A wide range of baked foods, including fillings and icings, can benefit when rice, tapioca and agave syrups replace conventional sweeteners. In this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A, J.W. Hickenbottom, vice-president, sales and marketing, Malt Products Corp., Saddle Brook, NJ, also describes improvements to flavor and crust color.

Baking & Snack: What are some of the latest applications for alternative syrups?

J.W. Hickenbottom: I consider alternative syrups to be rice, tapioca, honey, agave and even molasses, invert and evaporated cane juice.

In baked goods using corn sweeteners, rice and/or tapioca syrups can be used interchangeably on a pound-for-pound basis provided the dextrose equivalents (Des) are equal. No corn on the label seems to be the main reason for their inclusion.

Rice and tapioca syrups are also considered “natural,” GMO-free and gluten-free. They are clear colored or tan if desired. They are good humectants, offer equal fermentability to yeast-raised goods. Fillings and icings also benefit from their use instead of corn-based sweeteners. Both are readily available in pails, drums, totes or bulk trucks. No dry versions as yet. Energy bars seem to be switching from corn to rice and tapioca. Both syrups contribute viscosity for binding as well as sweetness and humectancy.

What are some of the advantages to using these syrups?

Agave and honey are similar in most respects. Both are much sweeter than the corn, rice and tapioca syrups and in baked goods, the agave and honey provide the extra sweetness and even flavor. Price is usually more than the corn sweeteners. Products made with these two sweeteners however, denote extra quality and offer the idea of being special. Both are GMO- and gluten-free.

Other “natural”, GMO-free and gluten-free sweeteners are molasses and invert from sugar cane and also evaporated cane juice. Many grades of molasses are available which offer differing levels of sweetness, color and flavor. Invert and evaporated cane juice contribute sweetness and humectancy.

What marketing opportunities are available when bakers use these syrups?

Malt from barley is not gluten-free but is GMO-free. Different malts, liquid, dry, diastatic or nondiastatic contribute flavor, color and sweetness to bagels, pretzels, crackers, breads, rolls, etc. When used in combination with the above sweeteners, more flavor is gained in the baked goods including more crust color.