Saturday 31 March 2012

Taste Test: Gluten Free Cinnamon Sugar Shortbread with Truvia

I was recently sent a new sugar replacement to try, called Truvia by Silver Spoon. I’ve seen it popping up here and there on blogs and in articles recently, but not tried it myself so I was intrigued. Normally I would not even consider using a sweetener in my foods. My previous experiences of them have been a horrible chemical taste and to be honest I’d much sooner use natural sugar in my baking.

So why did I agree to try Truvia? Well it claims to be made using a naturally sweet tasting extract from the Stevia leaf, so much more ‘natural’ than other chemical based sweeteners. It is sweeter tasting than regular sugar, meaning you only have to use 1/3 of a teaspoon of Truvia to every 1 teaspoon of regular sugar. I decided to give the sweetener a trial by using it to bake a batch of shortbread. I wanted something quite plain and simple, to see if I could detect the sweeteners presence.

On opening the pot, my first impression was that it looks just like regular sugar. I gave the pot a sniff and it smelt faintly sweet and quite vanillary. It reminded me of vanilla ice cream, quite appealing really.

I dipped my finger in the pot and picked up just a few grains and tasted them in their natural state. It was strange. It felt like they melted on my tongue and initially felt cold, followed by an intense sweetness. It was rather surprising, but not an unpleasant experience. Sadly the aftertaste was a bit strange and seemed to linger on my tongue much longer than normal sugar and was slightly tacky.

I decided to hold off my judgement until I’d baked with it as and so made my shortbread, using only a third of the quantity of Truvia as I would to normal sugar, and then sprinkled a little Truvia and cinnamon on top. On eating the shortbread, the initial taste was quite bland and savoury tasting. I found I had to chew a few times before the taste of sweetness came through and then it tasted like a good normal shortbread. However, the aftertaste was a bit chemically (although there are no nasty chemicals in it) which wasn’t so good. However, I think this may because the Truvia sprinkled on top of the dough wasn’t baked into the shortbread and so had a much stronger taste. When I scraped the topping off and just ate the shortbread base the aftertaste was much more subtle.

I have come to the conclusion that the sweetener would be fine when baked and incorporated completely into a dish that also contained lots of other stronger flavours, to help mask the weird aftertaste, but is not really ideal to use as a sprinkle as then its too raw and doesn’t quite work.

Would I buy the sweetener on a regular basis? Sadly not, I like the taste of natural sugar and believe if you want to cut down on your sugar intake then either reduce the amount in the recipe, eat less of it, or use agave nectar. However, that’s not to say I can’t see Truvia being useful to people who need to avoid sugary products for health reasons – such as diabetes. To be able to have a sweet flavour without any of the rise in blood glucose levels would be a great benefit, and to give it some credit, it is based on plant extracts rather than purely chemicals, unlike some other sweeteners on the market.

I’m not going to share the gluten free shortbread recipe with you, as although it had a lovely crumbly buttery texture, it was actually too short and crumbly. I couldn’t pick a piece up without it breaking and it is now destined to be a crumb topping for yoghurt or some stewed fruit. I plan to do a bit of tweaking to make it sturdier and when I’ve got a better recipe, I’ll be sure to share it!


Unknown said...

I look forward to the recipe once you've got it all sorted out.

I agree with you, I don't really like the idea of a sugar substitute. I once was really curious and picked up one of the Splenda bags in the baking isle as was surprised at how light-weight it was, and it was supposed to be like a 10oz bag or something. It just didn't seem right.

Emily said...

I'm quite fond of sugar, as well. I've never used Truvia before. The shortbread looks delicious!

Caroline said...

Interesting thoughts on the Truvia, thanks for tasting and sharing. I think I'll stick to sugar unless I have to use an alternative.

Paloma said...

I agree with all of your comments on TRUVIA ... I tried it to sweeten my coffee and it just ruined it... literally! I thought I would "make myself drink it like that anyway" and then I said: "isn't this supposed to be enjoyable? Who is "making me" do this? :) I still have Truvia as an option, interestingly for a strawberry smoothie... weirdly enough it doesn't taste weird there... (or not too much I guess) plus I add a hint of vanilla extract to it and I guess that and the frozen strawberries help... who knows... thanks for sharing your findings on it... I don't think I'll use it for baking now... I was wondering, but just like you, I've thought "cakes are cakes, desserts are desserts" and unless you have diabetes or health issues like that... then just try to "watch the sugar intake" by reducing it but not really substituting it... nothing like sugar, right?