Frequently Asked Questions

Here you will find answers to commonly asked questions about the recipes on this blog. If you have any other questions, please leave a comment down below, or over at the Facebook page. Happy baking!

Disclaimer: The answers to these questions are not intended to replace medical or other professional advice. The information presented here is solely meant to inform and entertain. Please consult your physician or another trusted health professional for advice regarding weight loss and diabetes management.

 

Healthy Sweeteners

What are the healthiest sweeteners to use in baking?

If you would like to avoid the adverse health effects of ingesting added sugars on the human body, I’d start with stevia and erythritol. They are sugar-free, plant based sweeteners that do not cause a rise in blood sugar, and have no known side effects when ingested in reasonable amounts. They contain a negligible amount of calories, so they’re ideal if you’re trying to lose weight. 

Raw honey is a nutritious sweetener because of the trace minerals and anti-allergenic properties. There are claims that eating local honey can relieve seasonal allergies, but these claims have not been supported by peer-reviewed studies. Honey does cause a rise in blood glucose levels, so people with diabetes should limit their consumption. 

I limit my honey consumption to a few teaspoons of honey a day (if I eat any) because it still triggers in me an urge to overeat sweet foods. Honey is a concentrated source of fructose, which can confuse the signals regulating your appetite. Honey can also trigger some gastrointestinal distress in sensitive individuals. If you’re experience some bloating and flatulence after consuming honey, you might want to see whether you have fructose intolerance

What are the best-tasting sweeteners to use?

Stevia and erythritol, when used in the proper amounts, have a very clean, sugar-like taste. I have served my black bean cupcakes to many people who had no idea that they were sugar-free!

Erythritol does have an interesting “cool” flavor when used in dry baked goods (cookies, brownies), or in treats with a lot of fat (e.g. chocolate bars, frosting). It also does not caramelize. When I make these types of treats, I use Swerve in place of pure erythritol. Swerve is a blend of erythritol and chicory root fiber. The chicory root fiber does caramelize, and does not have a “cool” aftertaste. You do have to follow recipes designed for these sweeteners because of how tricky it is to get the amount right.

Stay tuned for a forthcoming blog post about Swerve, and how to use it to make sugar-free cakes and caramel sauces (yum!). Please subscribe using the link on the sidebar to get updates about new posts.  —> 

What is stevia extract?

Stevia extract is a very sweet white powder (200-300x sweeter than sugar!) made from the leaves of a stevia plant. Stevia plants are commonly grown in South America and China, and the leaves and brewed to extract the sweet compounds. 

Is stevia extract safe? 

Yes. Studies show that it does not adversely impact blood sugar levels. 

Why does my stevia extract taste bitter?

Are you using a green stevia powder? If so, it is likely bitter. I don’t recommend using green or “in the raw” stevia extracts. I also don’t recommend making your own stevia extract at home. You will not be able to filter out the bitter tasting compounds with the equipment you have in your kitchen. 

The pure white powder is the best tasting. Please not that there is a massive difference between brands! After testing 20+ brands of stevia for the past two years, I’ve settled upon NOW stevia as the best tasting product.

Is stevia heat stable?

Unfortunately, the sweetness of stevia degrades when it is boiled (heated to around 212 degrees Fahrenheit/100 degrees Celsius). Baked goods usually hover around that temperature range, so your batters and dough will usually be a bit sweeter than your finish baked good. I recommend added stevia to hot drinks after you’ve heated them, so that you can taste and adjust the sweetness without it changing. If you add stevia to your coffee or tea before you heat it, you can easily boil away the sweetness! 

How do I bake with stevia?

The trick to baking with stevia is to combine it with another sweetener. By itself, stevia is not usually sweet enough to make delicious baked goods. If you use too much stevia in a effort to make something sweeter, you will definitely detect a bitter aftertaste! I like to combine stevia with another all natural sugar substitute called erythritol. For more information about how to use stevia in baked goods, check out the Healthy Indulgences Cookbook, where I answer all your baking questions about stevia. 

Do you use liquid or powder stevia?

I use powdered stevia in all of the recipes you see here, unless otherwise noted. However, I use liquid stevia in my coffee, tea, smoothie, and yogurt. Liquid stevia is so convenient when you’re on the run!

How do you convert between liquid and powder stevia extract?

Since brands vary in sweetness, there is no conversion that would work for all brands. I would recommend substituting an equivalent amount of liquid stevia for powdered stevia. Then, add more liquid stevia if you need more sweetness. 

Gluten-Free Flours

What is almond flour?

Almond flour is made by removing the skins of almonds and grinding the nuts into a fine powder. The texture of almond flour can vary by brand. Honeyville Farms makes the most finely ground almond flour, so I highly recommend using it in your almond flour baked goods. 

What is the difference between almond meal and almond flour?

Almond flour is made from almonds with the skins removed. Almond meal is made from whole almonds, so it is stronger in flavor and darker in color.

Can I make my own almond meal or almond flour?

You can make your own almond meal by grinding blanched (skins removed), sliced almonds into a fine powder. To get the texture as fine as a the Honeyville product, you would need to sift it. To make almond flour, you would ground whole or sliced almonds (skins on) into a meal. Again, the texture would be best after sifting. It’s a lot of work! The best tools for the job are the Magic Bullet or a standard food processor

How do you bake with almond flour? Can you substitute it for white (all-purpose) flour?

You cannot directly substitute almond flour for flour made from wheat. It also cannot be substituted for gluten-free flour blends, as it performs very differently from grain flours. You can find tips for creating your own baked goods from almond flour in the Healthy Indulgences Cookbook

What is coconut flour?

Coconut flour is a fibrous powder made from defatted, finely ground coconut meat. It is a byproduct of coconut oil production. You cannot make it at home because you would have to extract the oil from the coconut meat before grinding it. I recommend using Nutiva brand coconut flour because it is very finely ground and is the most reasonably priced (get the 3 lb bag!).

Paleo

Which sweeteners are “paleo”? 

Stevia, honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, and dates are paleo. Erythritol is not strictly paleo, but is recommended by several paleo gurus because it viewed as a harmless alternative to sugar. “Paleo” is so loosely defined these days that the term does not have a clear meaning. However, the central concept that we should be avoiding added sugar in our diet hasn’t changed! 

Aren’t stevia and erythritol highly processed since they’re white powders?

They are no more processed than maple syrup and coconut sugar. All concentrated sources of sweetness are processed in order to extract them from the plant. You don’t stumble upon piles of coconut sugar laying around the forest! The only sweetener that you can use without some form of processing is dates which are extremely high in carbohydrates. I’d recommend picking sweeteners based on how they impact your health, not on how unprocessed they are. 

Substitutions

Is there a substitute for x ingredient used in your recipe?

For all substitution questions, please see this page

2 Comments on Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Virginia
    June 27, 2015 at 9:11 am (2 years ago)

    What is advantage of using coconut flour vs enriched flour? Does it change the texture of baked foods? Is almond flour better for Type 2 Diabetic?

    Reply
  2. Julie
    September 6, 2015 at 6:21 am (1 year ago)

    Which stevia do you use? Trader Joe’s or Now?

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.