I’ve had my nose stuck in the new America’s Test Kitchen cookbook, Naturally Sweet: Bake All Your Favorites with 30% to 50% Less Sugar (America’s Test Kitchen) since mid-July when I received it from America’s Test Kitchen. Halfway through I stopped marking the recipes I wanted to make because nearly every page had a sticky note on it. Now that I am done reading the book cover-to-cover, I can’t wait to get into the kitchen and try all of the wonderful recipes.
Having interned at ATK during the summer of 2014, I knew this book, like all of their others, was going to be amazing. Packed full of both classics and new favorites, this book of foolproof recipes was bound to deliver. And did it ever!
Not only is each recipe developed using only natural sweeteners; they are also developed to be lower in sugar content (30-50% lower than their traditional counterparts). And honestly, I was a bit skeptical about the book before I received it. I assumed that if the recipes were lower in sugar they must be calling for sweeteners like Splenda, Stevia, or Monkfruit; sweeteners I would rather not use due to their flavor and extensive processing. I was pleasantly surprised to find that wasn’t the case, which makes these recipes that much more impressive. The editors at ATK had to completely re-think the baking and cooking process of recipes utilizing sugar.
To really understand the extent of this recipe development it’s important to know how sugar affects different recipes, specifically in baked goods. Sugar is not only used for sweetness, it is largely used for structure, texture, and color, just to name a few.
When creating a low-sugar baked good, one cannot simply decrease the amount of sugar used because the structure and crumb will greatly suffer if other ingredients or processes are not modified. Likewise, natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or Sucanat cannot simply be swapped out for granulated sugar in baking due to various melting points, moisture contents, and absorption capabilities. Thus, ingredient ratios and processes were completely reanalyzed for this book.
As you work your way through Naturally Sweet, the editors at ATK walk you through their thought and development processes, and explain why the recipes were developed in the way they were. They take note of what tasters liked and disliked, give justifications for which sweetener they used, and explain what conventional cooking and baking processes they had to rethink.
The sugars used in this cookbook include Sucanant (unrefined cane sugar), date sugar, coconut sugar, honey, and maple syrup. Before starting, the editors run down the properties of each sweetener, their processing method, and what applications they are best suited for. They also share which sweeteners were ruled out and why, like Stevia, which is just as processed as regular sugar and incredibly sweet on its own.
Many of the recipes in this book also include instructions on substituting the natural sweeteners with granulated sugar, if a reader prefers to make it that way.
Naturally Sweet covers all types of recipes from muffins and quick breads, to cakes, frosting, tarts, and ice cream. There is a recipe for every occasion and taste preference, which is just one more reason why I absolutely love this book.
I am always looking for ways to cut down on sugar in classic recipes, and this book found a way to accomplish that while maintaining, and even improving, the traditional qualities of those recipes.
For anyone who is looking to cut down on sugar, eat less processed, be healthier, or just try something different, then this book is perfect for you. Not only are the recipes delicious, but you will learn about baking, ingredient interactions, and how traditional cooking techniques have become engrained in our kitchens. This book challenges those hard-fast laws of baking and cooking, giving us cooks the courage and power to question our habits in the kitchen. After all, isn’t that the beauty of cooking? Isn’t that the art of it? Unlike many aspects of our lives, the rules in cooking are meant to be challenged, pushed, and broken.
This Blueberry–Lemon Curd Tart caught my eye from the very beginning; I kept getting drawn back to its stunning colors and striking layers. And although it takes a few hours to make, it’s fairly easy to prepare and is so refreshingly delicious, delightfully tart, and perfectly sweetened. Honey is used in both the lemon and blueberry layers, pairing well with both fruits. Sucanat is used in the tart crust and offers a deep sweetness with just a touch of molasses.
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- ¼ cup lemon zest plus ½ cup juice (4 lemons)
- 1 large egg plus 5 large yolks
- ⅓ cup plus ¼ cup honey
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and chilled
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 recipe Classic Tart Crust (see below) partially baked and cooled
- 10 ounces (2 cups) blueberries
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Measure out 1 tablespoon lemon juice and set aside. Whisk remaining lemon juice, lemon zest, egg and yolks, ⅓ cup honey, and pinch salt in medium saucepan until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with rubber spatula, until mixture thickens slightly and registers 165 degrees, about 5 minutes.
- Off heat, whisk in chilled butter until melted. Strain lemon curd through fine-mesh strainer into bowl, then gently stir in cream with rubber spatula.
- Pour warm lemon curd into cooled tart crust. Set tart on baking sheet and bake until filling is shiny and opaque and center jiggles slightly when shaken, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Transfer tart with baking sheet to wire rack and let cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, process blueberries in a food processor until smooth, about 2 minutes. Strain purée through clean fine-mesh strainer into medium saucepan, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible (you should have about ¾ cup); discard solids.
- Whisk in remaining ¼ cup honey and ⅛ teaspoon salt. Whisk cornstarch and water together in a small bowl, then whisk into strained blueberry mixture. Bring to simmer over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, and cook until thickened slightly and registers 170 degrees, about 4 minutes.
- Off heat, whisk in reserved 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Pour blueberry mixture evenly over cooled lemon filling. Tap pan lightly on counter to release any air bubbles, then refrigerate until blueberry mixture is set and shiny, about 2 hours. To serve, remove outer ring of tart pan, slide thin metal spatula between tart and tart pan bottom, and carefully slide tart onto serving patter or cutting board.
- Original: 42 grams sugar
- New Recipe: 27 grams sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup (1 ⅓ ounces) Sucanat
- 1 ¼ cups (6 ¼ ounces) all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces and chilled
- Whisk egg yolk, cream, and vanilla together in bowl. Grind Sucanat in spice grinder until fine and powdery, about 1 minute. Process flour, ground Sucanat, and salt in food processor until combined, about 5 seconds. Scatter chilled butter over top and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 15 pulses. With process running, add egg yolk mixture and process until dough just comes together, about 12 seconds.
- Form dough into 6-inch disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour. (Dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month. If frozen, let dough thaw completely on counter before rolling.)
- Let chilled dough sit on counter to soften slightly, about 10 minutes. Roll dough into 11-inch circle on lightly floured counter. Loosely roll dough around rolling pin and gently unroll it onto 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom, letting excess dough hang over edge. Ease dough into pan by gently lifting edge of dough with your hand while pressing into corners and fluted sides of pan with your other hand. Run rolling pin over top of pan to remove any excess dough. Wrap dough-lined pan loosely in plastic, place on large plate, and freeze until dough is chilled and firm, about 30 minutes. (Dough-lined tart pan can be wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Set dough-lined tart pan on baking sheet, line with double layer of aluminum foil, covering edges to prevent burning, and fill with pie weights.
- Bake until crust is golden brown and set, about 30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Remove weights and foil and let crust cool. (For a fully cooked tart crust, continue baking, uncovered, for an additional 5-10 minutes until deeply golden brown.
I received a copy of Naturally Sweet: Bake All Your Favorites with 30% to 50% Less Sugar (America’s Test Kitchen) from America’s Test Kitchen, this recipe is used with their permission. This post contains affiliate links.
Cookbook giveaway sponsored by America’s Test Kitchen and open to US residents 18 years of age and older.