An article appeared today, 7/2/09, at the BakingBusiness.com website discussing the use of agave in bread dough products. I have excerpted below the part of the article pertaining to that ingredient:
Lighter than honey
Matt Salis and his wife, Sheri, have used agave nectar as a sweetener for five years in some of their bread. They own four Great Harvest Bread Co. franchises in the Denver area.
"We spend a lot of time explaining to customers what agave nectar is," Mr. Salis said. "They assume it’s something cool and neat. So they often ask us about it."
Besides agave nectar, Mr. Salis and his wife also use honey and molasses as sweeteners. Agave nectar has lower moisture content than honey and gives the bread more of a crumbly texture.
Agave nectar makes bread a lighter color than honey does.
"That visual makes a big difference," Mr. Salis said.
He and his wife use agave nectar solely in whole wheat bread. Besides the lighter color, the agave nectar also may make the whole wheat bread appear similar to white bread because the sweetener helps the bread rise and gives it more air pockets.
"Agave nectar has won its place in a handful of breads," Mr. Salis said. "It’s the addictive ingredient in a number of our breads."
He buys the sweetener from a Colorado supplier.
"It’s an expensive product, but the price for us has not fluctuated at all," he said.
Honey prices fluctuate more, but agave nectar has cost more the last couple of years, Mr. Salis said. He said honey prices have ranged from $1 to $1.70 per lb while agave nectar prices range from $1.30 to $1.50 per lb.
Wholesome Sweeteners, Sugar Land, Texas, now offers organic blue agave nectar from Jalisco, Mexico. Blue agave (Agave tequilana var. Weber) is a member of the Amarylis family. It’s the same plant used in the production of tequila. The blue agave plants used by Wholesome Sweeteners are grown to U.S. Department of Agriculture organic standards.
Cooking the plant’s inulin turns it into nectar. Wholesome Sweeteners offers light blue agave nectar, which is heated to 161 degrees Fahrenheit, and raw blue agave nectar, which has lower temperatures and slower cooking times.
Agave nectar may replace sugar since it is 25% sweeter than sugar and low-glycemic, according to Wholesome Sweeteners. Since agave nectar adds liquid, formulators should reduce other liquids in the recipe by one-third when using it as a sugar replacement. They also should reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for a few minutes longer.
SunOpta Global Organic Ingredients, Aptos, Calif., is another agave nectar supplier. The agave nectar works as both a natural preservative and water preserver in baked foods, said Hendrik Rabbie, a sales manager. The Japanese market uses agave nectar in cakes such as sponge cakes, he said, while the North American market primarily has used the sweetener in food bars.
Agave syrup is about 25% sweeter than sugar, but sugar is dry while agave syrup has 25% humidity, Mr. Rabbie said.
"So bakers who use less agave than sugar might need to increase the amount of agave to get the same sweetness level," he said. "They have to factor the humidity level."