Ask The Chef
Q. Are sugar, brown sugar, honey and maple syrup (the real thing) interchangeable in recipes? For example, could you use honey in a recipe that calls for sugar? If so, how would you adjust the amount? And which one of these natural sugars is the least "fattening?"
A. You didn’t really expect me to say "yes," do you? There are several factors at variance among the different types of sweeteners; among them weight, moisture, acidity, and of course, taste. You can manipulate most of these variables to substitute one for the other selectively. First, consider the difference in weight. A cup of granulated sugar weighs 8 ounces. A cup of brown sugar weighs only 6. But a cup of maple syrup weighs 11 ounces, and a cup of honey weighs 12 ounces. So, if you substitute honey in a recipe that calls for brown sugar, you'd be adding twice the amount of food. Maybe that's ok, but since honey is sweeter than sugar, you're not only adding more mass, but more sweetness too.
In addition, honey and maple syrup add moisture which can upset the texture of the recipe. Honey adds acid to a recipe, which you may need to neutralize with the addition of a pinch of baking soda. Also, honey can cause baked foods to brown more quickly. Brown sugar, on the other hand, attracts moisture, so it will keep baked goods from drying out as quickly. Brown sugar includes molasses, which adds moisture, and certainly changes the taste.
Having babbled enough now, below are the general substitution rules for sweeteners. Remember, most people consider these emergency substitutions, not daily rules to live by:
· In spite of their difference in weight, you can interchange granulated and brown sugar on a 1 to 1 basis. The most significant difference will be taste.
· Substitute white sugar for brown sugar on a 1 to 1 basis, but add 4 tablespoons of molasses per cup, and decrease the total amount of liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons.
· To use honey in place of sugar, use 7/8 cup for every cup of sugar, and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons.
· To use sugar in place of honey, use 1-1/4 cups of sugar plus add 1/4 cup more liquid.
· To use maple syrup in place of sugar in cooking, use 3/4 cup instead of 1 cup of sugar.
· To use maple syrup in place of a cup of sugar in baking, use 3/4 cup, but decrease the total amount of liquid in the recipe by about 3 tablespoons for each cup of syrup used.
· To use sugar in place of a cup of maple syrup, use 1-1/4 cups of sugar plus 1/4 cup more liquid.
Finally, granulated sugar has 46 calories per tablespoon, brown sugar has 50, maple syrup has 53, and honey tops them all with 64… just in case calories are something you’re concerned about.