Baking With Stevia For Valentine’s Day

It’s Valentine’s Day this weekend, in case you didn’t already know. ūüôā Some would rather avoid this holiday, and quite frankly I’ve never been into all the hype. I’d also rather receive something more useful then flowers and chocolate… not to say that flowers in the dead of winter aren’t a nice. And really, what girl is going to refuse chocolate!?! But I digress. Even though it does come with a lot of hype, there are opportunities to turn the holiday into something wonderful for those around you. You can have a friends night out, spend time with your family, or just give yourself a little you time.

I’ve been trying to think of something special to do for David this year. As a SAHW this can be quite the challenge. Fortunately, we will be able to spend Valentine’s Day with family. So instead of one, big, celebration, I decided to give him a week of small surprises. My first surprise (and fourth) were Scones with Stevia.

We have been trying to cut down on white sugar for quite some time, and for a few years we have been content to use suclarose instead (Splenda).¬† After reading about some negative side effects of sucralose, we started looking into alternatives.¬† We tried to find one that was economical, natural, and preferably low in calories.¬† Enter Stevia.¬† We’ve been using this almost as long as Splenda, but until recently our Stevia usage has been confined to drinks.¬† We like the undiluted Stevia,¬† because it was more economical.¬† However it is also very difficult to measure (25 milligrams of Stevia extract is equal to about 4 grams of sugar), and too much becomes bitter.

I’d first thought about baking with Stevia this summer, but hadn’t gotten around to figuring out the proper ratio of sugar-to-Stevia.¬† And then there is the risk of making it too bitter.¬† But this weekend I braved the unknown, and decided to try it in a scones recipe.¬† This recipe only calls for 1/4 cup of sugar, making it very easy to figure out just how many of those tiny scoops I need. One tiny scoop of pure Stevia extract is the equivalent to 1 teaspoon sugar. Yep it is *that* powerful!

First I had to find the perfect recipe. I ended up merging two scones recipes, one from Allrecipe.com and the other from America’s Test Kitchen (video clip).

whole wheat orange cranberry scones

Cranberry-Orange Scones

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
12 scoops Stevia (use the one that came with it)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon orange or lemon zest (optional)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup milk (I used rice milk)
1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt

For Wash
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Grate frozen butter, using the largest hole on your grater.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, Stevia, zest, and salt into a large bowl.
  4. Add frozen butter, gently toss till covered.
  5. Mix together 1/2 cup milk and sour cream in a measuring cup. Pour all at once into the dry ingredients, and fold with spatula until just combined. With rubber spatula, transfer dough to liberally floured work surface. Dust surface of dough with flour; with floured hands, knead dough 6 to 8 times, until it just holds together in ragged ball, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.
  6. Roll dough into approximate 12-inch square. Following illustrations, fold dough into thirds like a business letter, using bench scraper or metal spatula to release dough if it sticks to countertop. Lift short ends of dough and fold into thirds again to form approximate 4-inch square. Transfer dough to plate lightly dusted with flour and chill in freezer 5 minutes.
  7. Transfer dough to floured work surface and roll into approximate 12-inch square again. Sprinkle cranberries evenly over surface of dough, then press down so they are slightly embedded in dough. Using bench scraper or thin metal spatula, loosen dough from work surface. Roll dough, pressing to form tight log. Lay seam-side down and press log into 12 by 4-inch rectangle. Using sharp, floured knife, cut rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet.
  8. Whisk together large egg and 1 tbsp milk.  Brush tops with mixture. Bake until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18 to 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 10 minutes before serving.

I promise this only looks complex.  I highly recommend watching the ATK video to get an idea of just how easy this really is. These come out quite light and fluffy.

Whole Wheat chocolate scones

To create Chocolate Scones (my fourth surprise) I added:

  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder & 1/2 teaspoon more baking soda to step 3
  • I also stirred in 3 tablespoons honey into the milk before mixing it with the sour cream.¬† You will need something to help sweeten the cocoa powder. I just couldn’t bring myself to use 24 scoops of Stevia…not yet anyways.
  • You can keep the cranberries or add nuts in their place.¬† Or both!

Have a taste for something chocolate now?  I know I do.  Check out the Nourishing Chocolate Recipes Carnival over at The Nourishing Gourmet.

***Note: There are 48 teaspoons in a cup.  Check your stevia for proper conversion.

Cutting Out the Sweet Stuff

Notice I didn’t say the “white” stuff. Yes, I’ve mentioned in the past¬†how bad sugar is, but artificial sweeteners aren’t exactly splendid or all that equal to the task of¬†weight loss¬†(puns intended). There are two reasons why artificial sweeteners aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be. First, they often have a lot of side effects, some of which can be very troublesome. Recent research on Splenda definitely gave me pause about using it. Second, some researchers have noted that using artificial sweeteners may actually contribute to weight gain. Why? Probably because our bodies never get weaned off the taste for sweets and we are more likely to indulge it with actual sugar. Thus, I’ve decided to actually cut down on sweeteners in general. I drink my coffee now with just cream or occasionally stevia. I’ve tried to drink more water and fewer zero calorie drinks. I also use stevia when I do need some sweetening not anything artificial. It hasn’t been completely easy (especially with coffee), but I’m adjusting.

Reconsidering Splenda

Every Friday I go to Tim Horton’s for coffee. One week I drive, my buddy buys. The other week, he drives and I buy. I even jokingly refer to Fridays as “Saint Tim Horton’s Day.” Without hesitation, I order a large coffee, with cream, three Splendas, and a shot of Pumpkin Spice flavoring. I may have to reconsider the Splenda, because a new study shows that it may have problematic side effects.

Based on animal studies, Splenda reduces the amount of “good bacteria” in the gut by 50 percent, increases PH level in the intestine, and may even cause weight gain.

Personally, I try to balance my use of sweetners. I generally use Stevia at home, and Equal or Splenda at work. This way, I am not putting all of my eggs into one basket, in terms of bad side effects. Stevia seems to be the safest of the three.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

I am a big fan of stevia, the natural sweetener. I’ve always defended the taste and since it comes from a plant it also has some natural advantages over the artificial sweeteners. Yet, being natural doesn’t necessarily make it perfect. When my employer ran out of Splenda for a couple of days, I started using stevia at work (normally I use stevia at home and Splenda at work). Since I’m a pretty heavy coffee drinker, I started consuming a lot more stevia. I developed a strong metallic taste in my mouth that only went away in the morning. Since I consume a lot of supplements I started removing supplements from my diet to see the source. Sure enough it was from stevia. Does anyone else have this problem? With the¬†upcoming marketing of stevia based drinks¬†and the bad news on Splenda, this metallic taste is a pretty big bummer for me. Any suggestions?