Way back when aspartame was new, I wrote about it and opined that it'd never be sugar. Try replacing the word sugar with aspartame in the song, and you'll see:

"Sugar, I call my baby my sugar,

Sugar baby of mine,

My little lollipoppa . . . "

Agave, a syrup made from the juice of the same plant that is used for tequila, has one too many syllables to fit neatly into the song, yet for it, I am willing to change my tune.

Those who take their iced tea sweetened don't notice any difference when I use it instead of sugar. My neighbor who dotes on whipped cream likes it just as well as sugar. I like it well enough to occasionally substitute it for honey on my peanut butter sandwich. Youngsters of my acquaintance prefer it in the strawberry flavor, and plenty of it.

I am not certain if the claims about agave are true, though I have no reason to doubt them. (Agave is low glycemic and is thought to be absorbed more slowly than sugar, so you don't get that sugar high and the inevitable sugar-deprivation crash.) Though it has 20 calories per teaspoon (sugar is a bit less), you use less because it tastes sweeter, so it isn't more fattening. I've found that cutting the sweetening in half is going too far, but 2/3 to 3/4 as much agave as sugar is just about right.

Depending on the brand, agave is labeled nectar, syrup or sweetener. Some brands are organic, some raw, or almost unprocessed, which means that more digestive enzymes are preserved because the fructose is evaporated at low heat. It qualifies as a natural sweetener, like maple syrup and honey. Unlike honey, agave doesn't crystallize.

Begin with cake or pastry that uses honey and keep experimenting.

On my first attempt to bake with organic agave from Trader Joe's, I got the proportions wrong in a cupcake experiment. They weren't sweet enough, so I swiftly renamed them muffins. They went over well.

Maybe I'll call my baby "Agave." I'm trying it out.

AGAVE BANANA PECAN MUFFINS

 

 

1/2 cup butter, softened, plus additional for greasing tins

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for flouring tins

1/2 cup agave

2 eggs

1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large)

1/4 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup dry rolled oats (not instant)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup roughly chopped toasted pecans

Cinnamon-sugar


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter 16 cups in 2 muffin tins, flour them, and knock out excess flour. Or line with cupcake paper. Cream together butter and agave and add eggs, beating them in, 1 at a time. Add bananas, sour cream and vanilla.

2. In another bowl, combine flour, whole wheat flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Fluff with a fork to combine.

3. Add dry ingredients to the butter-banana mixture and stir just until blended. Fold in pecans.

4. Fill prepared tins (about 3/4 of the way) with batter. Sprinkle tops of muffins with cinnamon-sugar. (Don't buy it; make your own by adding 1 tablespoon cinnamon to 1 cup sugar.) Bake at 375 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Makes about 16 muffins.