If you’re trying to lose weight or need to control your sugar intake for health reasons, then you need to know about a plant called stevia. It grows naturally in Brazil and Paraguay and has been traditionally used to sweeten coffee as well as treat burns and soothe stomach aches. If you take the same weight of stevia and sugar, you will find that stevia is hundreds of time sweeter than the same amount of granulated sugar. Amazingly it’s virtually calorie free. Why hasn’t stevia taken over the World? Well, it’s not so easy or convenient to use in baking as refined sugar – but there are ways around that.
It can be purchased as dried leaves, or in powdered, or in liquid, forms. The dried leaves are most useful when you want to flavour a liquid such as tea. Mix some dried stevia in with your tea leaves for a delicious, guilt-free sweetened drink. Some people chew the leaves when they want a hit of sugar but don’t want the calories of a sweet or chocolate. It’s something of an acquired habit but as the health benefits are so great, it might be a habit worth acquiring.
If you want a bake a cake using stevia then you will have to choose the powdered or liquid form of stevia. A rule of thumb would be to swap a cup of sugar for a teaspoon of liquid stevia. You might have to experiment a little until you get the sweetness level exactly to your liking. But the main difference between stevia and sugar is that stevia is far less bulky so and your cake could turn out rather dense unless you substitute other ingredients to make up the lost bulk. For each cup of sugar that you have exchanged for stevia, use about a third to a half a cup of a bulking agent. These can be very healthy additions to your diet.
You might like to try whipping a cup of egg whites which will give an airy foaminess to the cake mixture. Another choice could be apple sauce. Puree some cooked apples (without sugar) and add to the cake batter. Actually almost any fruit puree could be used. Grated carrots are another possibility. Plain yoghurt (preferably Greek) will give a creamy finish to your cake. Mashed up bananas would also be excellent. When it comes to fondant frosting or butter icing, however, there is nothing to beat sugar. So think out of the box. Use cream cheese or strained yoghurt flavoured with liquid stevia. You could even spice it up with cinnamon or nutmeg. Enjoy your sugar free treat!