Tips for cooking with Splenda
Sometimes for sweetening drinks, buying packets is the best choice. They take the guesswork out of measuring small amounts and are good to have on hand.
Maybe I don't even need this section. Splenda is a brand name (among a few others that are emerging) for a chemical called sucralose, which is a sugar derivative in which chemical groups have been substituted in order to prevent digestion by the body's enzymes. I could go on at length about the chemistry, but this is an article about baking. Chemistry class comes another day, I'm afraid. But, I digress.
There are a few basic properties that Splenda has as opposed to sugar:
- Higher melting point
- Greater sweetness
- Lack of extractable caloric energy
The last point there is crucial. Why else do all of this, if it had no fewer calories than sugar?!
Where can it be used?
There are a few areas where Splenda can be whole-hog substituted for sugar, in my experience, while there are also areas where it's as useless as throwing talcum powder into your recipe. And, as always, there is the grey area in between. Following are some of the dos and do-nots when it comes to applications.
Splenda can be fully substituted for sugar in a few special cases. The most obvious is when it is used for rote sweetness and nothing but. A prime example is making drinks: An iced tea, regardless of what some people may say about an "after-taste", will taste near-as-makes-no-difference the same whether it is sweetened with Splenda or regular sugar. Another application is simple cakes and baked goods, i.e. ones where the sugar is employed to provide sweetness primarily and not texture.
On the other hand, Splenda is totally useless where sugar is used for bulk. This includes cases such as fudge or meringue, where the sugar is required specifically to provide a given final texture. Also, anything requiring "caramelization" of the end product will turn out horribly if Splenda is substituted. Trust me. That was the worst fudge that I have ever made, and I don't care to repeat it...
About uses in baking
The most common use of Splenda in baking is simple cakes. However, if you follow the recipe word-for-word and simply substitute Splenda, even maintaining the bake time, you will end up with a very attractive and nice-smelling piece of driftwood. Something good and solid, possibly oak or ironwood. Whatever. The point is, it will be inedible. There are a few factors that you have to account for when doing a full-substitution of sugar for Splenda.
The first consideration is leavening. If the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of baking powder or soda, you would do well to nearly double it - at least 1.75 teaspoons, if not 2 exactly. The main reason for this is complex, but it hinges on the fact that Splenda has a higher melting point than sugar and is less able to dissolve in water. Sugar would typically dissolve in the water/liquid and form little bubbles in the baked good when it melts, which would harden up (think like melted sugar that hardens up after cooling preserving its shape, as in the picture above) and provide the "fluff" to a baked good.
Unfortunately for the home cook, Splenda does not melt as readily, so the above cannot happen. Thus, you need some kind of acid/base reaction to pick up the slack. Recipes with milk do this naturally as milk is slightly acidic, but if a cake recipe calls for straight water, a splash of vinegar may be necessary (not much, though - <1 teaspoon per cup is sufficient).
This type of pan is incredibly useful for baking cakes. I can't believe people actually baked cakes BEFORE they came out...
Light and fluffy chocolate cake
To prove a point about the leavening thing, I have here one of my favourite recipes of all time for chocolate cake. It always turns out perfectly every time and, in a nine-inch pan, 1/6 of the cake (that is not a typo) has only 158 calories (neither is that a typo). Plus, it tastes darn good. An important note: BE PATIENT with the egg addition and milk addition. They will take a while, but if you rush them, the cake comes out lumpy and tough. Words spoken from experience...
- 9-inch cake pan (I highly recommend a spring form unit here; they are cheaply available if you do not have one and are extremely useful for this purpose)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup Splenda
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 teaspoon baking soda (this amount is already doubled! DO NOT ADD 2 TEASPOONS!)
- 1/2 cup skim milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) light margarine
- 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare the 9-inch spring-form cake pan, using cooking spray.
- Measure out cocoa powder, flour, Splenda and baking soda; whisk together in a large bowl until fully incorporated.
- Add margarine. Cut into the dry ingredients until the texture resembles moist sand (I use a fork turned sideways to do this). This may take a while, but it's worth it.
- Add eggs. Again, cut into dough until it forms a dough ball much like cookie batter. You WILL NOT be able to stir it; keep cutting until it holds together/stops being crumbly. It takes a few minutes.
- Add milk, vanilla and coffee granules. Now comes the REALLY slow part. In order to keep the flour from agglutinating (i.e. stringy) and getting tough, you have to gently, with short strokes, fold the wet ingredients into the dough ball. After they are fully incorporated, mix normally until fully incorporated and most of the lumps are gone. The batter should be relatively runny (almost pourable, but not totally liquid either). Pour the batter into your prepared pan.
- Bake for 12 minutes. I am not kidding with this. If it is a bit jiggly yet, put it in for a couple more minutes. The best you can do is use a wooden skewer; if it comes out with little-to-no material stuck on it (from the centre of the cake), then it's done. 12 minutes seems short, so maybe my oven is acting up, but the skewer method never fails. The top of the cake should be glossy.
Well, I hope my little tutorial about the uses of Splenda has been helpful. Ultimately, this is still a relatively new ingredient to mess around with and thus there will be new uses/lacks-there-of to be discovered for the foreseeable future. Happy baking!