One thing I love to do in my kitchen is try things out and have a bit of an experiment. Days where I really research a recipe and test different versions until I find one I love are my favourites.
I was recently sent a couple of packets of Natvia to try and decided it was the perfect opportunity for a bit of kitchen experimentation.
In case you’ve not heard of it before, Natvia is a sugar substitute made from stevia – a natural sweetener with zero, yes that’s right, zero calories!
One of the main selling points of Natvia is that it is “perfect for cooking and baking” so I thought I’d have a bit of fun and test this claim out. I decided that rather than trying to design a new recipe from scratch which I thought perfectly suited the product, I’d simply substitute it into a couple of my tried-and-tested sugar-filled recipes and compare the results.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could switch your sugar for a sugar-free, zero calorie alternative and still have delicious cakes and cookies?
I chose two tried and tested recipes, fairy cakes – they’re so plain and simple that the impact of the switch shouldn’t be masked by other ingredients, and Jon’s chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies – because I wanted to test cookies and it’s the only cookie recipe on the blog (I really should add another one shouldn’t I)!
I was concerned that knowing which was which would cloud my judgement so I employed the help of Jon, Daniel (4 at the time) and Josh (2) for a blind taste test.
In terms of the baking, the Natvia was just as easy to use as sugar.
The Natvia fairy cakes didn’t rise quite as well as their sugar filled siblings. The texture looked a little dense, but they actually tasted lighter than they looked. The icing had the same look and texture of regular butter icing.
You can see the huge different in the cookies. These were honestly made with exactly the same recipes (sugar/Natvia switch aside) and I shaped them in exactly the same way before they were put into the oven. You can see that the sugar version has spread out and they were much more chewy. The Natvia version barely changed shape in the oven and had a more crumbly texture.
But what about the taste?
Let face it, looking at the pictures they both look pretty yummy so it’s really all about the taste…
We all know what cookies and cakes made with sugar taste like. In comparison the Natvia versions were, well… erm… different. The taste was nice, just as sweet as sugar. However, they felt slightly cold in the mouth and seemed to tingle a little. Jon said it reminded him a little of popping candy.
Jon actually really liked the crumbly texture of the Natvia cookies so I’ll have to experiment some more to see if I can come up with a flavour combination that works well with it.
You can alway trust a four year old for honesty when it comes to food, and whilst Daniel picked out both the sugar ones as his favourites, he happily polished off the Natvia versions too (and believe me, if he doesn’t like something it will not get eaten).
In case you’re wondering what Josh thought of it all, he has been sacked as a taste tester as he happily ate them all and didn’t make any helpful comments.
NOTE – Stevia is a natural plant extract that is then bulked out with other products to make it look more like regular sugar and ensure that 1 tsp has the same level of sweetness (for some brands this is ½ tsp). Each brand uses different products to bulk out the stevia and as a result I’d expect that using a different brand may lead to different results.
Will I be switching to baking with Natvia?
It’s a tricky question to answer. In all honesty I preferred the sugar versions and I think the family did too. However, switching from sugar to Natvia (or any other kind of stevia-based alternative) makes a huge difference to the overall amount of sugar in both bakes (and therefore also the calories).
The fairy cakes made with Natvia had 312 calories and 0.7g sugar compared to 514 calories and 51.0g sugar in the original version. That’s a 39% reduction in calories and 99% reduction in sugar – a huge difference!
The Natvia cookies had 248 calories and 3.7g of sugar compared to 338 calories and 26.1g of sugar in the original – a 26% and 86% reduction respectively.
If you’re worried about the amount of sugar in your diet but need a sweet treat then I’d say it’s worth considering.
Have you ever tried substituting sugar for stevia? What did you make and how did it go?