Monday, July 20, 2009

Sugar Blues?

One commenter asked about substitutes for sugar. Sugar is a tricky thing to substitute, particularly in baking. So much of baking is a science. Recipes assume certain chemical reactions, much as they presume one is not cooking at high altitude.
Thinking of this, I created a minor culinary disaster on Sunday morning. We had wonderful ripe peaches, courtesy of SPUD, that were at use-it-or-lose-it status. They were perfect just as they were. Did not need to be turned into clafoutis!
So I thought, let's try them on pancakes, with just a touch of maple syrup at the table. My favorite pancake recipe, from The Wheat-Free Cook, is elegant in its simplicity, and works every time. It called for 1 teaspoon of sugar. Not much. Let's substitute agave syrup, which is claimed to be easier on the body than sugar, adding it to the wet rather than the dry ingredients. So far, so good.

I'm not sure what happened, as it all was so fast. But I scorched the pancakes! They cooked up so fast. I think the griddle might have been hotter than usual; it's cast iron over gas burners, no thermostats to reckon by. I just fling drops of water on the griddle like my mom and gramma did. (And, to be honest, I was still a bit foggy from the previous day's Bay Cruise on the Jeremiah O'Brien.)

I barely finished dishing out the tablespoonfuls of batter -- these are small pancakes -- when the air filled with smoke. The pancakes were burning and sticking to the grill, faster than I could flip them. I was able to rescue most of them but a grim note of charcoal remained. We added more maple syrup than I'd anticipated.

The quickness with which these pancakes burned makes me suspect that the agave syrup cooked more quickly. Regular sugar would take a bit longer to melt. I have found the agave syrup to be an excellent sweetener, when you don't want flavors such as maple or molasses or honey. But for baking, caution is needed. Maybe if I tried a lower temp on griddle...

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