Saturday, November 3, 2007

Buying sugar-free syrups for baking in Canada

Once you get more adventurous in your low-carb recipe experiments, you'll likely want to start baking again. Frankly, I miss eating baked products from time to time, i.e. cookies, muffins, breads, etc. Usually, the flour in low-carb baking is replaced by ground nuts (i.e. almond flour) and ground seeds (flax meal).

You'll find, however, that many recipes call for sugar-free syrups. Most times, you'll see DaVinci brand sugar-free syrups called for because they are sweetened with Splenda. Plain DaVinci sugar-free syrup is often referred to as "liquid Splenda." The benefit of cooking with these syrups is that they are 100% calorie and carb-free. Granular Splenda does have minimal carbs. Baking with liquid Splenda, therefore, is beneficial in that you reduce the carb count even more in whatever you're putting together.

Now, depending on where you live, this could be a good or bad thing. I don't think DaVinci syrups are widely available at retail, but you can definitely buy them online. I bought liquid Splenda online for $12.99/bottle plus shipping. Now that the Canadian dollar is surging, I'm hoping that prices will drop by at least 25%. If you want to know where I bought mine, simply click on the ad at the top of this blog. That's who I used... and they were great!

The dilemma, however, is that needing to buy stuff online to cook with is a real pain in the you-know-what. It's inconvenient and can be expensive.

So today, right here in li'l ol' Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, I went on a quest for sugar-free syrup. First, I checked out some specialty retailers at a couple of farmers' markets. Nothing. Then, I tried a couple of high-end specialty food stores. Again... nothing.

Then a light went off. Who uses syrups to flavour things? Coffee shops!

So I went to the mall and checked out Second Cup. They did indeed have syrups, but for some weird reason I didn't ask if they were for sale or if they were sweetened with sucralose as opposed to aspartame. Sucralose (Splenda) is preferred, of course!

Then I went to Timothy's. They, too, had sugar-free syrups. This time, I asked if they sold them separately and they said yes - $11.99/bottle if I remember correctly. I then asked if they had sugar-free. Yup! Vanilla and hazelnut, I think. I checked the bottle... aspartame. Crap! Well, at least I knew I could buy a bottle not far from home if I was stuck, despite the aspartame.

Out this way, finding a Starbucks is like finding a moose dancing ballet on top of a moving train. Tim Hortons is by far the dominant coffee chain, but they don't have syrups there. Luckily, there was a Starbucks located in the Chapters Indigo bookstore next to the mall I was in, so I went over to see what kind of syrups they had.

Did they sell syrups separately? Yup! $9.95/bottle (great price!). I asked to see a bottle and the guy working behind the counter handed one over. I thought for sure it would say they were sweetened with aspartame. BUT NO!! Sucralose! Holy macaroni. Boy, was I happy.

They had four kinds: vanilla, caramel, hazelnut and cinnamon dolce. Unfortunately, they don't sell tons of the stuff to customers so their stock was limited. Apparently, they need to keep a reserve of four bottles for themselves. With that said, they were able to sell me a bottle of vanilla and one of caramel (the most popular flavours for baking - yay! - click on the photo above for a larger version)... and I'll return for hazelnut (my favourite!!) and cinnamon dolce.

So... if you're looking for sugar-free syrups sweetened with sucralose (Splenda), head to a Starbucks near you! I'm going to call Second Cup tomorrow and check what brand of syrup they carry (I'm 99% sure it's Torani - another sucralose-sweetened syrup), so hopefully they sell to the public, as well! That would be exciting. I'll post an update tomorrow. (UPDATE - Nov. 4/07: Yup! Second Cup carries Torani and they sell it to customers. Torani is sweetened with sucralose, so it's A-OK!! Cost is $11.95 for 750 ml, quite a bit pricier than $9.95 for 1 litre at Starbucks. But they sold me some right away with no hesitation, unlike Starbucks, who had to check their supplies first. They would also order me any Torani syrup available. Yay! I bought a bottle of sugar-free hazelnut. The other flavour they had was vanilla, but I'd already bought some at Starbucks.)

It's best, however, if you're serious about experimenting with your recipes and keeping the carb count as low as possible, to stock up on a half-dozen bottles or so of the DaVinci sugar-free plain syrup ("liquid Splenda") through Low Carb Grocery or another online retailer if you're outside of Canada. The unflavoured stuff is called for in quite a few recipes. I've got one bottle and will purchase more before Christmas just to stock up.

Tonight, I'm a happy low-carber who's looking forward to getting back into doing some baking, which I really love! With so many people I know who are diabetics, I'll be able to bake some treats for them now.

For more on purchasing liquid Splenda, click here.

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