A Sweet Conundrum

14 Aug

At the bakery, we’ve been playing around with our Brittle recipe.  Not just switching up the nuts & flavors, but trying to substitute some of the other elements.  Brittle is basically sugar, invert sugar, a little fat, baking soda & salt, plus nuts of course.  So our recipe started out as granulated sugar, glucose (which actually contains a sulfite preservative), butter, then the normal soda, salt & nuts.

In the interest of making the product a bit more healthy, and to comply with the ingredient rules from some stores, I am trying to do some more substitutions.  We are using Evaporated Cane Juice, instead of granulated sugar, which is less refined and has some additional health benefits.

For the butter element, I’ve substituted a smaller amount of grape seed oil so that the product is vegan.  The tricky part comes with substituting something for the glucose.  We all know the terrible reputation of corn syrup, so that’s definitely out.  HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) is associated with diabetes, childhood obesity, and a host of other problems.

We thought we had found the appropriate substitute in Agave Nectar, but research is proving otherwise.  According to Margaret Furtado, “Agave nectar, also called agave syrup, seems to be a darling of the health-food set nowadays. In its most natural form, agave nectar is a healthy sugar alternative; however, most of the agave nectars you and I can buy in stores are said to be composed of anywhere between 70 and 90 percent highly refined fructose–a higher percentage than is found in high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)…

I’m not suggesting that HFCS is linked to health problems. I will only note that if you add agave nectar to your diet, thereby increasing your intake of refined fructose, you’ll be increasing your risk of raising the triglyceride levels (fat) in your blood.  And since triglycerides (like cholesterol) are a risk factor in heart disease, for optimal health you should try to keep your levels within the normal range. Agave nectar is hardly a low-calorie product, either, and so might thwart weight loss efforts.” Sourced from http://health.yahoo.net/experts/weightloss/agave-nectar-healthy-sweetener-or-health-disaster/

So, now we are back to the drawing board – trying brown rice syrup first to see what happens.  Making brittle without invert sugar doesn’t work either, because the sugar mass recrystallizes once I pour it on the silicon mat – almost looks like pralines.  We had tried malt syrup, but it left too much of an off “malty” taste.

Healthy + environmentally friendly + delicious + less refined = lots of homework!


3 Responses to “A Sweet Conundrum”

  1. Leonard August 14, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

    What about Golden Syrup? It can be subsituted for corn syrup.
    You could also try making your own invert sugar starting with a raw sugar and cooking it with lemon juice (wikipedia entry): Inverted sugar syrup can be easily made by adding roughly one gram of citric acid or ascorbic acid, per kilogram of sugar. Cream of tartar (one gram per kilogram) or fresh lemon juice (10 millilitres per kilogram) may also be used.

    The mixture is boiled for 20 minutes, and will convert enough of the sucrose to effectively prevent crystallization, without giving a noticeably sour taste. Invert sugar syrup may also be produced without the use of acids or enzymes by thermal means alone: two parts granulated sucrose and one part water simmered for five to seven minutes will convert a modest portion to invert sugar.

    All inverted sugar syrups are created from hydrolysing sucrose to glucose (dextrose) and fructose by heating a sucrose solution, then relying on time alone, with the catalytic properties of an acid or enzymes used to speed the reaction. Commercially prepared acid catalysed solutions are neutralised when the desired level of inversion is reached.

    I’m not sure you’re going to find a healthy brittle recipe but if you do you will become rich!

    • blackmarketbakery August 14, 2010 at 7:29 pm #

      Thanks for the info on making ones own invert sugar. Have you tried it? We’ll give it a go and see what happens. And where does one get Golden Syrup? I think of it as a British ingredient.

  2. Leonard August 15, 2010 at 3:48 am #

    I haven’t tried either. Lyle’s Golden Syrup should be available in a Brit specialty market. It’s also available from Amazon. I would first try making the invert sugar using natural raw sugar. If it works it would be less expensive and you can attest to the natural ingredients and processes used. I didn’t realize the problems with corn syrup in your first post. I was just thinking vegan.

    Here is another recipe for invert sugar which is also called candi sugar used in brewing Belgium style beer. Again, from research and not practical experience.

    Combine 5 lbs sugar in a pot with 3 cups of water.
    Set to medium heat and stir continuously, but slowly to keep the sugar off the sides of the pot.
    When the sugar is almost completely dissolved add 10 ml of a low-flavord acid, like Lactic or Phosphoric.
    Continue heating and stirring till it starts to boil. You now have mostly inverted sugar.
    Keep heating it over medium heat until it starts to turn straw yellow. Very pale. Nice light sugar.
    If you want darker sugar, keep cooking it but watch out as it can darken very quickly if you aren’t paying attention.
    Before you are satisfied with the color, turn off the heat and carefully pour the syrup into 3 clean/sanitized mason jars and screw on the lids. The syrup will continue to darken as it cools.
    When the syrup has cooled for 15 minutes, I turn the ball jars over and let the hot liquid cover the lids on the inside as an additional precaution.
    Once they are almost cool, turn them back over.
    The syrup is easy to measure out and keeps nearly forever.

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