Xylitol is becoming increasingly popular as a lower calorie alternative to sugar, though is most often found in commercially processed low sugar or no sugar added food products such as candies, chewing gum, and mints. It is used as an ingredient in low sugar versions of these foods as xylitol is as sweet as sugar, but has around 40% fewer calories than real sugar. It has also gained popularity as being a preventer of dental cavities. It is part of a group of sweeteners known as sugar alcohols which may be found naturally occurring in some plants. While the name suggests that it contains alcohol, it indeed does not. Instead, it is a substance that, in its pure form, is granulated, and looks and tastes very much like real sugar.
You may have seen Xylitol sold in larger bags in products such as Ideal Sweetener and Xylosweet. These products are intended for use in the home as a sugar substitute and intended to be used cup for cup in place of sugar. Xylitol does keep its sweetness even after being exposed to high temperatures and does offer volume and texture, unlike some other sugar substitutes. The manufacturer's websites for these products do offer some recipes and tips for cooking with their products that you may try, or you may also experiment with these products in your recipes. Do keep in mind, however, that while xylitol bakes much like sugar, it should not be expected to have the same results as using real sugar. Often texture, moistness, and browning will be affected by using the sugar substitute.
Do keep in mind that, as with other sugar substitutes, if consumed in large quantities xylitol can cause a laxative-like effect. Also, for pet owners, it is important to know that xylitol and the products made from xylitol are not considered safe for your dog or ferret to eat. According to the FDA, pet owners should contact their veterinarian or pet poison control center immediately for advice if they know or suspect that their pet has ingested a human product containing xylitol. So do be careful if you are a pet owner and plan to have baked goods containing xylitol in your home with them.