Tuesday, August 5, 2008

8: Stevia in the Kitchen

Following is an excerpt from Growing and Using Stevia: The Sweet Leaf from Garden to Table with 35 Recipes.

Stevia is available for purchase in the following forms:

· Dried Stevia Leaves (whole dried leaves)
· Green Stevia Powder (powdered leaves)
· Liquid Stevia Extracts (alcohol, glycerin, or water-based)
· Stevia Extract Powder (extract of glycosides)

Here we are primarily concerned with Dried Stevia Leaves, Green Stevia Powder, and Stevia Leaf Water Extract, since these can be made right in your kitchen from homegrown or purchased Stevia leaves (see chapter 7) and then used in the recipes in chapter 9.
Unlike aspartame, Stevia is heat stable. This means it works in a variety of dishes when the recipe is properly designed. Dry Stevia products also have a long shelf life.

Certain issues present a challenge when cooking with Stevia. Very little is required due to its tremendous sweetness. Bulk that would normally be provided by sugar must instead be supplied by other dry ingredients. Also, some way must be found to distribute Stevia evenly through the other ingredients.

Another challenge is the taste of Stevia itself, especially with Green Stevia Powder and Liquid Stevia Extract. Stevia is a natural sweetener with its own unique flavor, just as honey and sorghum have their own flavors. This is not a problem if the ingredients are adjusted and selected so they interact harmoniously with Stevia. In fact, Green Stevia Powder can act as a flavor enhancer at times, bringing out the flavors of other ingredients.

Dried Stevia Leaves

Whole dried leaves may be purchased (see appendix) or grow your own! Either way, they make a sweet and delicious herbal tea. Stevia leaves enhance the sweetness and flavor of most other tea herbs when mixed together. Dried Stevia Leaves are also the raw ingredient for making other stevia products. Dried Stevia Leaves may be stored at room temperature in an airtight jar out of the sunlight. They will keep well this way for at least 3 years.

Green Stevia Powder

Green Stevia Powder consists of Dried Stevia Leaves which have been finely ground. It can be made in the kitchen from homegrown or purchased leaves (see chapter 7). Green Stevia Powder contains the full range of nutrients found in Stevia. It does present some challenges, with its green color and stronger taste. It doesn’t work in just any recipe, but works well in many of the recipes found in chapter 9.

Store Green Stevia Powder in a glass jar with a tight lid and keep in a dark place at room temperature. It stores at least 2 years this way without loss of quality. A re-closeable plastic bag kept in a dark location will be adequate for short-term storage.

Conversion rate: A good rule of thumb is to use 3–4 teaspoons of Green Stevia Powder in place of 1 cup refined cane sugar. But the conversion rate varies greatly depending on the recipe.

(continued below)

Liquid Stevia Extracts

Liquid extracts are convenient for sweetening beverages and some other dishes. Most liquid extracts on the market have an alcohol or glycerin base to extend shelf life. Stevia Leaf Water Extract can be used in some of the recipes in chapter 9 and may be made in your own kitchen from dried leaves by following the directions in chapter seven (p. 43). Stevia Leaf Water Extract can be kept in the refrigerator for about a week.

Stevia Extract Powder

Most Stevia recipe books, including Jeffrey’s Stevia Sweet Recipes: Sugar-Free—Naturally!, call for pure Stevia Extract Powder, which must be purchased. The extraction process is beyond what you would want to tackle at home. This white or off-white powder is an extract of the sweet glycosides in the Stevia plant. Because of their unique structure, these glycosides don’t contribute calories to the diet. The main glycosides are stevioside and rebaudioside A. Stevia Extract Powder contains 80–95% glycosides. The term “stevioside” is used by some authors as a collective term for all the glycosides found in the Stevia plant.

We prefer a pure Stevia product, with no maltodextrin or other fillers. These fillers may not be tolerated by those who must avoid easily metabolized carbohydrates, and the pure Stevia Extract Powder is almost always a better buy in terms of sweetening power for your money. Additionally, some fillers dissolve poorly.

Conversion rate: We find that one teaspoon of Stevia Extract Powder has roughly the sweetening power of one cup refined cane sugar, though the conversion rate varies depending on the ingredients with which it is combined.

Order your own copy of Growing and Using Stevia from these vendors:

Click here to order directly from Prairie Oak Publishing.

Click here to order from Amazon.com.

No comments: