Oh, sugar, how I love thee. I know I should also quit thee, but I also know I love rainbow cake way too much for that to happen. Still, sugar is the biggest and baddest guy out there in the food world. In fact, a lot of people argue it is not even a food. Which, OK.
So when I tried to research a recipe that would be delicious and sweet and not have sugar, I also learned that my lovely coconut sugar does not pass the test either. Then I started thinking, “Wait, what test am I trying to pass, exactly?”
While I’m still scratching my head at the coconut sugar thing, from what I understand if I want to go 100% sugar-free (no honey, no maple syrup, no coconut sugar) dates are really my only option. While this is fascinating, I’m just not a fan of dates. HOWEVER. I did just get hooked on the Larabars, which are sweetened with dates. So I gave it a whirl. Also, guess who found date sugar at the store. ME. It was me.
Now, this is where I got slightly confused as the date sugar only had one ingredient: organic dates. My coconut palm sugar also has one ingredient listed: organic coconut palm sugar. Clearly, I’m way out of my league but I trudged on and decided to make a pie with date sugar! Yes, that pie you see above. (Although, the crust was pre-made and it just occurred to me that there was quite possibly sugar in that damn gluten-free crust. D’oh! So to make it totes sugar-free, eliminate the crust altogether and put mixture into 8 small ramekins and make individual custards.)
I love my grandmother’s chess pie (recipe is in my book!) so I decided to start there. It only has a few ingredients so things can’t get that jacked up. But I knew something was different the minute my softened butter hit that pile of sugar. Date sugar.
Date sugar tips:
- Maybe don’t make something that calls for almost two cups of sugar and substitute date sugar. Maybe start out with something that only requires like 2 tablespoons. (Date sugar is expensive, yo!)
- When mixing butter and date sugar, skip the hand mixer and go straight in with your actual hands. It’s the only way those two things will mix properly.
- Up your liquid ingredients to compensate for the thickness of date sugar vs. other sugars.
- Let your mixture sit for awhile to allow the date sugar to dissolve even more before baking.
- Do not be alarmed by the dark color of your previously golden pie.
- You just don’t need as many bites of a pie that is made with date sugar vs. a pie made with the white death sugar. It’s a rich flavor that goes a loooong way.
- And lastly, but most importantly, do not expect your date sugar pie to taste exactly like your white sugar pie.
For those of us who have been substituting gluten-free flours for normal wheat flour, we already understand that 9 times out of 10 shit’s gonna’ taste different. The same thing goes for using not-white sugar. Dates have a specific taste, and yes that taste is sweet, but it’s also something else. It’s date-y. So while my pie was good, it was not at all the same thing as my grandmother’s original recipe. Can you serve it up to your sugar-free friends without embarrassment? Absolutely. Even my 7-year-old was all, “This is good. It’s not my favorite. But it’s good.” Which is an A+ in my book.
But if you are only trying to cut down on your sugar intake, but do not have a full blown allergy or health problem with sugar, try that coconut version or substitute honey. I use those substitutions all the time and not one single person has ever noticed the difference. That date thing, though? It’s super obvious.
What sugars do you cook with when you’re trying to be healthier? Let me know what works for ya’!
Oh, and pie recipe -
Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Chess Pie
Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 45 minutes
1 1/2 cups date sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Cream butter and sugar together with a mixer, then your hands to completely combine.
3. Add eggs and buttermilk and combine completely.
4. Pour into a pie crust and bake for 45 minutes.
Makes: 8 servings