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Nov 15, 2009 07:59 PM

Erythritol and Leavening in baked goods

I posted this to "site talk" and did get a reply (thanks again), but realized when i was exploring the site more that this might be the more appropriate place to post this question. I believe i have read posts here about folks using Erythritol (ZSweet) in baking. So, for those of you who have posted about baking with erythritol, did you have a similar experience and how did you compensate for the problem.

I recently began using erythritol (ZSweet) because my husband was diagnosed pre-diabetic. I have had terrible luck with cakes that don't rise. They look more like brownies and they tend to be very dense like a heavy poundcake. I checked and sure enough, my baking powder and baking soda were quite old. I've replaced them, but hate to waste another cake if folks know for sure it's the ZSweet. So, can this be blamed on my old leaveners or the ZSweet.

I love it to sweeten my tea and coffee. I've even made him some homemade hot chocolate with 2/3 erythritol and 1/3 sugar with good results. I pulverize it so it is very powdery and should dissolve more readily. Any Ideas?

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  1. Are you using 50% ZSweet/50% sugar as the website instructs?

    Although cake chemistry is a lot more complex than bread (and that's not that simple in itself), I think I might have an idea of what's going on here.

    Sugar is a gluten inhibitor. It gets in the way of protein molecules attempting to bond and prevents gluten from being created. Fat is the same way (think about how layers of fat create flaky crusts because the pieces of dough can't bond with each other). Sugar's large bulky molecules are not only what give baked goods chewiness, they are responsible for inhibiting gluten. Erythritol has teensy tiny molecules that provide very little sugary texture or gluten inhibition. Even though erythritol looks a lot like sugar in it's crystalline form, once you dissolve it, it's only providing about 1/8 the sugary texture- and that's assuming you can keep it crystallized. If you use too much and it recrystallizes (as it almost always does in room temp baked goods), you loose even more chewiness.

    Gluten is great for breads, but horrible for cakes. Too much gluten and the baking powder doesn't have enough umph to leaven it and you get a dense, tough cake.

    Technically, if you're using it 50/50, you're only losing 50% of the sugary texture, making workarounds a bit easier. I would give all of these three a try (at the same time).

    1. Use pastry flour (preferably unbleached- if you have trouble finding it, try a local bakery). Pastry flour has less protein. Less protein= less potential gluten formation.

    2. Increase the baking powder slightly (and decrease the salt). You have to be very careful because you could run into taste issues, but I'm sure you could get away with about 30% more.

    3. I kind of doubt that the recipe is having you mix the batter too much, but anything you can do to decrease the mixing time would help. If, say, the flour isn't sifted- sift it. Sifted flour assimilates with liquids easier/faster.

    These should all give you a lighter cake. It won't match the texture of real cake, but it shouldn't be too dense. If you want something that will be more texturally similar while still limiting blood sugar impact, I would suggest adding something like inulin/polydextrose. Put simply, inulin is sugary texture, but without the sweetness and the sugar impact. Inulin can be laxating in large amounts making it unsuitable for entertaining, but since some people are sensitive to erythritol, that really shouldn't be used for entertaining either- unless you have guests that you know are able to tolerate it.

    The potential laxation from inulin certainly complicates things a bit, but if making the perfect reduced GI cake is your goal, there's no better ingredient.

    11 Replies
    1. re: scott123

      Thanks for the suggestions. I'll give them a try. I'm just surprised i haven't seen others comment on the issue when they mention baking with it. I am also using WW Pastry flour and that may not be helping my "light and fluffy" goal any either. Perhaps one "healthy" change at a time so I can tell what is affecting what.

      What brand of inulin do you use? I have some agave inulin powder. Very spendy stuff. Thanks for your help.

      1. re: Whidster

        Yes, WW pastry flour is proven to create heavier baked goods, due to the fiber content.

        I have some Trader Joes inulin that I have on hand for experimenting, but I don't use it for baking. I bake with polydextrose. Inulin and polydextrose are both long chain polymerized sugars. To the home baker, they're pretty much identical- same baking properties, same soluble fiber health benefits. The primary difference is that polydextrose is made from inexpensive corn and inulin is made from super expensive chicory root. Due to smart labeling ('chicory root extract'), a better sounding name (polydextrose is pretty unnatural sounding) and good marketing, natural food fanatics have embraced inulin wholeheartedly. Who cares if inulin is, on average, about 5-10 times the price, right? :)

        Inulin may be manufactured under slightly more 'natural' conditions, but, I promise you, both require a laboratory type setting. Both products are incredibly natural/occur all OVER the place in nature, but, the process of refining them does get a little 'unnatural.' It's like that with most 'pure' compounds (erythritol included)- in order to get something pure, chemistry is usually involved.

        So, long story short, unless I know someone, I tend to recommend inulin, as it's a little less scarier sounding than polydextrose. Erythritol users also tend to be crunchier than most and willing to pay top dollar for natural/low gi sweeteners, so that was another reason why I recommended inulin.

        If you and your husband can tolerate inulin, it would make a world of difference to your baked goods. If, once you do start baking with it regularly, you find yourself crying the blues over the price, give polydextrose a shot. The two are interchangeable.

        1. re: scott123

          OK, I am intrigued! do i do a 1:1 replacement of sugar with inulin? Is it considered a sweetener? I'll do an internet search as well. Thanks for all the info.

          and yes, i expect we'll be a bit windy around here lol, but if we're staying in and keep our sense of humor my husband will be happy to have his sweets once in a while.

          1. re: Whidster

            Trust me, enough inulin and you'll *have* to stay in. Problem is that you can't get away from yourself!

            I've had a bag of polydextrose for almost a year now and haven't tried it; I wonder if it has the same methane production issues as inulin?

          2. re: scott123

            Hi Scott. I'd like to learn more about using polydextrose and non-sugar sweeteners. Do you combine polydextrose with anything else? If so, what is the ratio? How does this substitute for sugar?


            1. re: lguy

              Iguy, the quantity of polydextrose is highly dependent on the other ingredients in a recipe as well as individual tolerances, but, in general, I have found that this is a good ballpark:

              For 1 cup sugar, use:
              1/3 C. splenda equivalent
              1/3 C. erythritol
              1 packet Sweet One ace K (2 t. equivalent)
              2/3 C. polyd

              Polyd has special assimilation issues. It has a tendency to clump when it hits water/liquids- and not like a whiskable flour-like clumping but hard candy-like rocks. The information is a bit dated, but here's something I wrote about it a few years back:


              These days, I pretty much stick to making a syrup first- combine the erythritol and polyd in a glass cup and mix well. Measure the water separately, then while mixing the polyd/e, pour in the water. You'll get a little clumping this way, but after bringing it to a rolling boil in the microwave, most clumps will have dissolved. Once cooled to room temp, it's ready to use in the recipe.

              The more water that's in the recipe, generally, the easier the syrup is to make. I've gotten to a point where I can do a syrup where the water is just enough to wet the polyd, but it's taken years to master.

              If eggs are your only liquid ingredients, then you'll want to break out the blender.

              I like to have polyd syrup on hand. 2:1 polyd:erythritol syrups will crystallize when refrigerated, but the crystals should be pretty small and will go away quickly when reheated.

              1. re: scott123

                Scott: I and ny husband are on low-carb diets and I have polysaccharide and polyol questions about your sugar replacer and also a question about yeast breads. I really don't like sweeteners and cannot tolerate the taste of AceK. I can use stevia and sucralose in small amounts. My problem is what to use for bulk besides erithritol. Polydextrose causes horrible gastro-intestinal problems so I seem to be limited to erythritol. I used an isomalt/erythtritol/stevia combination as a sugar substitute and it behaved very well when I used it to make fudge. I was also satisfied with the taste. The problem is that the isomalt that I used in a 2::1 ratio with erythritol had as deleterious a gastro-intestinal effect as the PolyD. I am hesitant to try inulin after having used the PolyD and I believe maltodextrin is high in carbs. I cannot use xylitol because of its toxicity to canines and it is all too likely that someone could inadvertantly offer xylitol-containing items to the dog. Are there any other polysaccharides or polyols that have a low GI and few gut effects? Do you have any suggestions on making a "light" yeast loaf from any of the availavle low-carb flours? My husband thinks that low-carb bread is all too dense and doesn't care for the taste. He doesn't like whole grain breads (regular, high-carb varieties) and compares the low-carb loaves to whole-grain breads in both taste and density. Any help would be much appreciated.

                1. re: emee

                  Emee, I'm sorry to hear that both polyd and isomalt are giving you troubles. Don't waste your money on inulin. There's not a chance you'll be able to tolerate it any better than you can tolerate polyd.

                  Glycerin is a little helpful in inhibiting erythritol crystallization, but the taste and warming effect really limit the amount you can use. It also is, for some people, laxating (what isn't?).

                  Although I haven't heard a huge number of success stories, I continue to be a strong proponent of acclimation. Long chain polysaccharides (polyd/inulin) are the components of beans that give them their gassy quality. It's a proven fact that cultures who consume beans on a daily basis have no GI issues. That's your last hope for desserts with the texture of sugar. Make a polyd syrup and have a tiny bit each day. I would recommend having it after a meal so it's not hitting an empty stomach. If a syrup doesn't appeal to you, you could buy a container of carbsmart ice cream and have a bite a day. If you go with a small amount and work your way up over a couple of months, you should be able to tolerate a full serving of a polyd based dessert. It's a lot of work, but, being able to bake with the texture of sugar is worth it, imo.

                  Other than that, there's not a lot of options. You can try googling 'notsugar.' It's a combination of gums that's supposed to provided sugary texture, but the results are kind of mixed, it won't do much for erythritol crystallization, and, because it's pure fiber, it can cause GI issues.

                  As far as the bread goes... to be completely frank, I spent about a year trying to develop a good low carb bread and gave up. That being said, I firmly believe it can be done. It's going to take a lot experimentation, though.

                  Here's one product that, towards the end of my experimentation was showing promise.


                  This is a processed wheat protein, that, if used correctly, helps LC breads rise better. Vital wheat gluten is a close relative, but VWG makes for very dense chewy bread.

                  Another ingredient that was showing a little promise was


                  at least in small amounts.

                  The bulk of my efforts went into developing a lc pizza dough with WPI, carbalose and resistant starch. I recall trying lots of different permutations, one or two of which wasn't half bad. Well, I should say the texture wasn't bad, the carbalose flavor wasn't all that fantastic. Carbalose is what it is.

                  This was all from more than 3 years ago, though, and my research is in a bit of disarray. The last pizza dough recipe that I developed I didn't even get a chance to make, so I can't vouch for it at all. If you want something as a jumping off point, though, I'll be happy to post it.

                  1. re: scott123

                    Thanks for your reply. I appreciate the information. I have always eaten a lot of dried beans (I'm a southerner), but my bean tolerance didn't transfer or it was overwhelmed. I'll try to establish a PolyD tolerance regimen. However, sharing product with the uninitiatiated could be a disaster.

                    It's interesting that you mention a heat effect from erythritol rather than cooling. That is what I noticed, a momentary irritation that is more related to heat than cooling. Since I was unfamiliar with the taste effects of coconut flour in the muffins I made, I was unsure whether it was an effect of the coconut flour or the erythritol. I substituted half the sugar in the original recipe with erythritol and the remainder with stevia. The taste was perfect and I felt no cooling, but there was definitely an irritation/sting effect.

                    I am certainly interested in your pizza experiment and would appreciate your dough recipe.

                    I saw a posting of yours that detailed the basic characteristics of WPI 5000, 8000 and several other "flours." It was extrememly helpful and it would be nice if Netrition posted it. They have a description of the WPIs, etc. but little of that information is useful without a better understanding of how it translates to an inexperienced baker. I understand gluten, but that's about it and the effects of replacing non-fiber carbs with mostly fiber carbs isn't something that's explained. A good cooking chemistry book would be welcome. I'm not above experimenting but I need a better base for a begining.

                2. re: scott123

                  One more erythtitol question: do you know if glycerin will reduce the recrystalization characteristics of erythritol? Thanks

            2. re: Whidster

              I haven't had problems using erythritol for crumb baking, but it has an awful cooling effect in creamy stuff, and gets gritty on the surface, so avoid using it there. I've reversed all my diabetic damage and controlled my glucose for over a decade with diet and you're on the right track, except that any kind of wheat is terrible for blood glucose control, period, it's just as glycemic as table sugar, essentially. Starches and sugars are equally to be avoided. Here's a great reference site:

              For sweetening, I get best results from combining a few sweeteners, like erythritol, xylitol (my favorite, but not zero carb), liquid sucralose, etc. together. I also use carbalose white flour, adjusting moisture as necessary, or Carbquik bake mix, and lean toward desserts that are mostly very light on flour/carbs, such as cheesecakes, flourless chocolate cake, brownies with only 1/4 cup of flour, crustless pumpkin pie, and substitute with those products.

              Beware that inulin can generate enough gas to fuel some whole towns and villages, painfully and noisily so.

     on usenet has some very good cooks participating, btw.

          3. In cakes and cookies, sugar plays more of a role than simply adding sweetness. When you cream butter and sugar together, you are creating tiny air bubbles which are the basis for leavening of the batter. Adding baking powder/soda cause these bubbles to expand, creating the rise. This is what creates a fine cake texture. That's why muffines and quick breads, with their melted butter/oil that are stirred in with the rest of the ingredients, have a more coarse texture. I suspect that your sweetner doesn't have the same capacity to create little bubbles in the way that sugar crystals do

            I don't know anything about baking with the alternative sweetners discussed in this thread, but I would start by trying to find recipes that were created for these ingredients.

            1 Reply
            1. re: housewolf

              I think sugar also has humectant properties, too, doesn't it? I find that xylitol in baked goods has properties most similar to sugar in terms of texture and moisturizer. But I've baked successfully by blending sweeteners like those discussed here in a variety of baked goods, too.