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Sweet flavorings

An introduction to natural, or nearly natural, sweet flavorings, such as honey and syrups.

Honeys and syrups

Health conscious chefs, some dieters, or simply those that consider refined sugar an artificial product, look for a more natural sweetness and usually prefer other alternatives than sugar or fructose. Honey, treacle, molasses and maple syrup contain minerals and vitamins, even if in tiny amounts, and are perceived as a more nutritive option.

There are several options to add sweetness that can be used in place of sugar: corn syrup, fruit syrups, golden syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses, rice syrup, or treacle. These sweeteners, used the right way, would add a sugary and distinctive taste. Honeys and syrups are liquid sweeteners, and you need to reduce the liquid content of the recipe when used.

Honey is probably the first sweetener know to mankind. Honey can be used in place of sugar to sweeten drinks, compotes, poached or baked fruits, for cakes, sponges and cookies. Honey is used in savory dishes too.

Maple syrup has a bittersweet taste, much like caramel. It goes well with nuts and cold desserts, like soufflés, milk jellies, yoghurt, or ice cream. Added to drinks or fruit, it has a very dominant flavor.

Corn, rice, or fruit syrups are very well known to the food industry, but there is a place for them at home too; they can replace sugar very effectively in certain dishes. Treacle and golden syrup bring immediately to the mind the word pudding as an association. From the many ways to use molasses, it is difficult to think a better one than to flavor baked beans. All honeys and syrups store well, though honey's color changes if kept for too long; honey crystallizes and hardens. Maple syrup is best kept in the fridge once opened.

Don't miss out on the sweetness

Out of brown sugar? You can substitute 1 cup for 1 cup white sugar and 1/4 cup molasses. Just reduce the other liquids in the recipe by about 1/4 cup.

Substitute 1 cup honey with 1 cup corn syrup, or with 1 cup plus granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water, although, honey is probably better for your health in all cases.

If you don't have molasses, you can substitute 1 cup molasses with 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, melted, or 1/2 cup honey.

Mix 1 cup granulated sugar with 2 tablespoons molasses, or dark corn syrup, to make do for dark brown sugar when you did not have any.

Mix 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup dark brown sugar to replace 1 cup light brown sugar.