Saturday, April 23, 2011

Xylitol, Part 1

Recently Xylitol USA offered to send me a sample of their natural sweetener to try. To be honest, I hadn't heard that much about Xylitol. While I'm interested in learning about all-natural sugar substitutes, I'm also a bit skeptical, especially when I'm not sure what they are or how they're made. So I did some research.

Anyone interested in detailed information can check out the eight step extraction process at, but basically Xylitol is derived from birch trees. It looks similar to sugar because it's purified and processed into crystals. It claims to be a healthier choice than sugar because it has 40% fewer calories, 75% less carbs, and it somehow inhibits dental cavities. There are actually many more health benefit claims listed on the company website.

It can be tricky finding something to use in place of sugar. Maple syrup, honey, and agave nectar are great, but the recipe has to be adjusted accordingly because you're replacing a solid with a liquid. Stevia is way too sweet, and I don't like the aftertaste. Xylitol looks like sugar, and it supposedly also tastes and bakes like sugar. Plus, it claims to have no aftertaste, so I decided to try it.
The product information brochure I received with the 1 lb. bag of Xylitol included a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Unfortunately, that recipe wasn't gluten free. Besides, using a recipe the company gives me probably isn't really a test to see if it bakes like sugar, is it? They would have already made any necessary adjustments. I needed to know if this stuff will work in my recipes. So I made my favorite peanut butter cookies, replacing the sugar 1:1 with Xylitol.

1 large egg
3/4 cup Xylitol
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract

Since I already shared this recipe, you can see the assembled ingredients on the original post. Just imagine a bowl of this in place of the unbleached whole cane sugar. The grains are much coarser than sugar, and they're more of a translucent white.
This is what it looked like after I beat the egg, sugar, and vanilla. The crystals didn't dissolve like sugar.
Even after adding the peanut butter, you can still see crystals in the cookie dough. Over mixing this dough makes it fall apart, so I baked it like this.
Apart from subbing the Xylitol, I did everything else the same as in the original recipe. I baked the cookies on parchment lined baking sheets. Each cookie is about a tablespoon of dough, flattened with a fork. The undissolved crystals aren't as noticeable in these photos.
They were done after 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven, only I think the Xylitol causes them to brown a bit more. A few even looked over baked. But the good news is that the crystals either melted or dissolved during the baking process, because there wasn't any gritty feel to the cookies.
Texture-wise they came out really crumbly, so be careful not to move them around much until they're cool. They keep better are more likely to stay together when refrigerated.
After making these cookies, I decided to look up some tips for cooking with Xylitol, and I read that it absorbs a lot of moisture (hence the dry, crumbly texture) and that many recipes would need adjustment. Sigh.
The cookies tasted different, but overall okay. Because I normally use unrefined cane sugar or maple syrup when I make this recipe, the cookies usually have a deeper flavor. Made with Xylitol, they're plenty sweet, but they're bland. That may be because I use all-natural peanut butter, which doesn't have as much salt. Perhaps a pinch or two would help maintain the taste of the peanut butter.

I can detect a very slight aftertaste. Other people may not even notice it, but to me it's kind of like I just brushed my teeth, only with a sweet toothpaste as instead of minty. I was impressed with how well Xylitol works as a sweetener for tea and coffee, though. It dissolves well in hot liquid, and tastes only slightly different than sugar. There's plenty of Xylitol left in the bag they sent me, so I'll make some other recipes using it and post the results.

If you're interested in trying Xylitol, then I have some good news: Not only can you save 10% off your first order at with coupon code FIRST, but while supplies last you'll also receive a FREE 1 lb bag of Xylitol (an $8 value) with your purchase of $20 or more, limit one per household.


Doni said...

I have heard of folks spinning down the texture using a coffee grinder. I may try that myself.

Doni said...

I have heard of folks spinning down the texture using a coffee grinder. I may try that myself.

Grace said...

wow this cookie looks so adorable! and it looks very handy.