Low-Carb “Maple” Syrup Recipe

by karlb on November 17, 2008

About two or three years ago, Aunt Jemima had a low-carb pancake syrup on the market that my wife and I loved.

What we liked about it, aside from the great taste, was the complete lack of sorbitol or maltitol in the ingredients (really, who wants gas with their pancakes and waffles). This syrup was sweetened with Splenda (sucralose) and a little Fructose. It had a good consistency, too, unlike some of the other watery low-carb and sugar-free syrups on the market.

Well, we enjoyed this Aunt Jemima syrup while it lasted. And, like many things low carb, it disappeared from the supermarket shelves, never to be seen again.

But, I kept the ingredients label, in hope of one day re-creating the syrup in my kitchen. I say “one day” because I couldn’t locate one the key ingredients: cellulose gum.

Also known as “Sodium Carboxymethyl Cellulose Gum”, or “CMC gum” for short, cellulose gum is derived from cellulose, like cotton, and used to thicken liquids. It’s similar to other vegetable gums, like guar gum and xanthan gum, and often used in synergy with these gums.

Long story short, I could not find CMC gum two years ago as a consumer (it was only available to food manufacturers) and all but gave up on my quest to re-create my favorite syrup.

In retrospect, in the absence of CMC gum, I probably could have used guar gum or xanthan gum, but I was determined to use CMC gum in my recipe.

So, after having all but given up on the CMC gum, I found the Aunt Jemima syrup label tucked away inside my cupboard and decided to hit Google again for CMC gum.

This new search reveled several sources, as well as quite a bit more info on CMC gum and vegetables gums in general.

One online store carrying small quantities of food-grade CMC gum is Sugarcraft.com. Make sure you buy the powdered CMC, not the gum paste.

I also found some CMC on eBay and bought it there. Be careful, if you search for CMC gum, only buy food-grade CMC. CMC gum is also used in ceramics for glaze and is not for cooking.

I also picked up xanthan gum, the other gum listed on the label.

The gums arrived in Friday’s mail. After explaining why a baggie of white powder arrived in the mail, my wife Kris began bugging me to make syrup.

Today (Sunday) I gave in and started mixing. I found a few reipes on the Web to give me a starting point. All used guar gum, which is probably the easiest and cheapest gum you can find. Look for it in the health food or supplements section of your supermarket (or health food store).

About an hour later–success! We had a good-tasting maple-flavored pancake syrup with a decent viscosity and mouth feel. This syrup tastes better than anything we’ve found on the market, with no aftertaste or unsettling “digestive disturbances.”

The syrup was thick, with only a slight bit of a gel quality, which I was happy to live with. The syrup pooled on top of the pancakes and didn’t soak in immediately, the way I like it.

So, without further ado, here is the recipe:

Low-Carb “Maple” Syrup
(makes approx. 17 oz syrup)

2 cups (16 oz) boiling water
24 packets of Splenda
4 tsp. crystalline fructose
4 tsp. erythritol
2-1/2 tsp. maple flavor extract (we used McCormick’s)
3/4 tsp. CMC gum
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. molasses
1/4 tsp. xanthan gum
1/8 tsp. butter extract (we used McCormick’s)
pinch salt

Blend the dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Pour the boiling water into a large bowl. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the water, whisking in small amounts at a time. I later found that using an electric hand mixer worked even better.

You’ll notice the water thickening quickly and you may notice small lumps, called “fish eyes,” forming in the solution. Turning up the speed of the electric mixed will break these up. Don’t worry about any air bubbles in the syrup; they will rise out of the finished syrup later.

Once all the dry ingredients have been added to the water and mixed until dissolved, add the remaining liquid ingredients, whisking until blended.

That’s it!

The resulting syrup isn’t as sweet as sugar-based syrups, but as a low-carber, I’m accustomed to less sweetness. Simply add more Splenda if you want a sweeter product. And feel free to adjust the flavorings to meet your taste. Remember, to always add a little at a time, then taste.

Because we didn’t use preservatives, you should refrigerate the syrup. Pour your finished syrup into a bottle and pop it in the fridge. Cold will not cause the syrup to thicken further.

Enjoy!

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Sugar-free and low carb sweeteners are one of the most misunderstood areas of a low carb diet for new dieters.

But I’m going to keep this first post about them dead simple. First, we’ll set up a few simple terms to use throughout these posts.

Types of sweeteners:

Nutrative: Usually carbohydrates, these sweeteners have caloric value, like sucrose (table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar, often sold in crystalline form and in corn syrup), dextrose (honey is the most common example), and sugar alcohols (like Sorbitol, Maltitol, Lactitol, Mannitol, Xylitol, and Erythritol — often found in low carb products). You can also add in modified food starches like maltodextrin (one of the bulking agents in artificial sweeteners like Splenda) and modified sugars, like polydextrose (more on polydextrose later).

Non-nutrative: Otherwise known as artificial sweeteners, and include Nutrasweet (aspertame), Splenda (sucralose), ace-K (Acesulfame potassium), and saccharin (sodium saccharin). These sweeteners in their pure forms are extremely sweet (hundreds of times sweeter than sucrose by volume) have no caloric value. However, dextrose and maltodexrin are often added to give these sweeteners bulk and make them easier to use.

For baking purposes, I’d like to introduce two more-relevant terms:

Bulk sweeteners: Add volume to a recipe, like table sugar or maltitol, and are critical components for producing a baked item with proper rise, texture, and moistness.

High-intensity sweeteners: Add sweetness without volume. Splenda, Nutrasweet, and Stevia (a natural herbal sweetener).

The biggest mistake most people new to low carb baking make is replacing table sugar with Splenda (Nutrasweet breaks down with heat and is a poor choice in baked goods). They will read the sugar-equivalent chart on the package of Splenda and substitute 24 packets of Splenda for 1 cup of sugar in a cake recipe.

When the cake comes out of the oven with the texture of a piece of plywood, they wonder what went wrong.

The problem is that Splenda is high-intensity sweetener, but the sugar it’s replacing in the recipe is a bulk sweetener. In a cake recipe, sugar not only sweetens the cake, it adds moistness and helps create the texture we think of when we bite into a piece of good cake.

To give you an even better idea of a bulk sweetener’s contribution to a baked good, let’s examine the brownie. Your average brownie recipe includes flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and cocoa, plus vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. If you removed the sugar from the recipe, you’d get a stiff, dry-brownie–not the moist, chewy delight we all think of when we imagine a brownie.

But we can’t use table sugar in low carb desserts, so what can we use in place of sugar if Splenda alone won’t cut it?

The answer involves blending a high-intensity sweetener like Splenda with a bulk sweetener. For many low-carb products, that bulk sweetener is Maltitol, a sugar alcohol that has about 75% the sweetness of sugar (for the same volume) and duplicates most of sugar’s baking qualities.

A number of commercial low carb products use this combination successfully. However, not everyone can handle a “normal” portion of Maltitol without experiencing side effects like flatulence and even diarrhea.

And those side effects can be magnified if you combine Maltitol with foods like onions, garlic, and members of the cabbage family.

Not a pleasant end to a nice meal, and a deadly combination for your social life.

But there is a solution, which I’ll reveal in Part 2.

Stay tuned!

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New Year’s Resolutions and Low Carb Dieting

January 1, 2008

My post about sweeteners and low carb baking is coming later this week. But to celebrate New Year’s Day 2008, I’d like to offer a few words of support for low carb newbies who have made dieting one of their New Year’s resolutions.

First, let me share a bit about myself and my low carb experience. I started my low carb diet in June 1998. I followed the plan from the book Protein Power

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Soy-free Low Carb Baking – Part 3

December 22, 2007

Yes, it’s late by more than a year (nearly two), but here is Part 3 of my baking mix article.

In Part 2 we talked about vital wheat gluten adding structure to baked goods. But wheat gluten composes only about 7 to 14% of traditional wheat flour, the rest being carbohydrate and fiber.

So what could we use as “filler” in our low carb flour? Obviously, we don’t want to use carbs. So what does that leave?

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Apologies & A Holiday Tip You’ll Love!

December 18, 2007

I am really, really sorry!

I started this blog with the best of intentions. I was going to blog at least weekly–posting recipes, cooking techniques, tips, and sharing my experience as a someone who has been living the low carb lifestyle for nearly 10 years.

But I dropped the ball. My initial enthusiasm failed to carry over into a weekly blogging habit.

For those of you who have waited well over a year for me to finish my baking mix formula, I apologize. I will finish it — and I’ll give you instructions on how to bake with it. I’ll also share my own strategies as a long-term low carber.

In fact, since the holidays are one of the biggest challenges for low carbers, I’d like to share an important tip with you:

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More new products coming from Dreamfields Pasta?

February 7, 2006

I just received a survey from Dreamfields Pasta via email this afternoon, the makers of the only low-carb/low-glycemic-response pasta that tastes like real pasta. In addition to the obvious questions about pasta taste preferences and nutritional concerns, there were two final questions about how likely I would be to buy Dreamfields lasagna or rotini pasta. [...]

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Soy-free Low Carb Baking – Part 2

February 1, 2006

When I first delved into low carb baking in 1998, I learned how to bake low carb. My ingredients were Atkin’s Bake Mix and/or various soy flours.

My first baked goods were very heavy on eggs for structure, since soy flour didn’t hold together very well. After a few failed experiments, I decided that true raised breads were out of the question, though I made biscuits a few times. Trial and error with flavorings and other ingredients like cream cheese for moistness, led me to produce some fairly tasty muffins, cakes, and quickbreads.

At least they were tasty for a day or two, then the inevitable soy aftertaste began to manifest itself. But we could live with this minor inconvenience, as long as we had variety in our diet to stave off low-carb monotony.

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Soy-free Low Carb Baking – Part 1

January 15, 2006

Potential dangers of soy are enough to force me off the stuff.

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Welcome to Low-Carb-Cook.com

December 31, 2005

People just getting started with low carb diets can turn to their books/programs for guidance. We’ve all been there and know it works. But what do you do when you’ve been low carbing for months, even years? My wife and I have been low carbers since 1998, and were introduced to the lifestyle by Protein [...]

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