I'm not much of a specialty baker.
For all my meddling and reluctance to follow a recipe directly, I don't do much in the way of adaptations for dietary restrictions. Tinkering with seasonings and proportions is one thing, but making wholesale substitutions is quite another. I know where I am with whole eggs versus egg whites. When it comes to egg replacer, all bets are off.
I play it safe, seeking out recipes for given restrictions that don't use (or need) the problem ingredients in the first place. Gluten-free cookie? Try a delinquent macaron. Vegan tea treat? Have a slice of banana bread. Sugar-free baked good?
Er. Did you try Googling for "nearest specialty bakery?"
I carried out a few experiments in sugar-free baking during college. There was a lot of Splenda involved, and the results were terrible. (File under "youthful stupidity, in the name of." Blame the Atkins diet. Lesson learned: don't date anyone who doesn't eat pasta.)
Even after I gained more experience in the kitchen, I had no need for sugar-free baked goods in my repertoire, and so I never bothered revisiting that particular dark chapter of my culinary endeavors.
Then I met Bobbie Sue.
Bobbie Sue, Bella's mother, is a spectacular baker. From rich, moist blueberry buckle, to flaky snickerdoodles, to tangy rhubarb pie, her creations defy guests to not go back for seconds. Unfortunately, Bobbie Sue can't eat sugar for health reasons, and while she looks on with good grace during the dessert course at holiday gatherings (and urges guests to take seconds), it still seems unfair.
My chance to remedy that came at a Fourth of July potluck. Short on time, I decided to bake shortbread. Casting about for seasonings, I came across a package of Trader Joe's cranberry, pecan and rosemary snack mix. Lining up all my ingredients on the counter, it struck me: sugar isn't essential to the structure of shortbread.
The rest was easy: skip the sugar. Throw in an egg yolk for extra binding. Add vanilla to enhance the sweetness of the dried cranberries.