Sweet syrups used in Baking

Every year in the season of strawberries, we make our annual trip to Mahabaleshwar, a hill station in the proximity of Pune. For me, apart from the strawberries and mulberries that grow there, honey sold in Mahabaleshwar is also a big attraction. Honey bee farming happens in the jungles of Western Ghats and Mahabaleshwar is a seat for Directorate of bee-keeping. So when I walked into the Government shop selling honey, I realised that they had a variety of honey based on the type of trees on which the bee-keeping happens.  My interest in honey stems from the fact that it is probably the oldest sweetener used in cooking and baking long before sugar was invented. This blog is not just about honey, it is also about all the sweeteners in syrup form. 

There are quite a few sweet syrups that can be used for baking. The main advantage of using them is that they are more natural, less processed than sugars and hence healthier.

  1. Honey
    Honey is perhaps the most used liquid sweetener in baking. It is a commonly known fact that it is produced by bees from nectar in the flowers and is stored in walls of the bee hive. The texture and flavour of this golden syrup totally depends on the flowers on which the bees feed on.  It is an interesting fact to know that it takes twelve bees together to make just a teaspoon of honey in their entire life time! So imagine the number of bees working to produce that gorgeous golden sweetness! No wonder honey is an expensive sweetener.
    So the advantages of using honey are :1. It gives moistness to the baked product which is a desired characteristic in cakes
    2. It is sweeter than sugar so less quantity is desired. Also remember to reduce liquidity in a recipe as it is a liquid sweetener. Substitute about 2/3 cup of honey for 1 cup of sugar.
    3. It browns quickly and hence the resulting product is darker in colour
    4. It is acidic in nature as compared to sugar and hence pairs beautifully with baking soda to produce leavening in the product being baked.
  2. Molasses
    As we all are aware, molasses are a by-product of sugar making process. It can be obtained from beet and sorghum too but the one obtained from sugarcane is more flavourful and is used in baking. Molasses is also referred to as black treacle.  Here are some of the things you should note when using Molasses.1. Molasses is less sweeter than sugar and hence more quantity needs to be used when replacing sugar in a recipe. As a general thumb rule you could replace 1 cup of sugar by 1-1/3 cup of molasses.
    2. Remember that it has a distinct flavour and would colour the baked good dark.
    3. It attracts moisture and hence the baked goods will stay moist. The cookies can turn chewy because of molasses if that is the texture desired.
    4. It is acidic in nature has to be paired with baking soda to balance.
    Some of the dishes that use molasses are dark rye breads, gingerbread and ginger snaps and in barbecue sauces.
  3. Golden Syrup
    Golden Syrup also referred to as light treacle is also a by-product of sugar refining.It is golden in colour, as the name suggests and less malty in flavour as compared to molasses. It has properties similar to molasses. It is very popular in English cooking and one of the most popular use of treacle is the famous treacle tart, Harry Potter’s personal favourite. And hence my daughter’s favourite too as she is a die-hard Harry Potter fan!!!
  4. Glucose
    Glucose syrup is often referred to as liquid glucose and actually is a liquid form of simple sugar. It is made from starchy foods like potato, wheat, rice and corn. It is mainly preferred by the bakers because of its purity.  It keeps baked goods moist and is mostly used in candies and frozen desserts as it prevents crystallisation. It is also used to make icings like royal icing or fondant for the same reasons as it keeps the icing smooth and prevents icing from becoming hard. Also it tends to keep the texture of fudge smooth. It can be interchangeably used with corn syrup if it is not available.
  5. Corn Syrup
    Corn syrup is a liquid sweetener made from the starch of corn. So technically corn syrup is also a type of glucose. It is used for the same reasons as glucose.
  6. Malt Syrup
    Malt Syrup is extracted from sprouted barley. It is dark brown and sticky and has a distinct flavour. It is mainly used in yeast breads to provide flavour, provide nice colour to the crust, produce finer texture and increase the keeping quality of bread.

That sums up the most commonly used sweet syrups in baking. So depending on what you are craving for today go for any of the sweet syrups in your pantry and bake yourself a sweet treat !