Sugar and other sweeteners feed the yeast, making the bread taller and better tasting. It also gives the bread a nice colour and a soft texture. But too much sugar, over ¼ cup for every 3 cups of flour, can slow down the yeast, and your bread will not rise as much. It might over-rise and then collapse. Salt and sugar affect the bread’s moisture content, flavour and texture. They also help the bread last longer because they attract moisture. You might not like the loaf if you add too much or too little.
Types of sweeteners that can be used
Several types of sweeteners can be used to make bread. The sweetener used in bread-making can affect the taste and texture, so choosing the right one for the desired outcome is essential.
The most common sweetener in bread-making is sugar, which can be either white or brown.
Refined white sugar (any granulated sugar), most commonly used in bread recipes, enhances the action of the yeast. Unless otherwise specified, sugar means the white cane kind, not beet sugar.
Brown sugar is made by mixing granulated sugar with molasses. The light and dark versions of brown sugar are interchangeable. Structurally, the two sugars function similarly but have different colours and flavours. Light brown sugar is lighter in colour and has a milder taste. Dark brown sugar is deeper in colour and has a stronger molasses flavour. Depending on the flavour and colour you want, you can use either type of brown sugar in your recipe.
Honey is a sweet and healthy option to add when making bread. Bees make it from flower nectar, which has a unique taste depending on the types of flowers the bees collect from. Compared to sugar, honey is a liquid and can add a delightful floral and sweet flavour to your bread and give it a golden crust. However, it browns quickly because it contains glucose and fructose. It is best for soft-textured baked goods. When freezing bread, honey has scientific benefits as it can absorb and retain moisture from the air, keeping your homemade bread fresh for longer. Coconut oil and honey can also slow down mould growth in homemade bread.
Never use honey in recipes you need to bake at temperatures higher than 176°C/350°F because it will burn.
How to measure honey
To make measuring honey easier, spray or oil your measuring cup or spoon before you start. This helps the honey slide out more easily. If you’re measuring oil and honey in a recipe, measure the oil first and pour it into your recipe, then measure the honey. This saves even more time.
Too much honey can kill the gluten in a recipe just as too much sugar can.
If honey crystallizes
You can return the honey to liquid form by removing the lid and putting the container in hot water if your honey has crystallized. You can also use the microwave to re-liquefy the honey in a microwave-safe container on high for a short time.
Molasses is a sweetener commonly used in darker, heartier bread. It is a thick brown syrup from sugar cane juice that has been boiled to create a rich, sweet flavour. It has lots of iron, calcium, and vitamin B, making it a good source of energy. Molasses comes in light and dark varieties that can be used interchangeably but have different flavours. The darker the molasses, the more intense the taste, and very dark molasses can taste bitter when baked. I prefer to use Fancy Molasses in my bread recipes.
Types of Molasses
There are five different types of molasses, each with a different taste and texture.
- Light molasses is also called “sweet,” “Barbados,” “first,” or “mild” molasses. It has 40% less sugar than fancy molasses. It is produced after the first boiling of the sugar cane. It has a lighter colour and a sweeter taste because only a small amount of sugar has been removed. Recipes made with light molasses have a mild flavour and are lighter in colour. Cookies made with light molasses are softer, and bread is more crusty.
- Fancy Molasses is also called Gold Star. It is condensed from the pure juice of the sugar cane, so it’s lighter and sweeter than other types of molasses. When used in baking, it gives a light colour and a sweet taste. Fancy Molasses is commonly used for topping foods like pancakes, bread, biscuits, and crackers.
- Cooking molasses is a blend of fancy and blackstrap molasses, making baked goods darker and less sweet. It is ideal for making ginger snaps.
- Dark molasses, also known as “full” or “second” molasses, is darker, thicker and less sweet. Despite this, it can still be used in many recipes that require molasses and is often used in gingerbread cookies.
- Blackstrap molasses is the final by-product of the sugar-making process. It is thick, dark and has a slightly bitter taste. It should not be used as a substitute in recipes requesting molasses. It has the most health benefits and contains the highest vitamins and mineral content because it has been boiled three times.
Unsulphured vs. Sulphured Molasses: What's the Difference?
Unsulphured and sulphured molasses are different because they are derived from sugarcane of different maturity levels. The best sugarcane is naturally ripened under the sun, which brings out all the sugars.
Sulphured Molasses is made from young sugarcane and may have sulphur dioxide added to preserve it. This changes the taste, making it less sweet and sometimes leaving a chemical taste.
If you want something healthier and without chemicals, choose unsulfured molasses instead. It is richer in nutrients and has no added preservatives.
Unsulphured Molasses tastes better because it is made from sun-ripened sugar cane without added chemicals. It keeps the original and sweeter molasses flavour as it comes directly from the sugar cane grown for 12-15 months.
Unsulphured molasses is typically the variety used in recipes.
How to measure molasses
To make measuring molasses easier, spray or oil your measuring cup or spoon before you start. This helps the molasses slide out more easily. If you’re measuring oil and molasses in a recipe, measure the oil first, pour it into your recipe, and then measure the molasses. This saves even more time.
Maple syrup is a natural sweetener made from the sap of maple trees. It has a unique flavour that can give the bread a caramel-maple taste. The flavour can range from mild to intense, depending on the type of maple syrup you use. Lower-grade varieties have a more caramelly flavour. Maple syrup browns bread slower than honey but faster than granulated sugar. It’s best to use in recipes that require light sweetness. Make sure you use real maple syrup instead of fake ones that contain corn syrup, as it loses its sweetness when baked. Real maple syrup has beneficial minerals and can withstand heat.
How to measure maple syrup
To make measuring maple syrup easier, spray or oil your measuring cup or spoon before you start. This helps the maple syrup slide out more easily. If you’re measuring oil and maple syrup in a recipe, measure the oil first, pour it into your recipe, and then measure the maple syrup. This saves even more time.
Agave nectar, a natural sweetener from the agave plant, can also be used in bread-making.
Can you substitute white granulated sugar for brown sugar?
You can sometimes use white sugar instead of brown sugar, but it’s risky. It might work, but you might have a different texture and colour and lose the flavour. Brown sugar is also like an acid, making it work with baking soda to help cakes rise. Low pH brown sugar + high pH baking soda = the reaction of leavening. You should use brown sugar if a recipe asks for brown sugar and baking soda. But if a recipe asks for baking powder instead and less brown sugar than white sugar, you could probably use white sugar if needed.
Are honey, molasses and maple syrup interchangeable?
You can use honey, molasses, or maple syrup interchangeably in recipes. The only difference will be in colour, sweetness and taste. Molasses is not as sweet as the other two and will make baked goods a deep brown. Maple syrup is less sweet and will give a delicate flavour.
How to substitute liquid sweeteners for sugar
Some liquid sweeteners have great baking flavours, but switching a recipe from dry sugar to liquid sugar might be challenging. Yeast bread might be the easiest recipe to adapt when baking with liquid sweeteners. Also, you can adjust the amount of liquid sweetener to meet your taste preferences. Most recipes can handle at least 10 to 25% less sugar. Liquid sweeteners might make your bread brown faster, but they will still taste good.
Every sweetener changes baked goods differently, so you should learn how to use it before you put it in your recipe.
Honey for sugar
Honey is sweeter than sugar due to its high fructose content.
- Use 3/4 tablespoon of honey for every 1 tablespoon of sugar.
If you use honey, adjust the flour or liquid in your recipes.
- Add 1 tablespoon of flour for every 1/4 cup of honey.
- Reduce the liquid by 3 to 4 tablespoons for every 1 cup substitution.
Do not use honey if baking at a temperature higher than 176°C/350°F.
Granulated sugar is essential for the texture of some recipes. If substituting honey does not work, you can use a half-sugar, half-honey combination.
Maple syrup for sugar
Maple syrup is like sugar in sweetness. Use the same amount if you want to use maple syrup instead of sugar.
You should add some flour or reduce the liquid if you use maple syrup.
- Add 1 tablespoon of flour for every 1/4 cup of maple syrup;
- Decrease the liquid by 3 to 4 tablespoons per 1-cup substitution.
Make sure the maple syrup is at room temperature. If you use cold syrup, it might make other ingredients to clump.
Use real maple syrup when baking because it can withstand heat and keeps minerals and sweetness.
Don’t be fooled by “fake” maple syrup made with corn syrup. Its sweetness dissipates in baking.
Molasses for sugar
Molasses is as sweet as sugar. If you want to use molasses instead of sugar, use the same amount as sugar.
If you are replacing sugar with molasses in a recipe, you may need to add more flour or reduce the liquid.
- For every 1/4 cup of molasses , add 1 tablespoon of flour,
- reduce the liquid by 3 to 4 tablespoons for every cup of molasses.
Molasses is more robust in taste than maple syrup, so use it in small amounts or mix it with other sweeteners.
Molasses and granulated white sugar for brown sugar
To make brown sugar, you can use white sugar and molasses instead.
- Use 1 cup of white sugar and 2 teaspoons of molasses for light brown sugar.
- Use 1 cup of white sugar and 1 tablespoon of molasses for dark brown sugar.
You don’t have to mix the molasses into the sugar – add both to your recipe simultaneously.
Brown sugar weighs slightly more than white sugar, but it doesn’t matter. Once you add the molasses, your DIY brown sugar will be very close to the weight of “real” brown sugar, so you won’t need to change your recipe.
Types of sweeteners that cannot be used
Some types of sweeteners cannot be used to make bread.
Don’t use powdered or confectioners’ sugar instead of regular sugar when baking with yeast. This is because the yeast won’t work properly with it. Only use powdered sugar if the recipe specifies it. Powdered sugar is refined white sugar crushed into a fine consistency. It is commonly used in frosting and glaze recipes where a fine texture is needed.
Don’t use artificial sweeteners like aspartame or saccharin as a substitute for sugars and other natural sweeteners. They turn bitter when subjected to baking temperatures. These sweeteners won’t provide the necessary chemical reactions that sugar would provide, which could lead to a loaf that doesn’t rise as it should, and poor results will be attained.
What are the basic ingredients to make basic bread?
The basic ingredients to make bread are like instruments in an orchestra; each one does a specific job and gives a unique flavour to the bread. The right amount of each ingredient is essential to get the best taste. When you bake bread, a reaction happens to make a final masterpiece.
Excellent bread is as good as the ingredients that go into it. The basics for bread are simple: liquid like water or milk, fat like butter or oil, flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Bread can taste better using additional ingredients, different grains and flours. There are also quite a few bread improvers that you can add to your home-baked bread, depending on what quality you are trying to improve.
I hope my easy tips will give you the confidence to step into the kitchen and prepare delicious meals to eat with a handful of close friends.
Have you made a Fast2eat Recipe? I love seeing your take on my recipe!