As previously noted May became reduced-sugar/sugar-free baking month in my household. The goal was to make at least four recipes using Truvia (an all natural sweetener containing Stevia leaf extract) and note differences (if any) in taste, texture, and overall quality of the dessert made. I was able to fulfill my goal of at least four recipes courtesy of Truvia's website as well as a couple from Marisa Churchill's new cookbook Sweet & Skinny. And I'm happy to say that the results for each item varied.
- Reduced-Sugar Brownies
- Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
- Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Berries (Marisa Churchill recipe)
- Papaya Mint Popsicles (Marisa Churchill recipe)
First up was the fudgy brownies. I decided to try a recipe with some sugar and some Truvia. It was simple enough to make and when licking the remaining dough from the bowl I was pleased with the chocolatey taste. The texture of the batter was not grainy and was akin to that of any brownie you may have made from scratch or via a box mixture. Something else that is notable is the recipe calls for canola oil rather than vegetable. As per my IACPNYC Culinary Expo post remember that canola oil is being touted as one of the better oils to use for baking/cooking.
Not only had the calorie count been cut down on individual portions of brownies but there was no after taste and the texture was there, though I may have overmixed so the brownie was not as dense as it could have been. Bringing these in to my co-workers resulted in a heap of approval. One of the managers said she thought it had a nice "nutty" flavor to it. Admittedly I hesitated telling my co-workers what the secret ingredient was because I wanted to attain honest feedback on what they thought without being swayed by hearing what was in it. When I did inform people there was Truvia mixed in with the sugar no one seemed to notice and everyone felt a bit better about eating the brownies that were reduced in sugar and fat.
Next, I made carrot cake with cream cheese icing. I've made carrot cake cupcakes before but they tasted more like muffins than cake. So I was eager to try my hand at it again. I ran out of Truvia as I was making the cream cheese icing so the icing was half Truvia, half confectioner's sugar. And since I'm not a fan of raisins in baked goods and wanted the carrot cake to be eaten by all, I cut out the walnuts and raisins the recipe called for.
The texture and smell of the cake was great and I'm sure this was due to the canola oil and buttermilk within the batter. You can even see in the picture how moist the cake was and did in fact taste like cake. However, there was an after taste. Not unpleasant, and not lingering, but it was distinct. If you have had sweetener alternatives that contain aspartame or sucralose you may be familiar with or expect an after taste and those particular ones mentioned tend to have a lingering effect. However, tastebuds can adapt. And again, when mixing Truvia with sugar the sugar outweighed the Truvia and the cream cheese icing (made with reduced-fat cream cheese) had no traces of an after taste.
When bringing these in to co-workers response was varied. Again, I didn't reveal until after that this dessert was made with Truvia. One co-worker specifically asked if there was Stevia in the cake. I was shocked. He said he had worked with some who made desserts with alternative ingredients and Stevia was one of them. "It has a very distinct taste," he said. My manager was not a fan of the cake and noted the after taste was something he couldn't put his finger on at first. Others noticed the after taste and didn't mind or didn't notice at all because the texture and smell was so good. One person even said she really enjoyed the cream cheese icing.
My last two recipes came around at the right time due to increasing humidity in New York City last week.
I made the buttermilk panna cotta and papaya popsicles side-by-side so that I could chill and freeze them respectively before tasting later this past weekend. Both were super simple to make, literally taking just a few minutes each. The bulk of time utilized for these recipes is in the wait for them to become solidified.
For the popsicles I traded some ingredients, using mangoes instead of papaya. (That was a preference call). I also abstained from using mint leaves as I am not a fan.
Like the brownie recipe an additional natural sweetener was added to the mixture, agave! Mixing this with lime juice and orange juice then placing it in ice cub trays I placed Saran Wrap over the cubes and then left to freezer in my industrial strength Fridgidaire.
I ate these on a humid Memorial Day and I must say these were tasty! A new fave, go-to treat for me! I didn't get any after taste from this and perhaps it was the mixture of all the fruits and natural ingredients that Truvia mixes well with. On a hot and humid day I enjoyed cube after cube after cube! It was like a smoothie in cube form with my favorite fruits! I think the agave was a great addition here because I didn't feel indulgent yet it was just sweet enough for me. (Thanks, Marisa!) Make this your summer treat, people!
For the buttermilk panna cotta I used blackberries (I enjoy them and they were on sale) and refrained from purchasing vanilla bean to add to Truvia and sprinkling on top. I wanted to taste as much of the panna cotta on its own as possible.
Only a few packets of Truvia are called for in this recipe but the taste was there. Not unpleasant and not too imposing on the overall recipe that I couldn't enjoy it. The texture was perfect for panna cotta. I have had dessert touted as "panna cotta" when in fact it was yogurt with fruit in it. Panna Cotta is a solid custard, kind of like flan but not as sweet. Even tart berries like blackberries add a nice counter sweetness to the custard. The panna cotta is sweet in a tangy way because of the buttermilk used in it. It tasted pure and no frills which a good custard should be. I'd make this again for sure and perhaps add maple syrup and blueberries on top or even agave and see how that meld of flavors is.
Let me preface by saying that these opinions are my own and ones gathered from co-workers/friends who also tried the desserts I made with Truvia. Overall, I would use Truvia in my baking, particularly for reduced-sugar goods or anything that is fruit heavy. The taste tends to meld better with more natural ingredients rather than on its own in pastries and I think the added advantage that it's not a wholly chemical compound, the after taste (if there is any) isn't unpleasant or lingering, and the health aspect make it a valuable sugar alternative.
I'd like to thank Kristi Kleila with RF Binder for providing me a sample of Truvia spoonable to use in this baking endeavor and also thank Marisa Churchill for writing Sweet & Skinny and promoting healthier baking.