Wednesday, February 24, 2010

PRODUCT REVIEW: AGAVE NECTAR

agave oatmeal cc muffins (2)
Okay, so I’ve been slow to get on the agave nectar train.  It’s because my research uncovered some startling facts, leading me to conclude that agave nectar is certainly not a health food.  So to use it to make a dessert “healthful” is counterproductive.  Typical agave nectar could contain corn syrup or even harmful contaminants; and worse yet, agave nectar is not as low glycemic as many think. 

But then I saw organic agave nectar and finally gave in.   After all, the USDA certified organic label means something.  Agave is lower in calories, and has no overbearing strong flavors or aftertaste.   And what’s so healthful about cane sugar anyway?    I decided to give it a try.  I selected one of my very best muffin recipes that has honey as a main ingredient, and substituted agave nectar for the honey.   The muffins tasted delicious, but the texture was tough and chewy.  I prefer my muffins to be moist and tender, not tough and chewy. 
I thought about the trash, but my neighbor and his wife are not as picky as I.  They gladly took the muffins and actually told me they were the best I’ve ever made.  Different strokes for different folks, I guess. 

Bottom line:  I agree with Cook’s Illustrated.  In their December/January 2010 issue, they mentioned their test kitchen had similar disappointing results with agave in baked goods,  and recommended it only be used as a sweetener for liquids. 

QUESTIONS:  What do you think about agave nectar?  Have you used it in baked goods?  What were your results?

20 comments:

My Carolina Kitchen said...

I'm so glad you reviewed agave nectar Judy. I've been curious about it, but I'm not a baker so I never got around to buying any. For one reason I can't get it in the mountains, but I have seen it here in Florida.

I had also read CI's take on it. We don't drink many sweet liquids such as tea.

Do you think it would make a good substitute (if you can get it without corn syrup or other no-no's) for honey in savory dishes such as salsas where you want a little sweet to counteract the spiciness of peppers or would you just stick with honey? I don't need another bottle that I don't use on the shelf just because it's trendy.

Thanks again for this honest and very helpful review.
Sam

Judy said...

Sam, The advantages to using agave nectar are threefold: (1)it's slightly less caloric than sugar; (2)supposedly lower on the glycemic index; and (3) there's no strong taste as there sometimes can be with honey, and no aftertaste. If you use organic agave nectar, you won't have to worry about additives. But whether to use it at all depends on what you want it to do for you. If you have no blood-sugar issues, and if you're happy with the honey you use, why bother?

Lynda said...

Thank s for the honest review, Judy. I usually don't buy trendy ingredients unless I know for sure that it will get used. I'll stick with honey for now anyway.

À LA GRAHAM said...

I have been experimenting with agave nectar lately too. I had been testing it with caramel corn, in replacement of corn syrup. Total disappointment. Left a gritty texture and taste on the popcorn. The only thing I have found it tasted sweet and smooth in was a smoothie I made http://www.alagraham.com/2010/01/greek-yogurt-smoothie.html
I think you hit the nail on the head, "if you're happy with the honey you use, why bother?"

buffalodick said...

I'd have to agree with you..too many tried and true ways to get it right. I find most health foods are healthy, but not dramatically so. People with allergies or reactions should explore other products, but change for the sake of change isn't helping anyone but the person trying to sell it!

Deb Schiff said...

Hi Judy,
I've been baking with agave exclusively for more than 3 years. There are definitely techniques to doing it correctly, especially since it doesn't behave the way that most sugars do. I'd also suggest that you read this post from Craig of Madhava on my blog: http://alteredplates.blogspot.com/2008/12/madhavas-craig-gerbore-responds-to.html because it gives a lot more information than available elsewhere.

A Year on the Grill said...

Looks fabulous... sorry I haven't been around for awhile, I moved to the US Virgin Islands (I still giggle when I say that) for six months, and it is taking awhile to get settled. But i do think I am caught up, and will be back with new postings...

Come take a look at my new blogs of Island life!

And a GREAT post for me... There are lots of agave items in teh stores

Wendy said...

Judy, we only get organic agave nectar here in the UK... I don't think I have seen any other kind. Our ordinary (Sainsbury's/Tesco supermarkets stock it in the healthy, free-from aisle - you know, the section that does gluten free and health foods - though in the States it is probably different) I've never baked with it but we use it on porridge at breakfast and on yoghurt and fruit for desserts. We started using it for the lower glycaemic load as putting sugar or honey on porridge seemed counter productive. Highly recommended! Makes a great and sustaining breakfast.

Judy said...

Wendy, that's a great way to use it.

Barbara Bakes said...

I love it with fruit. A little drizzle over strawberries adds a touch of sweetness but doesn't change the flavor like honey would and you don't have to wait for the sugar to dissolve and create a sauce. I also loved it in my baked french toast http://www.barbarabakes.com/2009/08/agave-nectar-giveaway-raspberry-peach.html

teresa said...

good review, i've been wondering if or how i should try it. this helps quite a bit!

Heavenly Housewife said...

I bought some but never used it. Ive read some bad stuff about it, that its not really good for you. Its just sitting in the pantry.
*kisses* HH

Katy ~ said...

I bought it to use to sweeten my morning coffee,(small changes!) have not used it to cook with. It's OK to me, but with the expense, and the amount I use to get the right sweetness, white sugar has found its way back to my coffee cup.

Sweet and Savory said...

I just bought my first bottle of agave and after reading what everyone has said, I wish I hadn't. I will have to find ways to use it.

Anonymous said...

This blog is without a doubt wonderful, worthy of studying

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece of work. Stay publishing posts!

Anonymous said...

Appreciate your making the effort to write this type of important blog, it's been beneficial.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for discussing. Very easy to use and straightforward to comprehend. Done well!

Anonymous said...

Very good post. Routinely keep blogging!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for the write-up about this topic, it was beneficial.