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    You Ask, I Answer: Low-Sugar Baking

    I was wondering if you had any advice on recipe substitutions.

    I have an excellent cookie recipe, but it calls for two cups of sugar – one cup white, and one cup brown.

    As a diabetic and someone who’s is nutritionally aware, I would like to reduce the sugar content, but I’m reluctant to use artificial sweeteners, and I don’t want to ruin the recipe, either.

    How do you go about doing that, or is it more of a trial and error sort of situation?

    — Kate (last name unknown)
    Location Unknown

    Wonderful question.

    This situation is tricky, largely because unlike cooking (where you can experiment, taste, make the necessary adjustments, taste again, make more changes, etc.) baking is an exact science.

    Every ingredient is needed, in certain quantities, for a specific reason.

    Throw in too much flour or forget baking powder and you have a recipe for disaster.

    Sugar, for instance, does more than simply sweeten the deal. It provides texture, browning properties (thanks to the Maillard Reaction), and tenderness.

    Remember, too, that sugar is also one of the world’s oldest preservatives.

    This is why chocolate chip cookies (or any food high in sugar, for that matter) can sit unrefrigerated for days and not be a source of foodborne illness (the sugar draws out moisture, thereby creating an unfriendly environment for bacteria).

    The “good” news is that baking recipes in the United States tend to be higher in sugar than their international counterparts.

    I always, as a rule of thumb, reduce sugar in cookie recipes by approximately a quarter or a third.

    In my opinion, this actually enhances flavor.

    So, you can feel free to reduce sugar by that amount without risking a botched batch of cookies.

    Since brown sugar is specifically used to contribute softness, be sure to reduce each cup of designated sugar by half, rather than cut out an entire cup of either white or brown sugar.

    Although there are substitutions for traditional sugar (ie: fruit purees), they are irrelevant to your question since they still provide grams of sugar, thereby not making a recipe any more “diabetic friendly.”

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