As a long-time dessert fanatic, I never dreamed I’d see the day when I fell in love with alt-sweeteners. Granulated sugar has long been the backbone of my many baking projects, and classics are classics for a reason, I thought. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started dabbling with the other stuff—like maple syrup, honey, dates, agave nectar, coconut sugar, and fruit juice—but I think it happened across a series of incidents where I found myself temporarily out of white sugar (blame my crazed macaron phase), and just had to have dessert right that very minute.
And I didn’t hate it. In fact, with some of these experimental combinations, I actually preferred the flavors natural sweeteners lent the final product. When I spoke with James Beard award-winning pastry chef Joanne Chang for a piece about the best natural sweetener for baking, she gave me the lowdown: