Fruit juice concentrate is a natural sweetener typically made from thickened grape or apple juice, sometimes mixed with peach, pear and pineapple juices, as well. Unlike granulated sugar, which has been refined to create pure sucrose, an unadulterated, chemically simple sweetener, fruit juice concentrate comes in a form that is reasonably close to its natural state, or whole fruit. Although the fiber and pulp have been removed and the juice has been cooked down, fruit juice concentrate is still a relatively unprocessed food. Natural foods stores usually carry multiple brands of fruit juice sweeteners.
More Than Just Sweeteners
The taste of granulated table sugar is clear and simple, offering nothing but sweetness. The taste of fruit juice concentrate is more complex, conveying notes of the fruit flavors that went into creating it. The clear, simple taste of table sugar is not necessarily a negative quality: some important baking ingredients, such as chocolate, have flavors that are so complex that they are sweetened most successfully with a simple sweetener that plays a laid-back, supporting role. Fruit juice sweetener is more appropriate for dishes and desserts where fruit flavor is welcome, such as yogurt parfaits and fruit cobblers.
Mainstream dessert recipes typically call for granulated table sugar. In addition to its clear and simple flavor, it also behaves predictably in cakes and cookies and offers additional benefits, melting to form confections such as toffee and caramel. When baking with fruit juice sweeteners, it is more difficult to successfully predict results because fruit concentrates can vary considerably in texture and flavor. Cake recipes that use fruit juice sweetener rather than granulated sugar must also use greater quantities of dry ingredients such as flour to keep batters from becoming too wet.
Sweet and Healthy
According to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide, fruit juice concentrates are not necessarily healthy, although they may seem healthier than table sugar because they are closer to the plant's natural state. This resource makes the valid point that fruit juice isn't healthy simply because it comes from fruit; however, juice concentrate sweetener is less refined than table sugar and contains at least some of the nutrients from the original fruit.
How to Substitute
Although fruit juice sweeteners vary based on the type of fruit they contain and how much they have been reduced, it generally works to substitute two-thirds of a cup of fruit juice concentrate for each cup of sugar and to reduce the recipe quantities of other liquid ingredients by one-third. Also, add one-fourth teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of fruit juice concentrate you use and reduce the amount of salt in the original recipe relative to the amount of baking soda that you add. For example, if you add half a teaspoon of baking soda, use half a teaspoon less salt than called for in the original recipe.
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