Sugar Types – Sweets The Right Way!
“The last taste of sweet is the sweetest last, that last forever. All you need is the right sugar in the right proportions.”
“Here is a quick guide to sugar types and their substitutes.”
Sugars are used as sweeteners and are manipulated more in a formulation for their tenderizing effects. They inhibit gluten formation at high usage levels and raise the gelatinization temperature of the starches during baking. This can lead to increased finished cake volumes, more open grain and softer texture. Sugars are also hygroscopic. They help retain the moisture left in the baked cake, thereby keeping the cake more moist and edible longer.
Sugars aid in crust color formation. Caramelization is a reaction of sugars exposed to high temperatures, creating brown crust colors and caramelized flavors. So as the sugars are increased in the formulation, crust color is also affected. Another color reaction that happens in baking is the Maillard browning reaction. This reaction requires reducing sugars and proteins in the presence of high temperatures. It is said to happen at slightly lower baking temperature than caramelization. Sucrose is the only non-reducing sugar added to cake and therefore cannot react in the browning reaction. This is why that small amount (5 to 15%) of a reducing sugar added to chemically leavened bakery products has so large an impact on a cakes crust color.
Syrups such as invert sugar, corn syrup, malt, molasses, or honey are used either for the particular flavor they furnish or as moisture-retaining agents.
Here are some of the most common types of sugars used in baking.
Powdered sugar, as the name suggests is usually made by grinding the granulated sugar into a fine powder. A small amount of cornstarch is added to this in order to prevent caking.
Although most often produced in a factory, powdered sugar can also be made by processing ordinary granulated sugar in a coffee grinder, or by crushing it by hand in a mortar and pestle. When it is prepared at home, it may or may not have the added cornstarch.
This is commonly used for frostings, glazes, and can also be dusted on baked goods to add sweetness and for decoration purpose also.
Powdered sugar is available in varying degrees of fineness, most commonly XXX, XXXX, and 10X: the greater the number of Xs, the finer the particles. 10X sugar is also called the icing sugar, usually the finest. Finer particles absorb more moisture, which results in caking. Hence cornstarch is added at 3 to 5% concentration to absorb moisture and to improve flow by reducing friction between sugar crystals. Because of these anti-caking agents, it cannot always be used as a substitute for granulated sugar, such as in coffee or tea.
This sugar has to be stored in an air-tight container.
These sugars have the smallest crystal size of white granulated sugar. It resembles sand in an hourglass. It is generally used in making delicate or smooth desserts such as mousse or puddings. It is great for sweetening cold beverages because it dissolves quickly without heat.
Brown sugar is white sugar that has had cane molasses added to it. The two types of brown sugar, light and dark, refer to the amount of molasses that is present. Light brown sugar is what is used more often in baking, sauces and, glazes. Dark brown sugar, because of the rich molasses flavor, is used in richer foods, like gingerbread. Both brown sugars can harden if left open to the air, so it is best stored in an airtight container.
Demerara is a light brown, partially refined, sugar produced from the first crystallization during processing cane juice into sugar crystals. It is pretty much in raw form. Demerara sugar is a large-grained, crunchy sugar that hasn’t had all of the molasses refined out. The sugar is great in tea, coffee, dissolved into hot drinks or sprinkled onto baked goods.
Sanding sugar is used mainly for decorating. It has large crystals, which are fairly resistant to heat and doesn’t dissolve easily. Hence it is used to add extra texture and crunch to cookies and other baked goods. You can find sanding sugar in a rainbow of colors. Sanding sugar gives a professional look to baked goods. The large or fine crystals—both types reflect light and give the product a sparkling appearance. It is often available in fun colors.
Also referred to as Barbados sugar, muscovado sugar is a variety of unrefined cane sugar in which the molasses isn’t removed. It comes in dark and light varieties and has a sticky, wet, sandy texture with a rich, complex flavor. While muscovado sugar can be used as a substitute for brown sugar, its flavor is much stronger. It’s especially wonderful in barbecue sauce, marinades, and savory dishes.
Date Sugar: This “sugar” is actually very finely pulverized dried dates, so it’s quite high in fiber and retains the fruit’s vitamins and potassium. Use it in place of sugar—you may want to reduce the amount by about a third. Be warned that it doesn’t dissolve completely the way sugar does, so it works best for dense baked goods
Cane Sugar: To make Cane Sugar, cane juice is extracted, strained, boiled, and beat into granules. Because it’s less processed than white sugar, it retains more of the molasses flavor. It makes a great substitute for brown sugar; start with a 1:1 swap.
Coconut Sugar: A solid sugar made from the evaporated sap of the coconut palm, coconut sugar has a similar taste to brown sugar and can be substituted 1:1 for granulated or brown sugar in most baking recipes.
Jaggery: Jaggery is an unrefined brown sugar that is sold in hard blocks. It’s less sweet than sugar, so you’ll likely want to use about a third more if substituting for granulated sugar in recipes. Jaggery is also available in powder form.
Maple Sugar: Maple Sugar can be substituted for granulated sugar in recipes that require creaming of butter and sugar—but it’s twice as sweet, so you might want to start with slightly less than a 1:1 ratio and adjust.
Honey: Honey is 25 to 50% sweeter than sugar, and has a distinctive flavor. Using honey in baked goods will result in a denser, moister dessert. It’s sweeter than cane sugar by about a third, so keep this while using it as a substitute.
Maple Syrup: Maple syrup is prepared by evaporating the sap of the maple tree. Use maple syrup anywhere its intense, complex flavor would be welcome—cookies, granola, oatmeal, in your coffee. The syrup is used most frequently for sweetening pancakes and waffles, and occasionally to add flavor and sweetness to baked products.
Barley malt syrup: Made from sprouted (aka malted) barley, this syrup imparts a very strong nutty, molasses-like flavor to baked goods. You’ll often see it called for in bread and other yeasted recipes, as its primary sugar.
Corn Syrup: Corn syrup is food syrup that is made from the starch of corn and it is used in cooking and candy-making because, unlike other sugars, it does not crystallize. Corn syrup is less sweet than sugar.
Two common commercial corn syrup products are light and dark corn syrup.
- Light corn syrup is corn syrup seasoned with vanilla flavor and salt. Light corn syrup is clear and tastes moderately sweet.
- Dark corn syrup is a combination of corn syrup and molasses, caramel color and flavor, salt, and the preservative sodium benzoate. Dark corn syrup is a warm brown color and tastes much stronger than light corn syrup. Molasses in dark corn syrup enhances its flavor and color.
Molasses: Molasses is the dark-colored syrupy product resulting after the removal of crystalline sucrose by centrifugation from the concentrated clarified cane juice. This is used to flavor some cakes and cookies.
High fructose corn syrup: high fructose corn syrup has been prepared from corn syrup by the use of the enzyme glucose isomerize. High fructose syrup contains about 42 percent fructose and is used in the manufacture of soft drinks, candies, preserves, and some baked products.
Cane syrup: cane syrup is similar to molasses and is obtained by simply boiling sugarcane juice to a syrupy consistency.
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