Thursday, September 2, 2010

Veggie Might: Baking with Stevia--Vegan Oatmeal Apple Muffins

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about all things Vegetarian.

While I’ve been using stevia in my tea for nigh on 12 years, I’ve never used it for anything else, maintaining a steadfast whole foods philosophy when it comes to cooking and baking. But a recent conversation with a couple of close friends, who are in various stages of giving up sugar, prompted me to give stevia baking a try.

Some consider stevia to be a whole food. And if you just use stevia leaves for your sweetening needs, it is. But most people use stevia extract, which removes the sweet stevioside from the leaf and processes it into a liquid tincture or dry powder.

Where to start? Stevia is sooo much sweeter than sugar that you only need a tiny pinch of powder to equal the sweetness in a teaspoon of sugar. The brand I buy comes with a little scoop that equals 45mg; a teaspoon of sugar weighs 4 grams. I started to do the math, when I remembered that I had an Internet connection.

When I found the article How to Substitute Stevia for Sugar in Baking at eHow.com, I got super excited. They breakdown the stevia/sugar conversion thusly:

1 tsp stevia (powered) = 1 cup sugar
1 tsp stevia (liquid) = 1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp stevia= 1 tbsp sugar
6 drops liquid stevia = 1 tbsp sugar
A pinch of stevia = 1 tsp sugar
2 drops liquid stevia = 1 tsp sugar

But I’m not quite sure how 1 tsp of stevia can equal 1 cup sugar at the same time that 1/2 tsp stevia can equal 1 tbsp sugar. So I looked elsewhere.

Cooking with Stevia offers a more in-depth and likely accurate chart, which I’ve modified for our purposes:



But that conversion is not the only concern when replacing stevia with sugar. There is a mass/consistency issue to deal with when baking. Here’s where eHow came through: “The bulk or consistency that sugar normally would add can be replaced with applesauce, fruit puree, canned pumpkin, fruit juice, yogurt, or any ingredient that will taste right with your recipe and add moisture. For everyone cup of sugar that is replaced by stevia 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of the bulk should be added.”

Thanks Internet. Let’s bake.

I whipped up the Apple Oatmeal Muffins from the Mother Earth News article I referenced in yesterday’s post, replacing the egg with flax seeds, subbing in almond milk, and swapping the raisins for walnuts. Go Omega-3!

Note: If you’d like to try an alternative egg replacement method, check out this great vegan baking tute at the Post-Punk Kitchen.

The muffins came out pretty well, though CB’s first comment was, “They look more like scones.” True dat, CB. I used my cute little silicone muffin cups instead of traditional paper cups, and the thick batter didn’t really take the shape of the cup.

The texture was primo: moist and bursting with walnuts. You could cut back if you’re worried about fat content. I could detect a subtle stevia aftertaste, but CB said he didn’t notice. I was suddenly kicking myself for not doing a blind taste test. Ah, well. We’ll save science for another time.

The muffins were not overly sweet, even with the 1 1/2 tsp stevia: 1 cup sugar ratio and the apple, though I could have used more apple flavor. Next time, I think I would knock a 1/2 a teaspoon off the stevia and add a second piece of fruit.

The verdict: I don’t think stevia will replace sugar in my baking repertoire. Though I love it in my tea--mostly because I don’t like the way sugar coats my tongue after a glass of iced Earl Grey--it still feels weird to bake with it. Perhaps if I had a medical reason to do so, I’d sing a different song.

For now, I’ll stick with sugar and keep experimenting with other natural sweeteners, because, hey, I like science.

~~~
If you like this recipe, you may dig:
The Sweet Stuff: A New Color in the Packet Rainbow
Vegan Bran Muffins
Chai-Spiced Oatmeal Muffins

~~~

Stevia Oatmeal Apple Muffins


adapted from Mother Earth News
yields 12 muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp stevia powder
1 tbsp flax seeds +3 tbsp warm water
3/4 cup almond milk (or milk of your choice)
1/4 cup coconut oil (or oil of your choice)
1 medium apple, cored and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a food processor, whirl 2 ounces of flax seeds with 2 ounces of warm water until you have a gooey mess. That replaces the egg. Add milk and oil and give it another spin to mix with the flaxseed.

3. Combine dry ingredients--flour, oats, salt, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, stevia powder, and walnuts--in a large mixing bowl.

4. Slowly stir the wet ingredients into the dry. Fold in the chopped apple.

5. Fill muffin cups 1/2-3/4 full with batter. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

6. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

7. Enjoy the delicious Omega-3 delivery system you’ve created!

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
143.8 calories, 9g fat, 2.2g fiber, 2.9g protein, $.31

Calculations
1 cup whole wheat flour: 420 calories, 2g fat, 16g fiber, 16g protein, $0.36
1 cup rolled oats: 304.5 calories, 4.5g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.12
1/2 tsp salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
1 tbsp baking powder: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
1/2 tsp nutmeg: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
2 tsp cinnamon: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
1 1/2 tsp stevia powder: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.16
1 tbsp flax seeds: 45 calories, 3.6g fat, 2.4g fiber, 1.5g protein, $0.20
3/4 cup almond milk: 30 calories, 2.25g fat, 0.75g fiber, 0.75g protein, $0.38
1/4 cup coconut oil: 480 calories, 56g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.92
1 medium apple: 77 calories, 0g fat, 2g fiber, 0g protein, $0.50
1/2 cup walnuts: 382.5 calories, 38g fat, 4g fiber, 9g protein, $0.94
Totals: 1726 calories, 108.35g fat, 25.3g fiber, 26.25g protein, $3.66
Price per serving (totals/12): 143.8 calories, 9g fat, 2.2g fiber, 2.9g protein, $.31

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5 comments:

Edward Antrobus said...

Any guidelines for using ground, dried leaves instead of extract? I've found stevia very easy to grow, its been coming up faster than I can use it.

The problem with using things like applesauce or juice as bulk in baking is it kind of defeats the purpose if you are trying to reduce your sugar intake or calories.

Juno said...

I had a lot of success using applesauce in a Splenda-sweetened more-cake-than-brownie. The cake was moist and dense (I used unsweetened applesauce).

Leigh said...

Juno, I've used applesauce as an egg replacer, but never for sugar. It works great in baked goods.

Edward, I haven't seen any tips for using stevia leaves in baking, but I'll post here as soon as I do!

From what I can tell, the idea behind substituting fruit to avoid processed, refined sugar, as opposed to aiming for "sugar-free" or even reduced sugar. But I could be wrong.

Thanks for your comments, y'all.

carol yarde said...

I'm all for trying substitutions since my husbands bypass surgery 8 years ago. We use veganaise or chia seed gel for fat substitutions. Taste just as good, although more reading on the products and labels you use is a must with a special diet family member.

Brian B said...

Just a quick thought about your iced tea. If you still want to use sugar, I've found that a sugar simple syrup dissolves very well in iced beverages and doesn't coat your tongue with grit like undissolved granules will. Just heat sugar in a pot in a 1:1 ratio (i.e. 1 cup sugar to 1 cup water) until it just boils lightly. Take it off the heat and let it cool. You can store it in an airtight container at room temp pretty much indefinitely, so you'll always have some on hand. :)