Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Bread-making with Xylitol

As many of you know, my wife Jane is diabetic and she is therefore always looking for ways of preparing food with as little sugar as possible. Recently she tried a bread-making experiment to see whether it would be viable to replace the sugar she normally uses in bread with a product called Perfect Sweet (a trade name for the artificial sweetener Xylitol), which has recently come onto the market here in the UK.


Xylitol has properties that make it particularly useful for diabetics. Absorbed more slowly than sugar, it does not contribute to high blood sugar levels or the resulting hyperglycemia caused by insufficient insulin response.  However...

Jane often makes bread in an electric bread-maker, which consistently turns out very nice bread. The recipe she uses for a plain white loaf uses four level tablespoons of sugar. This time she replaced the sugar with Xylitol. In every other respect she used exactly the same ingredients and method. The result was disappointing. The loaf came out what I call "claggy" - heavy and doughy, and it had not risen very much at all. The bottom part was very brown, but the upper crust was still white and flabby. We think maybe the Xylitol killed the yeast, or at least stopped it performing properly.


The loaf was not fit for human consumption, and went to feed the birds, and Jane immediately set-to to make another loaf using the conventional recipe, which turned out perfect as usual. In my picture above you can see the difference. (Xylitol loaf on the right, if you hadn't already guessed!).

So, the conclusion is: Xylitol is not suitable for bread-making! I'm sure it is useful for other things though. Jane is planning to try it in Cranberry sauce for with the Christmas dinner.

20 comments:

  1. Hi Mark. I am a long time reader of your blog - I look forward to it each day! - but have rarely commented. However, I am bit alarmed today by your decision to feed the failed bread to the birds since Xylitol is on the list of foods that the ASPCA (in the US)recommends NOT feeding to animals. Here is the link: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/people-foods.aspx

    Apparently it can cause unforeseen effects in some species. Perhaps it is better to consign it to the trash? It's unfortunate, but you always take so much pleasure in the wildlife around you!

    Sorry for butting in, I hope you understand my concern.

    Barbara

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  2. How strange!
    We don't use sugar at all when we make a loaf in the bread machine - our recipe is very simple:
    500g strong white bread flour
    350ml water
    1 - 1 1/4 tsp dried yeast
    1 - 1 1/4 tsp salt
    This usually gives us a lovely fluffy loaf, although we tend to only bake it when we have visitors as my husband can't tolerate wheat.
    Last weekend we made "slow" spelt bread by hand - with 18 hours on the first proofing. That did have a tea spoon of normal sugar in - and only 1/2 tsp yeast, which is rather incredible - and produced a lovely loaf.

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  3. Thank goodness Barbara is on the ball!

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  4. Re Xylitol and birds: I couldn't help noticing that the birds were less keen to eat this bread than they usually are, so maybe this is a "self-limiting problem"! On the other hand, I wouldn't be too worried if my Foxes ate the odd mouthful and experienced a few "unforseen effects" :-) It might dissuade them from savaging my veg...

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  5. Very interesting. I had never heard of this stuff before. There should be enough sugars in your flour for the yeast to feed off of so maybe you are right this caused its feeding to slow or stop or killed off some of the yeast.

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  6. This product is probably tested as substitute for sugar in tea and coffee.

    Bread only needs four ingredients: flour, water salt and yeast (only you don't need the yeast to be shop bought and the salt is a matter of taste). When you have the time (!) try missing out the sugar and half the salt. Use your bread maker for the mix and knead and then turn out into a cloth lined basket or bowl and wait for the dough to double in size (could take up to two hours - depends on the temperature). Roll gently onto a flour dusted baking tray and bake at high temperature for 30 mins. You won't want to add extra sugar again.

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  7. Wow that bread on the left looks quite spectacularly high! I don't use sugar on the odd occasion that I make bread either, but then I don't use a breadmaker and I have never had really wonderful results either.

    Has Jane tried making it without sugar at all?

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  8. Hi Mark. I use sugar when I make a yeast bread but sourdough doesn't need any sugar. Mind you, I've been very lazy since spring came and haven't used my sourdough starter for a while. I wonder if I can keep up my bread making once the weather gets warm.

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  9. That is very interesting. There is a natural product out from some plant that takes the place of sugar and is healthy. I will find out what it is; however it might not work either. You know that carbs are as bad for diabetics as sugar, and turns into sugar in the body, which is just too depressing to think about! And most artificial sugars are harmful.

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  10. There are so many artificial sweeteners available now. It's hard to know which ones will suit you and which won't. I hope you'll find a substitute that works for bread.
    BTW, I recently bought a bread maker (a UK brand) and I'm absolutely thrilled with the results. We're eating a lot more bread these days.

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  11. i remember reading somewhere that there's some kinda side effects with prolonged use/large quantity usage of xylitol..hope this link helps..

    http://www.exylitol.com/xylitol-side-effects

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  12. Martyn only uses a teaspoon of sugar but after reading what others have said he'll try one without next time.

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  13. Your parsnips (last post) look great. I wish I had grown more but will do so next year. I'm not a fan of xylitol, however, the bread looks good even if it didn't taste good. I have a super fat free baking cookbook that uses natural sugar substitutes. I'll get the name of it for you.

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  14. As above I too have a bread making machine and the recipe I use doesn't use sugar at all.
    The bread always looks and tastes great...plus the smell...Mmmmm...you can't beat it ;D

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  15. Wow! What a difference! As good as the loaf on the left looks, you must have really been disappointed when you saw the one on the right. Very interesting information.

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  16. Ah the best way to find out if things work, is to try it. Shame about the bread though - nothing better than homemade bread, even if it comes out of the bread machine. Fingers crossed the cranberry sauce will be good.

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  17. Failed experiments teach us. Interesting conversation about the sweetner. I don't use any sweetner in my loaves either.

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  18. That's a shame - I don't use a bread maker any more, I make my bread by hand, and only use sugar (or honey) on the walnut and honey soda bread. I do remember that all bread maker recipes used lots of sugar, I wonder why it is necessary, you would think the chemistry would be the same whatever the method. Great looking loaf, that one on the left.

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  19. Martyn left out the small amount of sugar he usually puts in the mixture for our bread maker bread and the sugarless bread was just fine - he's posted a photo on his blog today 6 December - it rose well. From now on no sugar for our bread.

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  20. Interesting experiment. I was just about to use Xyla (which is the brand name in Canada) in my bread machine today but am now forestalled. However, I am a little surprised you us 4 tablespoons of sugar in your white bread recipe, seems a little excessive. My recipe, in the Black & Decker instruction book that came with the machine only uses 1 tablespoon of sugar and the loaves turn out fine. Maybe your recipe was developed by a dentist?

    Thanks for the tip.

    Steve

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