The first job was to source some Stevia. First I tried Seasons in Forest Row, but they only stock Xylotil. Next I found something called Purevia in Infinity Foods in Brighton. A quick look at the ingredients showed this was 75% erythinol and not for me. A Googling session later revealed this product is Pepsico’s answer to Coca-Cola’s Truvia.
I finally decided to order online only to be presented with a load more choices. Did I want white Stevia, green Stevia or Stevia bulked out with Maltodextrin? Decisions decisions. Well the green Stevia is the purest form as it is essentially just dried Stevia leaves. However, there are many reports of it having a funny aftertaste and I can only imagine how the kids would respond to having ‘green stuff’ sprinkled on their porridge. Some of the products I found had maltodextrin added. This is used essentially just to bulk the Stevia out and make it easier to handle. Although, I haven’t found any evidence of any health risks associated with Maltodextrin I decided to choose the purest white Stevia I could find. The brand I finally ordered was Better Stevia from Now foods. This is an organic powder with no added extras. It is beyond sweet and you need to use it in miniscule amounts. One teaspoon of Stevia equates to 100 grams of sugar.
First we tried adding it to drinks and this was all good. The taste was no different to any other sweetener. The next test was a big one. We added it to DS1’s porridge. Now this child isn’t exactly fussy, just very particular. Think John Torode in short trousers. He noticed the absence of sugar just by looking at the porridge, but I persuaded him to try it and he cleared the bowl. So far 2-0 to Stevia. We mixed a pinch into the porridge, but obviously if you eat cereal you would need to use a Stevia that was bulked out with Maltodextrin to allow you to sprinkle.
Finally the long suffering Mrs Evans had a go at baking with Stevia. Because Stevia is more established in the US than the UK all the recipes we found online were from the States. Great if you want to make Pumpkin Pie and can get your head round cup measurements. Not so great if you want to make a Victoria Sponge and like to work in grams. Mrs Evans set about adapting a basic sponge recipe. Now I’m not going to bother to tell you the recipe because quite frankly I wouldn’t bother making it yourself. The texture of both the chocolate and vanilla sponge was great, but the taste was just weird. Mrs Evans reported a liquorish aftertaste, but I couldn’t detect this. What I got was a kind of menthol feeling in my mouth and nose. As for our mini-Master Chef judge. Well, he threw his behind the sofa.
So in conclusion if you are looking for something to sweeten drinks Stevia is (IMHO) the best sweetener out there. It also seems to work fine in small quantities as in the case of the pinch we used in DS1’s porridge. However, if you are looking for sugar free baking you are much better off using sugar free recipes. (Mrs E makes a great sugar-free banana bread which only relies on the banana to give a sweet taste.) You could also use natural sweeteners like honey, agave and molasses and keep the cake consumption in moderation.