I’m never quite sure what to say when people ask if they can reduce sugar in a recipe. My inclination is to say Non! right off the bat. Not because I’m in France, and it’s reflexive, but because when I test or develop a recipe, I get the sugar balance just to where I like it before it goes into a book or on the blog. It’s like asking someone if you need to wear shoes. It’s my preference, but if you don’t want to use the quantities given – well, be my guest! I just alway follow that up with a note that people might not be happy with the results. Ditto with making other substitutions: If I haven’t personally tried it, I can’t recommend it.
I don’t mean to be Déborah Downer, but I don’t know how it’s going to turn out so don’t want to give something the okay unless I know people will be happy with the result. Since sugar makes things moister, as well as sweeter, changing the measurement in a recipe can result in a dry cake or tough batch of cookies. (It’s also a conserving agent so treats won’t last as long…although I don’t have that trouble at my house.) However when Baking with Less Sugar by Joanne Chang of the famed Flour Bakery in Boston landed on my kitchen counter, I was intrigued because it was nice to flip through the pages and see what is obviously a well-tested collection of recipes from a pastry chef and bakery owner who I admire very much, where the sugar is reduced or replaced by another sweetener. (A good omen is when an author discusses in the headnote how they came up with the recipe, and what kind of testing went into it, so you can be reasonably confident the author tested it thoroughly.) Leafing through the book had me excited to give one of the recipes a try, and this Monkey Bread stood out.
Monkey Bread is traditionally is slathered with a lot of butter and sugar. And sometimes people pour sugary icing all over it, too. But caramel is one of those things where a little can go a long way, and Joanne manipulated the ingredients to find the perfect balance of flavors and sweetness without going overboard.