Honey, white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, agave and others - all can be used for baking bread. Sweeteners help feed the yeast and help flavor your bread.  Honey is always a good choice to help enhance flavor, especially when baking basic whole wheat or white bread recipes.  But the choice is yours and using different sweeteners in yor recipes will turn out different results, depending on the recipe.




Sweeteners - Bread Science

Using a sweetener is actually optional when baking bread.  Most artisan bread recipes don't call for a sweetener, but pan breads benefit from the sugar/honey/syrup boost to help the bread rise more quickly and to help add flavor and coloring (browning) when the bread is baked.  


Sweeteners and yeast go together.  Yeast has a sweet tooth and needs something to feed on when being activated as well as during the rise cycles. Including honey or another sweetener in the bread gives the yeast something to chew on, activates the yeast more quickly and helps the yeast do it's job of converting sugars to carbon dioxide (gas) which allows the dough to rise. 


Typical Dry Sweeteners

  • White sugar

  • Brown sugar

  • Raw sugar

  • Coconut Sugar

  • Honey crystals (or powdered honey)


Measure for measure, most dry sweeteners can be substituted for another


Typical Liquid Sweeteners

  • Honey

  • Maple Syrup

  • Agave

  • Molasses (treacle)

  • Corn Syrup

  • Rice Syrup


The amount of liquid sweetners used will differ depending on how much flavor you want.  Honey, agave and maple syrup can be used 1:1 according to the recipe when these sweeteners are used.  Corn syrup is sweeter, so reduce by 1/4 - 1/3.  Molasses has a stronger flavor and can be reduced by 1/2 when comared with honey/agave/maple syrup.  Rice syrup is not as sweet and can be increasted by 1/4.  When increasing amounts of liquid sweetener, you may need to reduce the amount of water used in the bread recipe.


Other sources of sugar or sweetener can also be used - it doesn't have to be sugar based.  Other sweeteners such as fruits or fruit juice can be used in bread recipes.  Grapes, prunes, jams and jellies, apple juice, applesauce - any sweet source, whether natural or artificial, can usually be used when baking bread.  My favorite sweetener is honey, especially when baking whole wheat bread.  Honey and whole wheat go together like black and white, silver and gold, blue sky and soft whispy clouds - or everyone's favorite - bread and butter.


In most of the bread recipes I use, each calls for 1/4 cup of honey or 4 tablespoons (84 grams).  Less can be used, but the taste will be affected.  If too much sweetener is used, the texture of the bread will be affected, so a balance is important.  


The fun part about using sweeteners in baking bread is that you get to choose.  Take a chance once in a while and change the sweetener called for in a recipe and see what happens.