Sunday, 18 November 2012

Glucose as a sugar alternative, and vanilla biscuits.

Well for goodness sake. It is so simple really. What does sugar contain? Fructose and glucose. What is bad for us? Fructose? What is good for us? Glucose. What should we not be eating? Fructose. What should we be eating? Glucose. What should we be baking with? GLUCOSE.

Vanilla biscuit with glucose by Reuben

I don't know if this was going to be obvious to you, or whether you even knew powdered glucose existed. But I grew up with a container of it in our pantry. My Dad would give me a teaspoon of it stirred in to milk before I went to gymnastics competitions. A 1980s energy drink. The milk drink was yummy and the powder itself wasn't too bad either - I distinctly remember dipping my finger in (licking it first of course to make it stick) for a taste (or many). It is a very fine powder and dissolves quickly on the tongue, and it almost has a slightly minty taste, though I have said this about xylitol and it's not nearly as strong as that. It's not as sweet as sugar, in fact Robert Lustig shows this in Sugar: The Bitter Truth, with a chart rating the sweetness of different food items. Where sugar rates 100 on the sweetness scale, glucose is at 74.

I have mentioned that I recently came across the blog Craving Fresh, where I discovered that Emma is also looking in to reducing and replacing sugar. She had a recipe up for brownies using glucose (and all kinds of other things) and it was a lightbulb moment for me. Of course! Glucose! I have also read an interview with David Gillespie, author of Sweet Poison, who advocates baking with glucose.

So I have been doing a whole lot of experimenting. And here's the deal: it works really well, though it's not quite as sweet. I've used it in vanilla biscuits, chocolate pudding, chocolate cupcakes and chocolate butter cream icing (I halved Dana's Chocolate Cake recipe to make cupcakes, and was reminded once again what a fantastic recipe this is).

The vanilla biscuits were OK, but noticeably less sweet. The second time I made them I added a teaspoon of Sweet Freedom which was a small improvement. The chocolate pudding was great. I do find it a little uninteresting as is, and like the addition of square of chocolate in the centre (which introduces sugar back in to the mix, though not much) but using glucose instead of sugar was very successful. The cupcakes were outrageously good - that recipe really is stunning - and that was the moment when I thought, yes, glucose really is working for me. I was keen to make cupcakes partly as an excuse to try icing with glucose, and wanted to do this before I reported back to you. I made buttercream icing and the glucose was an easy substitute for icing sugar. I could tell the difference in the taste here, that slightly minty/dissolvy taste/feeling was present, but it certainly wasn't unpleasant and I was mostly just so excited at what a great sugar substitute this is.

If you find glucose doesn't make things sweet enough, my suggestion would be to go half-half glucose and xylitol. Xylitol is still a top favourite option for me, my biggest problem being how expensive it is. In my experimenting so far, it is only the vanilla biscuits that really were lacking the sweetness. Another option with these is to try adding something else to get some interesting flavour in (cocoa, cinnamon...). I don't know if I've really sold you on these biscuits, but I originally did them just with sugar, and they were really very good. Nice and buttery and great for decorating. I think if you want something that looks pretty at a kid's party they're a good option - add a little colour and excitement on top, and you still have a very low sugar option if you've baked the biscuit with glucose.

Two more things you should know:
Glucose is also known as dextrose. It's exactly the same thing. Pak N Save have it as glucose and New World have it as dextrose.
Glucose has a very high GI rating.

The recipe below is from Donna Hay's 2010 Kids' Magazine. I find that the biscuits are ready at 10 minutes, and that their bottoms get fairly dark so I raise the oven rack up one slot. I tend to halve this recipe, especially when experimenting!

Vanilla Biscuits

250g softened butter
3/4 cups sugar or glucose (or a combination)*
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
2 1/4 cups flour

Beat butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the vanilla and egg yolk and beat until well combined. Add the flour and beat until a smooth dough forms.

Roll in to large teaspoons size balls and place on to a greased tray. Press down slightly with the back of a spoon (and decorate as you wish). 

Bake for 10 - 15 minutes at 180 degrees.

 * I don't recommend using xylitol in biscuits as it dries them out and they lose their crunch.
If using all glucose you may like to make it a generous measure to add to the sweetness.  


As always I've updated my sugar alternatives page with the new info about glucose, including cost (it's reasonable!)

I have actually tried glucose in one more thing, but it was so much fun to make and to eat and to photograph, that it's going to get a post of its own. Coming soon.


  1. That's great that there is something almost as good as sugar!! I have been thinking about every bit of sugar I have eaten lately. Still eating it though! I will pick up some glucose next time and give it a try. I'm fine with things being less sweet. Thanks for experimenting!

  2. I'm on this diet and can't have carbs or sugar. So I'm interested in sugar alternatives with zero calories or almost. Where does glucose stand in that respect? Thanks :-)

    1. Hi Ann, no glucose is not particularly low in calories. A google search showed me that fructose and glucose are about the same in calories. However, about 80% of glucose calories are used (in fact needed) by the body's organs, and ultimately only about 1/2 a calorie ends us being stored as fat. However, about 30 calories from fructose are stored as fat. So even though they start out similar (if you are only looking at the calorie count,)when it comes to fat they are completely different. Is the aim of a zero calorie diet to lose weight? I presumed all food had some calories actually, I'm not an expert on this at all. Do tell me more.

  3. I have read all of David Gillespie's books and for approx five months now have been sugar free. I leant the books to a friend and have not seen them since. When we have been getting together with a group for a shared meal I have been making a carrot cake substituting the glucose for sugar in both the cake and the cream cheese icing, and it was fantastic. The first time I used grated apple in the cake batter as I was worried it would not be sweet enough, but found it too sweet so have since left it out and used extra walnuts instead of the fruit :)


    1. Thanks Maggie that's really interesting. It's great to have you here! I am keen to read Sweet Poison. Have you come across any negative effects of using glucose as regularly as we tend to use sugar? Do you see any problems with it being such a high GI?

    2. Sugar free household here for the past year. Forget about gi use dextrose instead of sugar and you will find it makes you very full and you will eat far less of it.

  4. I also have been fructose free for about 2 months since reading David Gillespie's 2 books - Sweet Poison Quit Plan and Big Fat Lies.
    Since going fructose free I find the need have sweet food in my diet grows less and less and natural foods that used not to taste sweet, now I notice for their sweetness.
    In David's books I think he says that using Glucose replacement is fine if you need the sweetness and is great for your sugar-detox but eating too much glucose will not help you lose weight if that's your goal.
    Love to see the fructose free advice getting out there more and more.

    1. Hi Shashi, great to have another experienced non-frustose-er on board. I really will have to read David Gillespie's books. I know that he lost alot of weight and that glucose is a regular part of his family's diet. Perhaps he didn't have any when actually losing weight. Though I understand that glucose is a crucial part of our diet, and given what happens to calories from glucose (see my comment to Ann above) I would have expected swapping glucose for sugar would go a significant way towards losing weight. More for me to learn...

  5. It's great to hear there might be an alternative Angela - really interesting. You've had me reading packets since I read your last post! Interesting to know that dextrose is another name for glucose. I've seen that on some packets and wondered where it fitted in to the sugar debate.

    I also got unfeasibly frustrated at a jaffa cake someone gave me the other day when the packet proudly announced "only 1g of fat per biscuit" - "BUT how much sugar?" I thought (as I reached for another!)

    Love the idea of the vanilla biscuits - will give them a go. Thanks.

    1. Ha ha, yes the low-fat-but-bucket-loads-of-sugar thing has annoyed me for many years. I hope you enjoyed both your jaffa cakes! Do let me know how the vanilla biscuits go.

    2. LOL yeah, it's like lollies and marshmallows that have big wording announcing 99% fat free... or in other words, 98% sugar!

  6. Great timing! - I was inspired by your posts and bought a box of glucose last week with the intention of using it in coffee in place of sugar (my Dad's used it for years), and was wondering how it would work in baking as well. Hooray!

  7. Thanks for the recipe! We've been fructose free for a couple of months now, and I found these quick and easy and really tasty. They got a big thumbs up from hubby too. And in regards to the other comments, we have a dextrose based hot chocolate with a bikkie or three every evening, and we still managed t lose a couple of kg each. Not fast, and nothing if we pig out, but even when I feel like I've been a total glutton I still don't gain anything!

    1. Thanks Kristin, that's encouraging.

    2. Any time! I also made a batch where I replaced the vanilla with 1T of ground ginger and 1T of water. Yummy!

  8. Well, I don't know if anyone but Angela will see this update, but I finally got around to doing some baking with glucose today. I chose a recipe that has a fair bit of natural sweetness, so I used the same weight of glucose as I would have of caster sugar. The recipe was Annabel Karmel's carrot and pineapple muffins (recipe below), and I followed it exactly, except for the substituting the sugar for glucose.
    It definitely wasn't as sweet as when I have made the previously, but they were still delicious. I took them to a friend's for morning tea as mini muffins and the kids (and us!) gobbled them up. My kids were asking for them all afternoon. It was great knowing that a special treat was relatively healthy. Thanks so much for the inspiration and doing all the hard work for me to reap the benefits Angela! I'll definitely make these again and will do more experimenting with glucose.

    Carrot and Pineapple Muffins
    (from Annabel Karmel's new complete baby and toddler meal planner)
    100g plain flour
    100g wholemeal flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    3/4 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    1 tsp ground ginger
    1/2 tsp salt
    175ml vegetable oil (I used rice bran)
    75g caster sugar (I used 75g glucose powder)
    2 eggs
    125g grated carrots
    225g canned crushed pineapple, drained
    100g raisins

    Preheat oven to 180 C. Sift together first 7 dry ingredients and mix well.
    Beat oil, sugar and eggs together well. Add carrots, pineapple and raisins.
    Gradually add flour mixture, beating just enough to combine all ingredients.
    Pour into lined muffin trays and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden (I used mini muffins and baked them for about 11 minutes). Cool on a wire rack.

    1. Oooh, thanks for sharing the recipe! Sounds tasty!

  9. This is great Summer. So glad you're on board. I definitely think it's a good idea to do a straight swap from sugar to glucose, then play around with the amounts next time if you want a bit more sweetness. I have tended to find I don't need any more, especially if there are plenty of other interesting flavours in the mix. And thanks for the recipe! I believe I have that book somewhere, I must dig it out!