“What kinds of sweeteners do you use?”   People ask me this food question more than any other.  In a world with so many choices, navigating our way through all the “healthy” sugars out there can cause confusion.

Many products proclaim themselves “natural” or “raw” sweeteners, despite the heavy processing involved in their production.  “Raw” sugar stands as a favorite example; most producers take processed white sugar and add a bit of molasses for color!  Today, I want to share with you a favorite, versatile, and genuine sweetener.

I love using organic whole cane sugar (or Sucanat) for baking and cooking.  Producers take juice from organically-grown sugar cane and simply dehydrate it.  The resulting crystals stay rich in minerals, trace elements, and vitamins, so I can use the deep, rich flavor guilt-free – in moderation, of course!

Organic whole cane sugar makes a perfect 1 for 1 substitute for white sugar.  I use organic whole cane sugar to bake, cook, sprinkle, and sweeten my tea.

Using Whole Cane Sugar

I’ve learned that whole cane sugar can replace many refined sweeteners we’ve grown accustomed to using.  For example:
• Instead of brown sugar, stir together one cup of whole cane sugar with two tablespoons of real maple syrup until it’s a moist, wholesome substitute.
• You might also grind whole cane sugar in a coffee grinder until powdery, as a perfect stand-in for powdered white sugar.

If you’re new to unprocessed natural sweeteners, these raspberry bars provide a perfect recipe to get your feet wet. Whole wheat flour, oats, and raspberries baked together create a yummy and gooey afternoon snack.

Oatmeal Raspberry Bars

Adapted from Real Simple
Serves 8

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup organic whole cane sugar or Sucanat
¼ teaspoon sea salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
2 tablespoons water
¾ cup rolled oats
½ cup raspberry jam
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 ¼ cup fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 375°F and adjust rack to middle position.  Butter an 8 x 8-inch baking pan.  Pulse the flour, whole cane sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the butter and water and pulse until the dough comes together.  Pour dough into a mixing bowl and knead in oats.  Reserve ½ cup of the dough and set aside.

Press remaining dough into the buttered pan.  In a small bowl, stir together the jam and extract.  Spread the jam evenly over the dough leaving a ¼-inch border around the edges.  Scatter the raspberries in a single layer over the jam and top with remaining dough.  Bake 25 minutes until edges are golden.  Cool 20 minutes before slicing.