What's your opinion on Agave Nectar - Yay or Nay?
I never used agave until some food52 cooks started contributing recipes that call for it. I like that it has a gentle sweetness, so it's handy for things like salad dressing where you want just a hint of sweet. It has a fairly shallow flavor so you can't expect a lot from it, and it won't replace other sugars, but it's a handy tool for when you want something less assertive than honey and more interesting than corn syrup.
I've been nay since reading this article: http://www.huffingtonpost...
Yay for some things--homemade ice cream, mixed drinks
(Try this one: http://www.food52.com/recipes...), any place where you would use simple syrup. (But it's pretty easy to make simple syrup.)
Otherwise, I haven't figured out many uses for it and I've had a bottle in my pantry for a while. I'd love to see others' opinions on this one.
It's a low-glycemic food, meaning that it takes longer for your body to digest the sugars, so for health-conscious folks trying to increase their metabolism, it's a better sugar choice (though not calorie-free.) But there are many cons to agave nectar as well, which you can find all over the Google.
I keep it in the house, but use it primarily to drizzle on my non-fat Greek yogurt with frozen wild Maine blueberries. Yum!
Sparingly. I prefer honey or simple syrup. Agave can be just as processed as corn syrup, so I use it sparingly, like in a light salad dressing.
I tried to experiment using it in bread, and I dont know if that was the cause of it turning out hard/dry and not good at all. But after that I didn't really want to try using it in baked goods
Agave had really good PR for a minute and then their competitors had really good PR (hence the article above) so I think it is natural to be questioning after all the mixed messages we've been getting lately.
For certain things, agave is great. I like how it has a more caramel-like flavor than sugar or honey. I don't get as much of a dizzy head rush as I do with sugar. Some of the things I use it for are: sweetening drinks, making sauces, caramelizing onions, and making brownies. If you want to use it in a recipe in place of sugar, just add 2/3c agave for every cup of sugar, and cut down the liquid ingredient by about 1/4 c. This depends on the recipe but I think it is good to expirement and have diversity in your ingredients.
The sweetners I have on hand include agave, evaporated cane juice (basically, sugar that is less processed i.e. not bleached), panela (Colombian black sugar...the most unrefined sugar and most flavorful...tastes almost like vanilla), dried dates, maple syrup, and this weird pineapple-chipotle sugar I made last week in my dehydrator. I also just heard about coconut sugar from a chef friend of mine and really want to try it (they have at southeast asian markets).
In my book, the more choices you have, the more versatile you can be in your cooking.
Yay, mostly because of the lower glycemic factor; but then I use honey, brown and granulated sugar as well; I will be trying Coconut Palm sugar, soon. Check out the link - covers pros/cons on Agave and also has a link (up top) about the Palm Sugar...lower on the glycemic scale than Agave.
Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful response. There are no easy answers to this question, obviously! The consensus seems to be that Agave isn't a health food, but does have its place in certain recipes. Both things are good to know. Thanks!