I was talking with one of my dear friends who loves cooking, and he was looking for a sugar substitute, which reminded me of the wonders of agave nectar. I was first introduced by one of my roommates, who brought it home as a substitute for honey during those long winter months when we drank buckets of tea. Interestingly, agave nectar (or syrup), no matter what brand you buy, comes from Jalisco, Mexico, and is made (fittingly) from the agave plant.
Agave is lauded for having a low glycemic index and marketing towards diabetics. However, I personally wouldn’t drink buckets of it, not even diluted by tea. I found this fairly extreme article by a raw foodist, which lists the pitfalls of agave for raw food purists and and points out that you should check the label and make sure your agave syrup isn’t diluted with corn syrup, like everything else in America, including, apparently, your fingernails (best to stop biting pronto).
Still, I think agave nectar provides a great alternative to sugar, especially for sauces and stir-fry. I personally have felt a difference with agave: you don’t get the sugar high and crash, but still satisfy your sweet tooth. Agave nectar can be substituted for sugar in most recipes, with a little fiddling. It is quite a bit sweeter than sugar (at least to me) and the substitution is 1/3 cup agave nectar for every cup of sugar. You will also have to adjust the moisture in your recipe, depending on what you’re making.
I recently discovered Baby Cakes, a delicious Lower East Side Bakery that caters to people who can’t eat wheat, dairy, eggs or gluten (hallelujah, I had not had a cupcake for something like three years! Thank you, Baby Cakes) . Notably, they don’t use an ounce of refined sugar. They use (drumroll…) agave nectar! …and the result is incredible. Everyone I know who has tried it has agreed that it is some of the best confections they’ve had, hands down, and not just in the living without category. They’re known for their cupcakes, but I think the chocolate banana bread is slammin’.
*It would be interesting to know if there are any specific nutritional benefits to agave. Anyone?