Artificial sweeteners, a great boon to diabetics and dieters alike, are finally coming into their own. New developments have improved the taste and quality of artificial sweeteners, eliminating the nasty aftertaste of early versions.
The history of artificial sweeteners is full of unintentional discoveries. Dirty hands inadvertently led two scientists at the Johns Hopkins University to discover saccharin in 1879. Professor Ira Remsen had been working with coal-tar derivatives before eating dinner. He touched his food without washing his hands and found his meal curiously sweet. Constantine Fahlberg, a research fellow in Remsen's lab, tasted the same sweetness in his lunch. The coal-tar derivative on his hands made his sandwich sweeter.
Saccharin is 300 times as sweet as sugar and in high doses has a bitter or metallic aftertaste. The offensive aftertaste can't be masked by adding fruit flavors, vanilla, or chocolate. However, saccharin remains stable under high heat and it is not affected by acids in cooking.
Another artificial sweetener, aspartame, was also discovered accidentally. In 1965, a scientist at G.D. Searle named James Schlatter found the sweetener when working on an anti-ulcer drug. Today, aspartame is marketed under the brand names Nutrasweet and Equal and is used in about 6,000 products marketed in the United States. Unfortunately for bakers, its molecules break down when subjected to heat.
Then came Splenda, a mixture of maltodextrin and sucralose. Maltodextrin is a by-product derived from cornstarch. Sucralose was discovered by accident in 1976 by Leslie Hough and Shashikant Phadnis, researchers at Tate & Lyle, now part of King's College in London. The team had been working on the compound when Hough asked Phadnis to test the substance. He thought she said “taste,” so he tasted it and discovered its incredible sweetness. With different properties and composition than aspartame, Splenda holds up well when heated, so it's fine for cooking and baking.
The creative part of a sugar-free diet is working out ways to cook delicious three- to four-course meals that are totally free of refined sugar. This book lays the foundations for you to start making recipes of your own. Use your favorite foods and invent ways to add wonderful, sugar-free notes to each dish.
Work with herbs and spices to add flavors that enhance the food naturally. For example, most vinaigrette recipes call for a pinch of sugar. Instead, use a pinch of Splenda or make the dressing with extra oil or freshly squeezed orange juice and skip the sweetness. The same method works when you try to cut back on salt. Wean yourself from it, and soon you'll find you won't miss either sugar or salt.
The health benefits of a sugar-free diet are myriad. The trick is to make the food taste as good as or better than you're used to. The beautiful part is that this can be done — and it's not difficult! It's delicious, fun, and healthy to change your cooking style to reduce or totally eliminate refined sugar.