A note on Stevia

I use pure Stevia in its powdered form in many of my recipes as it allows me to reduce the ‘sugar’ content whilst retaining the sweetness. You can find more info on Stevia here. In principle, my research leads me to the conclusion that Stevia is as safe as any other sweetener on the market today whilst also offering the benefits of being calorie free and having no effect on blood sugar. Obviously I have not reviewed its credentials in any depth here, but my point is simply that I am totally comfortable in using this product within my recipes.

Many of you will already be familiar with this sweetener as it is common place in the US and other areas of the world, however here in the UK (and much of Europe) the commercial use of Stevia is awaiting formal approval by the European Union (due by the end of 2011). SEE UPDATE BELOW. Stevia is not currently available in high street shops so make take a little more effort to track down. For those who would like to have a go at using Stevia themselves or alternatively would prefer not to use Stevia at all, I have provided a little more general guidance below, however I would encourage you to experiment a little to find what works for you.

Stevia in its pure form needs to be handled carefully as it is so sweet a few grains of powder go a long way!  Pure Stevia is available in a number of forms i.e powder and liquid but it is also available in a bulked out ‘granular’ form as a more direct and easy to manage sugar substitute which is the type most likely to be available in UK shops in the near future. As a general rule when I am creating my own healthy version of a more standard recipe I do the following:  if a recipe calls for 1 cup/225g  of standard granulated sugar I tend to use 1/3 to ½ cup or 70g-100g agave syrup and 1/3 tsp stevia powder. (1tsp stevia equates to roughly 1 cup sugar). I don’t like to overdo the sweetness in my recipes so aim to tone it down a tad and, where fruit is involved, let the sweetness of the other ingredients come out to play.  

The reason I combine agave syrup and Stevia is because Stevia on its own can have an odd (slightly bitter) aftertaste in baked goods, I guess this is simply because it is so concentrated and is more unfamiliar to our taste buds.  By adding agave syrup (as opposed to a granulated sugar), the other liquids in the mixture will need to be reduced slightly to offset this. Similarly if you would prefer to omit stevia altogether, by all means you can double the amount of agave but you will need to add a little more of the dry ingredient or reduce further the wet ingredients (whichever would seem most appropriate) to compensate. Again, a little experimentation in the key here. Let me know how you get on!

UPDATE NOVEMBER 2011: The EU regulation allowing the use of extracts of stevia rebaudiana has finally been published in the Official Journal of the European Union. The announcement was made on the 14th November.

Please note that my recipes use stevia in its Pure form in combination with other sweeteners and not the 'baking' form (as available in regular supermarkets) which has added bulking agents. I have not tested these products and so cannot offer advice as to how successful their substitution would be.

jo hodsonComment