“Primarily this is a book about flavor,” says Shauna Sever, author of Real Sweet, a cookbook that features over 80 treats made with natural sugars like coconut sugar, muscovado, turbinado, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar and more.
“I’m a baker who likes to experiment with technique, so I wanted to see how much I could really play with these sugars,” she continues. “You can make a lot of familiar things but get a different profile by swapping out the sugar, so I wanted to give people a book that was both a primer and a transition to natural sugars.”
Her kids were definitely part of her inspiration as she wanted them to be able to eat sweets but in a more natural, more wholesome sort of way. As time went on, she realized that she could make old-fashioned comfort foods with sugar alternatives as well, so the book expanded beyond family-friendly treats (though there is still a dedicated section for those, too).
“One of the biggest things I learned was that you have to respect the sugar, which is to say you can’t expect it to act like something it’s not,” says Sever. “You can’t use a liquid sugar in place of regular sugar; it’s two totally different things, science-wise (like how swapping agave into a cookie recipe just won’t give you the same crispy result as traditional sugar). My cookies use dark muscovado sugar and turbinado sugar, which are less refined cane sugars and will result in a better cookie.”
Even with sugar alternatives, the recipes are still treats. “This is a less processed way of eating, which is a direction that a lot of us want to move in.” she notes. “There are more whole grains and less processed sugars, so they are kinder to your body. I’m not one of those people who thinks you can fool yourself with dessert. I’d much rather have a tiny brownie made with the good stuff.” When she’s not eating sweets, she’s indulging in wine and cheese all day long.
And what will Sever be serving to her July 4th guests? Two favorites from the cookbook: ”Raspberry lemonade yogurt pops and a fruit crisp that’s sweetened with unsweetened apple juice concentrate. I really like doing things that celebrate seasonal fruit and natural sweetness, like Pavlovas made with a raw-sugar meringue.”
Bonfire Toffee Lollipops
Makes about 1 dozen 2-inch lollipops
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
3 tablespoons brown rice syrup
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Have ready a heatproof lollipop mold sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and fitted with lollipop sticks.
2. To make the toffee, measure all the ingredients into a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and stir occasionally until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the candy to a boil. Clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and cook until the temperature reaches 285 degrees F. Immediately remove the pan from the heat.
3. When the candy reaches 285 degrees F, immediately (and carefully) pour it into lollipop molds with sticks in place. If the candy starts to firm up on you before you can get it all into the molds, simply place the pan back over a very low flame to warm it again. Let the candy harden completely before popping the lollies out of their molds. Wrap the lollipops in clear cellophane as soon as possible (air exposure will make them sticky!).
Per serving: Calories 136; Fat 6 g (Saturated 4 g); Cholesterol 15 mg; Sodium 67 mg; Carbohydrate 23 g; Fiber 0 g; Sugars 21 g; Protein 0 g