After producing untold dozens of cookies this week for everyone else that I couldn't eat, I decided to do an experiment this morning and bake some spritz cookies with Splenda that I could actually have. Admittedly, I would have to count the carb grams in my diabetic diet, and each spritz cookie would have 3 grams of carbs so it wasn't inconsequential, but it seemed a worthwhile experiment to have some Christmas goodies that were diabetic-friendly.
I settled on spritz cookies because almost every other recipe that I had called for at least some brown sugar, and you can't easily swap white sugar/white sugar substitute for brown sugar. It's a moisture thing.
In case you don't make them, a spritz cookie is a formed cookie made by extruding a dough through a cookie press which consists of sugar, shortening, egg, flour, a bit of salt and baking powder, and whatever flavoring you want - vanilla, orange extract, peppermint extract, etc. They are simplicity itself, and are a lovely sandy textured butter cookie. I have eaten them since I was a wee small child because Mom always made them at Christmas. I remember tossing them for our dog to catch in midair when I was tiny.
Anyway, I got out all the ingredients and fired up the mixer, cringing all the while at making more mess in the kitchen considering all the washing-up I had done on Wednesday and Thursday. As I mixed the dough, substituting Splenda for sugar one-to-one as the package directed, it seemed that the dough was a bit dry, but with a little mixing it fluffed up and formed up nicely, and went through the press just fine. I popped the first sheet of cookies in the oven and waited.
After ten minutes they came out delicately browned and looking exactly right. I let them cool a minute and carefully moved them to a cooling rack. After a few more minute of waiting, I popped one in my mouth.
First off, they didn't taste sweet at all. What happened to - you can bake with Splenda? I have made pumpkin custard with Splenda throughout the year and it turns out fine - not sugar-sweet, but recognizably dessert-like. These cookies tasted like baked flour balls. There was not a hint of the vanilla, no sweetness, no butteriness. Just crumbly flour. The cookies were so dry that they immediately broke apart into a lumpy powder in your mouth that was extremely unpleasant.
In short, they were a complete failure.
What did I do wrong? I am convinced that I didn't do anything, that it was the Splenda. Sugar has characteristics that make it absorb and hold moisture in food. If you watch "Good Eats" with Alton Brown, you know that in baking he classifies sugar with the wet ingredients in the recipe. Evidently Splenda doesn't do that effectively. And it didn't provide enough sweetness in the recipe to counteract the starchy flour. So, you got flour balls, not cookies. Not going to try that again.
If anyone has baked with Splenda and had good results, I would love to know what I could have done differently.