Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
Splenda is the trademarked name for an artificial sweetener made from sucralose, a chemically altered form of sugar that tastes sweet but isn't digested as calories or carbohydrates. Unfortunately, Splenda lacks the volume of real sugar--an important consideration in some baking recipes. So Splenda has come out with reduced-calorie spinoffs that split the difference, blending sucralose with the real stuff. Brown Sugar Blend is a mixture of sucralose and brown sugar that is twice as sweet as regular brown sugar, so you use half as much. (One teaspoon of brown sugar has 15 calories and 4 grams of carbs; the equivalent half-teaspoon of Brown Sugar Blend has 10 calories and 2 grams of carbs.)
We tested Brown Sugar Blend in three applications—chocolate chip cookies, blondies, and a streusel topping (sprinkled over a yellow cake)—tasting them side by side with versions prepared with regular brown sugar. Tasters detected a "bitter" and "soapy" aftertaste in the cookies and blondies made with Brown Sugar Blend and also found them somewhat dry. The cause of the texture problem was clear. Real sugar has moisture-retaining (or hygroscopic) properties; because the Splenda blend contains less real sugar, it retains less moisture. Where Brown Sugar Blend really failed as a substitute, though, was in the streusel topping, which simply sank into the batter instead of crunching up into a recognizable streusel. Not much of a replacement in our book—even if you do save a few calories.
Our favorite premium extra-virgin olive oil from a previous tasting, Columela is composed of a blend of intense Picual, mild Hojiblanca, Ocal, and Arbequina olives. This oil took top honors for its fruity flavor and excellent balance. Tasters praised its “big olive aroma, big olive taste” with a “buttery” flavor that is “sweet” and “full,” with a “peppery finish.” One taster said: “It’s very green and fresh—like a squeezed olive.” Another simply wrote: “Fantastic.”
|Spain||$19 for 17 oz|
Tasters noted this oil’s flavor was “much deeper than the other samples,” describing it as “fruity, with a slight peppery finish,” “buttery undertones,” and a “clean, green taste” that was “aromatic, with a good balance.” “It has the flavor that some good EVOOs have,” said one admiring taster.
|Italy||$19.99 for 500 ml ($39.98 per liter)|
Virtually tied for second place, this oil was deemed “round and buttery,” with a “light body” and flavor that was “briny and fruity,” “very fine and smooth,” and “almost herbal,” with “great balance.” “Good olive flavor. I could smell it and taste it,” approved one taster. In a word, “pleasant.”
|Italy||$17.99 for 750 ml ($23.98 per liter)|
|Recommended with Reservations|
A clear step down from the top oils, tasters noted “overall mild” flavor and “very little aroma,” with only a “hint of green olive” and a “hint of spiciness at the end.” In pasta, it was initially “not complex,” but gradually “bloomed in your mouth.” Overall, it was “worthy of a second bite.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$12.49 for 750 ml ($16.65 per liter)|
While some tasters found this oil “sweet” and “buttery” with “medium body” and “slight spice at the end,” others complained that it had “zero olive flavor” and was “so floral it’s almost like eating perfume”; still others noted a “bitter” aftertaste. In pasta, it was “extremely mild” to the point of being “boring.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$10.99 for 750 ml ($14.65 per liter)|
Comments: The best comments tasters could muster were “mild” and “neutral.” Some liked it on pasta (though one called it “Snoozeville”), but complaints were myriad: “metallic,” “soapy,” “briny,” “hints of dirt.” Carped one taster, “I can’t imagine what is in here, but they have a nerve calling it EVOO.”
|Spain||$13.99 for 1 liter|
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