Firstly, please click here and make an entry into the very first Sanaworld blog giveaway, which is open until 5pm next Wednesday (NZ time).
Don't be scared. We won't judge you. So far there is only one entry and I have a suspicion that it is The Programmer attempting to stop my pouting. He's a good man.
Baking with Stevia
Stevia is notoriously difficult to work with. It has a very narrow range of use - too little and you don't taste it, slightly too much and you get a terrible 'licorice like' aftertaste. In addition, there was a lot of sweetness variation between batches. Just when you got it right, the batch would run out and the next shipment would invariably be different.
There were also political issues: bad press, good press, legislative issues, industry in-fighting.
However, customers have consistently asked for Stevia, so about a year ago, we started making enquiries and testing samples for both Stevia and Lo Han Guo, which is a mogroside sweetener extracted from monk fruit. The sweet compounds in Stevia are steviosides of which rebaudiosides are a component.
With a bit of experimentation, I've discovered that both these sweeteners can be made to do my will.
The technology around Stevia extraction seems to have rapidly progressed and there is far more consistency in flavour. There are also methods of 'de-bittering' and increasing the rebaudoside A content. Some say this component has a better flavour than stevioside, although I'm not sure how much of this claim is a marketing ploy to sell the more pricey high-Rebaudioside A Stevia.
Lo Han Guo was great too, and I've put it on the Sana wish list (the price made me cross-myself and pass out).
Now I have to learn to use Stevia. The main issue is that the hyper-concentrated nature of it means that you have to recalculate like a recipe ninja. For example, 1 teaspoon of Stevia extract delivers the sweetness of about 1.5 cups of sugar (and this is where many people go wrong, use too much, create something truly awful and give up). You also have to replace the bulk of the sugar with something else.
My first attempt at a Stevia cake was a rerun of this recipe - Chocolate Zucchini Cake. I made the full sugar version a few weeks ago.
The recipe has two cups of sugar in it. My original plan was to replace those two cups with one cup buckwheat flour and one cup rice flour. Buuut. I ran out of rice flour so it became one cup buckwheat, 1/4 cup rice flour and 3/4 cup erythritol. This is, in addition to the flour already in the recipe.
Before adding the liquid ingredients, I added one flat teaspoon of Stevia (undershooting, rather than overdoing it).
Then I went to add the oil and noticed that there was only a dribble left in the bottom of the bottle :-/. I melted down all the butter in the fridge instead, but the mix was still very dry - I blame the extra flour. As my patience was waning, I just added some water. If I was not on low-fuctose Junkfree Jan, I would have moistened it with apple sauce.
Because of these uncontrolled ingredient variables, and because it's not perfected, I'm not posting a full recipe today. Look out for that next week.
The end result, you ask?
The cake was not quite as gooey and fudgy as the original, and the zucchini did not entirely 'disappear'. There were a few green bits - a situation which must be remedied if I am to present this to Miss J when she visits. One hint of greenies would signal instant rejection.
The level of sweetness was just about right. I fed it to visitors and nobody grimaced. Of course, I did smother theirs with icecream.
Have you tried Stevia? Any favourite recipes? Any funny disaster stories?