Monday, November 2, 2009

Sugarcane-based Sweeteners

I know that a lot of us are confused about the different versions of sugarcane-based sweeteners that are out there. And for good reason! It seems like every other day another company releases a recommendation on which sweetener is best. Also, the descriptions of each sweetener’s processing can be very cumbersome to decipher. So, the following is the result of some research that I did on the subject. I looked at the three most common forms of sugarcane-based sweeteners: Sucanat, Turbinado, and Evaporated Cane Juice.

Sucanat, which stands for Sugar Cane Natural, is made from whole sugarcane. The sugarcane is minimally processed by cutting the sugarcane, extracting the juice and heating the juice to extract the water. The juice is then reduced, creating a rich, dark syrup. It is then cooled and dried creating porous granules. Sucanat retains the full molasses content of the sugarcane.

Turbinado sugar, also known as Raw Cane Sugar and Demerara, is made by crushing sugarcane and extracting the juice from the cane. The juice is evaporated by heat and then crystallized. The crystals are then spun in a turbine to remove access moisture (molasses). Turbinado sugar looses some of the molasses content, resulting in a lighter brown crystal.

Evaporated Cane Juice, aka Sugarcane Juice and Rapadura (in Latin American countries), is produced by evaporation and distillation. This processing varies based on the manufacturer and regional influences. Unfortunately, there is not one tried and true way that Evaporated Cane Juice is created. When doing my research I came across several different photos of Evaporated Cane Juice and they seem to vary from very light in color (less molasses = more processing and closer to refined white sugar) to very dark in color (more molasses = less processing and closer to the source).

Overall, it is best to purchase Sucanat, as it is cleanest of the sugarcane-based sweeteners. This is because it is reliably closest to the sugarcane source by using less processing and retaining the full molasses content. If you find the thick granules of Sucanat unappealing, you can always whirl them in a food processor to make the granules smaller to closer resemble the consistency of refined, white sugar.

Also, if you are interested, I also did some research on Stevia and Truvia.

Click here for more information on Splenda.

Also, a little more information on the sweetness of different sweeteners in comparison to refined sugar:

Please keep in mind that if you replace table sugar with a liquid sweetener, then you will need to increase the dry ingredients or decrease the liquid ingredients in order to compensate for the extra moisture.

100% Pure Maple Sugar - replace 1:1 and read this article about compensating for extra liquid
Maple Sugar Flakes - 100% sweeter than sugar (use 50% less than sugar)
Sucanat - substitute 1:1 (I usually process it in my Magic Bullet first to create a more refined powder for baking)
Agave Nectar - 25% sweeter than sugar (use 25% less than sugar)
Honey - 25% to 50% sweeter than sugar (use 25% to 50% less than sugar), depending on the sweetness of the batch that you have
Dates (taste like brown sugar) - I wouldn't suggest baking with dates as they do not mix well into liquid ingredients, I add them to VitaMix smoothies and raw desserts
Molasses - 65% as sweet as sugar (use 35% more than sugar)
Organic Zero by Wholesome Sweeteners - 70% as sweet as sugar and can be used 1:1


Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks for sharing your research. That is a handy kitchen aide.

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting this information! I have recently switched to agave & sucanat, and this is very helpful!