Well, October is upon us, and that means pumpkin spice everything, pies and cake and all sorts of yummy meals. It also means that with Halloween and Thanksgiving following one another in rapid succession and all those December holidays right behind them, you might be loading yourself up already with January guilt over how much sugar you’ve consumed all holiday season. Well, fear not, intrepid admirer of holidays! Own this holiday season and your waistline, by diving into recipes that are full of flavor, and not of guilt. Ready? Let’s get to it!

For all you bakers out there, you already know baking is chemistry, and sugar is part of the equation, right? It’s responsible for that beautiful brown color that tells you your chocolate chip cookies are done. For proper texture, moisture, and it even helps leaven. If you go without it, you’ll wind up with a mutant creation that often looks weak, and tastes even worse.

So, let’s not go there, and consider a few tips to lower sugar while maintaining the integrity of that beautiful pumpkin bread of yours.

  • Use Less Sugar Than Your Recipe Calls For: When you can get away with it, this is a no-brainer. However, your ability to reduce sugar will depend on what exactly you’re baking. Cookies, for instance, rely so heavily on the right amount of sugar for the proper shape and crunch, so you can’t always skimp there. Pumpkin bread, however, can certainly use less. Experiment with your recipes by using 1/4 to 1/3 less sugar. If you’re feeling up for it, you can even cut the sugar in half.
  • Use an Alternative Sweetener: No, we’re not talking about emptying a bunch of artificial sugar packets into your batter. Instead, try swapping out white sugar for alternatives like raw honey, pure maple syrup, or agave nectar which are much sweeter (so you need a lot less) and have some inherent nutritional benefits (though not much so don’t go crazy).

    When you replace white sugar with liquid alternatives, you’re going to end up with a different consistency and taste, though… so be aware of that. Trial and error is the key here, so find as many excuses to bake as you can! Another suggestion: use brown sugar (think: extra flavor), but halve the amount called for (replace 1 cup white sugar with 1/2 cup brown sugar).

  • Use Fruit’s Natural Sugars: This suggestion comes from the owner and head baker at Scafuri Bakery in Chicago. She suggests cooking fruit before adding to recipes. For instance, cook the apples for your pie in a tiny bit of sugar in the oven to bring out the fruit’s natural sugars. Then plop that tasty goodness in a crust and continue baking. The end result uses less sugar, and enhances the flavor of the apples. This goes for just about any fruit. You can even cook those apples, whirl in a blender, and use that sugary goodness in other baked things.

The key is to experiment, have fun, and amble up to January with less guilt than you had last year. You’ll also discover one of the beautiful things about using less sugar: you’re able to taste the wonderful inherent flavors of those baked goods better than you can when you’re overdoing it on the sugar. Pumpkin bread tastes more pumpkin-y, and apple pie tastes like a fresh bite out of an orchard. Without all the excess sugar, you’ll be able to truly enjoy the rich flavors of fall. Now off you go to the kitchen!

Oh, and if you’re not into the whole trial and error thing with baking, and just want some straight-forward recipes, check out these yummy recipes without the sugar guilt!

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