets and bake 10 minutes.  They spread quite a bit, so I only got 8-10 cookies per sheet.  My batch made 32 cookies.

The cookies are on the fluffy side of chewy, which wasn’t precisely what I was hoping for, but they went over well with my neighbors, so I’d say they count as a success.

Posted by Naomi on 02/23 at 02:18 AM

Chocolatey goodness

Friday, February 13, 2009

I would much rather eat cheese than chocolate, but every now and then I get in the mood for something chocolatey.  I really like good brownies (as should be clear from my myriad posts about B.T. Brownies), but I rarely make them myself.  The box mix variety just don’t excite me very much, and making brownies from scratch is something I am generally not motivated to do.  But when I get a new cookbook, I browse for recipes…and the Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes cookbook has a recipe for one pot brownies.  How could I resist?

As it turns out, making brownies from scratch doesn’t have to be a big production.  The one pot recipe is simple: throw some chocolate and butter in a saucepan and melt it down over low heat.  Add sugar, eggs, salt, and vanilla after cooling the chocolate a bit, and then stir in flour.  See? Simple.  It also seemed like a good recipe to experiment with for the Farm to Philly Alternative Sweeteners challenge.

Being new to the idea of substituting sweeteners for regular sugar, it had to be baby steps.  I considered using honey, except that I read that with honey you need to decrease the volume of liquids in the recipe to compensate for adding more liquid (honey).  I’m not ready to futz around with that yet.  I did, though, have some locally grown/produced maple sugar from the Fair Food Farmstand in my cabinet.  Again, I stress that I’m making baby steps: I replaced half the regular sugar with maple sugar…mostly because I just wasn’t sure what to expect from the taste.


The maple sugar ended up really enhancing the taste of the brownies, especially since I threw in some locally grown cranberries.  The brownies are very chocolatey, very rich, and sweet-tart.  Delicious!

In addition to the maple sugar and cranberries, the butter, eggs, and flour used are also locally grown.

Posted by Nicole on 02/13 at 10:20 AM

Honey Applesauce Cake, part III

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

As promised, I bring you the frosting recipe! I have never made such a “seven minute” frosting before, and must warn that this is obviously not a buttercream or “typical” frosting. It is closer to a meringue, really. But with just egg whites, honey and vanilla, this is probably the healthiest frosting one could make! (or at least low fat).

Honey Vanilla Seven Minute Frosting
adapted from The Nourishing Gourmet

2 egg whites
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla

In a double boiler or in a metal bowl over a pot with hot water, combine egg whites and honey. Beat with electric mixer until water comes to a boil. Continue to beat until soft peaks form (ca 7 minutes). Remove from heat and add vanilla. Beat until it seems substantive enough to frost with (medium peaks).

should be enough to frost 12 cupcakes or one 9” cake (I had some left over and made meringues).

I spooned the frosting into a plastic storage bag (I have about a trillion of these from the weekly granola I get in my CSA share), cut a hole in the corner and then piped the frosting onto the cupcakes, which is why they look so darn cute!

Posted by Melanie on 02/10 at 02:23 PM

Honey Applesauce (Cup)Cake(s), part II

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Yesterday I posted the first of a three part recipe for a locally sweetened cake. Actually, I opted for cupcakes, but a cake can be made from this recipe too. I started with a basic 1-2-3-4 cake recipe and then adapted it wildly to include my two star ingredients, applesauce and honey. This is what I came up with (I tried to make a recipe that could easily be doubled):

Honey Applesauce Cake
preheat oven to 350˚F

1 ½ cups flour (local white pastry flour)
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

½ stick unsalted butter – room temperature (1/4 cup)
1/3 cup honey
1 egg yolk (white to follow)
1 cup applesauce
½ tsp vanilla

½ cup milk

1 beaten egg white (soft peaks)

whisk together dry ingredients and set aside
separate egg
with electric mixer beat butter until creamy (about 1 minute)
add honey, beat for another minute
add egg yolk, beat for one minute (if multiplying the recipe, add egg yolks one at a time, beating for one minute each)
mix in applesauce until well blended and then vanilla

alternately, starting with flour mixture, add in flour and milk. do this by hand so as not to over beat ingredients

mix in half of the beaten egg white. fold in the second half.

divide batter amongst 12 cupcake liners or pour into one 9” cake pan.

bake cupcakes for approx. 20 minutes, cake for approx. 30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

As you can see from the picture above, they sank a bit. I don’t know why, and, frankly, I don’t really care as long as they taste good! And with the honey vanilla seven minute frosting, who will know the difference!

See how pretty they look? (frosting recipe to come….)


Posted by Melanie on 02/08 at 07:33 PM

Stepping up to the challenge: Honey Applesauce Cake, part I

Saturday, February 07, 2009

This month’s challenge to use local sweeteners is rather timely. In the week leading up to this challenge, the web was a buzz with exposés of the government’s commercial sweetener of choice, high fructose corn syrup. To catch up on the latest dirt check out these posts at Huffingtonpost, “Our Melamine”, “Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Turning us into Mad Hatters” and this post linking high fructose corn syrup to autism, the last two can be found double posted at Civil Eats.

For most people reading this post, avoiding high fructose corn syrup is probably nothing new. For me it is a way of life. Some of you may have realized too that regular highly refined, who knows what the trade circumstances were like white sugar is not ideal either, if you are eating for your health and environment, that is. There is sucanat and organic evaporated cane juice. The Nourishing Gourmet blog offers a useful guide to natural sweeteners. On this same blog I came across a recipe for a honey seven minute frosting which I hope to test out asap for a honey applesauce cake I am thinking up and hope to soon be baking…

Now I admit to regularly using evaporated cane juice and sucanat, but why not consider local sources of sweetness? We all have a sweet tooth, but for those who strive to eat local or eco, why should we feel sheepish about having sugar shipped to our tables? Or, even worse, why should we abstain from sweetening our lives altogether?! We just need to think outside of the Dominos Sugar box. Nicole listed a few local options in the last post (and at the Clark Park market today I saw local molasses, lined up next to the local honey and maple syrup!), and to that one might add that most fruits are very sweet and one could certainly take a stab at beet sugar.

Which brings us to applesauce! What is sweeter than apples slowly cooked until all of their natural sugars are released? How about slowly cooking them in some local cider? Even sweeter! Which is what is currently happening on my stove top. I hope to use this applesauce tomorrow as I experiment with making an applesauce cake with honey instead of sugar. I need to be careful to not make this too sweet, because I am eager to try that frosting! I’ll keep you posted…

Posted by Melanie on 02/07 at 09:44 PM

It’s alternative sweeteners month!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Farm to Philly challenge for the month of February is using alternative sweeteners.  Admittedly, I know very little about using things other than sugar as sweeteners.  Me and sugar go way back.

So, of course, I had to do a little research!  Some alternative sweeteners that are locally grown include:

  • Honey
  • Applesauce and apple juice (made from locally grown apples)
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses (Margerum’s allegedly sells local molasses)

There are tons of other natural sweeteners, but I very much doubt we’ll be finding locally made date or palm sugar, cane sugars, or agave nectar!

One natural sweetener that has been getting a lot of attention lately is Stevia, a tropical and subtropical herb grown for its sweet leaves.  It is not without controversy - the FDA banned the use of Stevia as a sweetener years ago, but just recently OK’d its use by Coke and Pepsi (no doubt a reaction to the growing interest in natural and whole foods).  You can grow your own Stevia this year - seeds are readily available and it seems easy to grow.

Posted by Nicole on 02/01 at 06:59 PM

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