Agave nectar (also known as agave syrup) comes from the same cactus as tequila comes from. In some ways it is similar to honey and can usually be used in the same way in recipes, although it is sweeter than honey so the quantity should be reduced. It can also be used to sweeten drinks, or in place of syrup on things like pancakes and waffles.
It has a lower glycemic index and glycemic load than regular sugar which means that it is less likely to cause those high blood sugar spikes which regular sugar causes, and so from that point of view, could be considered a healthier alternative to sugar. However, it’s not all good news. There is a lot of controversy around agave nectar, particularly around it not being as natural as it purports to be. As is often the case, it can be quite tricky to pick out the facts from the range of opinions out there and I’m not going to attempt to do that here. What I’m doing instead is linking to one article I found which seems to be fairly unbiased, with links in it to both sides of the argument, so if you are interested in finding out more, you could use that as a starting point – The great agave nectar debate
I hadn’t used it before, and once again, the effervescent Gabriela Blandy stepped up and provided a recipe for me. Thank you Gabriela! This is a black banana bread which uses agave nectar as its sweetening ingredient. It’s really yummy and I highly recommend making it – if you decide that you don’t want to use agave nectar, you could substitute another sweetener such as honey or maple syrup.
WHAT YOU NEED:
350g unsalted butter
150ml agave nectar
150g dried fruit mix (Gabriela recommends a mix from Tesco which contains raisins, cranberries, strawberries and cherries – that’s what I used, and I recommend it too! If you don’t have a Tesco near you though, you’ll have to improvise).
350g self-raising wholemeal/whole wheat flour (if you don’t have self-raising, then use regular wholemeal flour and add 2 and 1/4 tsp baking powder)
5 very very ripe bananas
Tsp vanilla essence
WHAT YOU DO:
1) Pre-heat oven to 170C/340F.
2) Beat butter and agave nectar, then add the eggs and combine.
3) Fold in the flour until well combined.
4) Peel and mash the bananas well. Add them to the mixture along with the vanilla and dried fruit. Turn gently with a metal spoon until combined, but don’t over-mix.
5) Pour into two lined 20cm x 12cm loaf tins (Gabriela finds that just a strip down the center works if the tins are buttered. I used a silicone loaf tin, so I didn’t need to line or grease it at all).
6) Put batter into tins and bake for between 1 hour and 1 hour 15 until a cocktail stick inserted into the centre comes out clean. If the top starts to darken too quickly during cooking, put a piece of foil on the top.
And here is a picture of the finished loaf…
Hey! Who finished it up? Well I did say it was yummy. If you make it, you’ll probably find it won’t last long in your house either, although supposedly it will keep in a tin for a week.
Do you ever use agave nectar?
This post is part of a series of posts on alternatives to sugar. Other parts are available here – http://sugarness.com/category/sugar-alternatives/