Cooking with stevia is an art. It’s not extremely difficult to master, but you have to be very patient with yourself and comfortable with the nature of herbs and spices. Remember when you were figuring out just how much paprika you should use in a recipe? The learning process is about the same with stevia.
There are a couple of reasons determining how much stevia herb to use in a recipe is difficult. I’ll explain how to work around them.
Stevia, like any other plant, has a season. It is also grown in different places.
Stevia grows best and sweetest in a temperate climate with a rich soil. Its peak season is in the fall, just when the flowers begin to bloom. While it’s flowering, it’s getting sweeter and sweeter until its reproductive state starts to decline for the year.
Organic farms that grow with care produce the best stevia, hands down. No mass farming effort can match stevia grown with natural fertilizers. The leaves are also very sensitive, and its chemistry is naturally mildly anti microbial. Most pests don’t like it either, so pesticides harm it rather than helping it.
If you know where the stevia comes from, that will help with determining how much you should use. If you don’t then you should do a steeping test to see how strong the stevia you got is.
Put a teaspoon of stevia herb into 250 ml. (a full glass) of hot water, and let it settle. Then stir it and let it settle again. Then taste it. Ideally, it should taste as if you’ve put about 1/8 cup of sugar into the water. Do this every time you buy a new batch, and you’ll know the strength of what you have.
Stevia is a different kind of sweet than sugar.
Sugar, honey, and artificial sweeteners have an immediate sweetness. Stevia has a slightly delayed sweetness. It doesn’t take much stevia to make something sweet, and if you use too much, it’s overkill. The problem is that because of the delayed reaction, it’s common for people to accidentally use too much.
The solution is to trust your strength test. Don’t use more than necessary in a recipe. People who must avoid sugar and are used to stevia will understand the delayed sweetness. However, if you don’t want people (like the kids) to know what they’re eating is “health food”, then there’s a little trick.
Use a little natural sweetener, such as fruit paste or puree, or honey, to provide the initial sweetness. By a little I mean really very little. If, for instance, a recipe calls for a cup of sugar, you would use 1 tablespoon of stevia herb powder “bloomed” in about 2 tablespoons of very hot water, and only a teaspoon of honey or a tablespoon of silan (date syrup). You can also use apple juice as part of the liquid in the recipe instead of any kind of syrup. Stevia will stretch natural sugars a very long way.
Hopefully, these tips will help you in determining the sugar-stevia equivalent, or make your stevia recipes less of a risky exercise. If you have any questions, feel free to comment.