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Different Kinds of Sugars for Cooking and Baking
A neat sugar conainer
The world wouldn't be the same if there were no sugar, can you just imagine? There are many kinds of sugar that can be used for all kinds of tasty and savory things. Sometimes, even in a dish that isn't "sweet", the tiniest bit of sugar can be used to balance or bring out other flavors. Think of what sugar does for chocolate alone? I probably love it a bit too much, but I am thankful for it even if I am not fond of the calories that are inherent within.
Its likely that we think of dry sugars first when we heard the word sugar. I want to start with the liquid sugars first, which are really more of a syrup than anything else. Most often, the sugar is called by the name from the source that it came. We can identify many by their color and flavor. Some of the liquid sugars are molasses from sugar cane, honey from bees, maple syrup from the sugar maple tree, and sorghum from sweet sorghum grass. Corn syrup is the base for many of these.
Some of the names you may be familiar with are the following: King's syrup, Sorghum, Malt Syrup, Golden Syrup, Treacle, Molasses, Maple Syrup, Honey and Karo Syrup in light and dark varieties.
Clearly, white sugar is the most common sugar that probably comes to mind, and it happens to be the least expensive as well. White sugar is easy to use but also has minimal flavor besides the sweetness it gives. One good point I saw made was that it allows other flavors to dominate, since it takes a kind of backseet in the flavor department. The richness from other sugars though can add more depth and flavor and be just as fun to experiment with.
Confectioners or Powdered Sugar I always think of french toast with this one, as its the perfect thing to sprinkle on top. This is a powdered white sugar that has a small percent of cornstarch added to it to keep it from clumping up. Great to use in recipes that call for it, but otherwise, the added cornstarch you may not want even if its a small percent.
Superfine, Ultra fine and Bar sugar This one is the "finest" of the granulated sugars and is perfect for cakes that are extra fine in texture. A good one for meringues as well since it easily dissolves. Perfect to add to beverages that you want to sweeten without the sugar just sitting on the bottom of the cup or glass. I was happy to find out, that this is what is meant by castor sugar, because a dear friend of mine shared a very old favorite family recipe, that came with the family from England, and it called for a castor sugar. She even said, I wish I knew what that was exactly, but now we know. It was named castor sugar, because it was kept in silver casters and served from those.
Coarse and Sanding Sugars These are the sugars with large crystals. I was at a "tea" my friend put on once, and she gave the cutest little party favors afterward. This cute little container, had beautifully colored coarse sugars in it. Fun little memory there, thanks for letting me take that little tangent haha. Anyway, these coarser sugars are more stable than the granulated sugars at baking temperatures, so hold their shape on cookies and cakes when used for decorating.
Brown Sugar A family favorite here for everything from baking cookies to topping on oatmeal. It has molasses mixed in with it, and comes in light and dark forms.
Turbinado Sugar I love, "sugar in the raw" a form of Turbinado sugar. I first learned of Sugar in the Raw, at the restaurant
called "Good Earth" in California when I was a little girl. Since
then, I have seen it many places, and happy that Starbucks carries it.
Its wonderful, I love it. This unrefined sugar still has the molasses in it, and never had it taken out to begin with, unlike brown sugar. It costs a little more as well, but its nice to try if you never have. It "behaves" like a brown sugar.
Demebara Sugar This is the English version of turbinado , and has larger crystals. As you can imagine, it works also for decorating pastries and cookies. Demerara is a district in British Guyana , on the South American mainland, and what the sugar is named for. That is where it is from.
Malt A powder, that is made from Barley which has been sprouted, then dried. There are two types of this sugar, diastatic, and non diastatic. When added to breads and used in small amounts, it enhances the appearance in flavor and texture. The non diastatic version, has more malt flavor and is only one third as sweet as sugar.
Maple Sugar From maple syrup that has been cooked "down" and then crystallized. The flavor is nice, but using it as a substitute isn't recommended. Garnishing with it is great though.
Raw Sugar Raw sugar actually isn't even legal in the United States actually. This is because it can contain certain bacterias and other foreign matter, kind of like an unpasteurized milk. Not to be confused with Sugar in the Raw, sugar.
Sucanat This is what you get when you press and evaporate sugar cane juice. Its a brand name, and refers to natural, organic sugar. There are a few nutrients on a very small scale, which is better than nothing.
How to rescue rock hard sugar Should you be itching to cook up something yummy, only to find that your sugar is now one big sugar rock lump, here is what to do. There are two fixes, one faster than the other. The preferred thing, is to put a piece of bread or a slice of apple into the bag or container. This will help your sugar in a days time if not sooner. The other idea, but a little more risky is to heat the sugar in an oven set to 250 degrees for a few minutes, or using the microwave on low for one to two minutes, checking often. The danger here, is that it can seize up on you. There are other preventative things you can do, like storing it in a Tupperware type of plastic container to begin with, or use a "sugar bear" or sugar softener.
When I started this hub, I had the song, "Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down, from Mary Poppins. Now, I have that song Candy girl in my head, and thinking of that part where he sings, Sugar Sugar, Honey Honey.