Different types and uses of sugar
Sugar is one of the most important ingredients used in preparing pastries and sweets. Sugar is available in different types, differing mostly as to the degree of refinement.
Selecting the right type for the purpose required is important, for example using granulated sugar when making a meringue means the sugar will not dissolve by the time the meringue is completed.
Essential function of sugar
Apart from being used as a sweetening agent, sugar has other essential functions.
- It delays the coagulation of the proteins in eggs.
- Promotes aeration and colour in baked products.
- Lowers the freezing point in ice cream preparation
- Increases the shelf life of cakes.
Sugar is available in a variety of forms such as:
1. Granulated sugar
This is the highly refined white sugar, consist of almost pure sucrose, which is used in any food item in which there is sufficient liquid to dissolve it.
It is the most common table and cooking sugar.
2. Caster sugar
A fine white sugar, consists of small, evenly graded crystals. It is dissolved quickly and easily when mixed with other ingredients.
It is used to make cakes, pastries, biscuits and desserts, especially meringues and confectionery
3. Icing sugar
Also known as confectioners’ sugar. It is a granulated sugar crushed to a fine powder used for icing cakes and in sweets where a grainy texture is undesirable.
Icing sugar is also used to make meringues and for dusting on cakes and sweets such as Turkish delight.
4. Cube loaf or lump sugar
A granulated sugar that is moistened and moulded and cut into convenient cubes of various sizes.
Most often used to sweeten hot drinks; also used in champagne cocktails and rubbed on citrus skins for flavouring certain sweet dishes and sauces
5. Brown sugar - can be obtained in a variety of shades of brown.
Often specified in recipes for breads and cakes, is small crystals of white sugar that has been mixed with clarified molasses to give it a soft, moist texture in shades of light or dark brown. The darker the colour the more pronounced the flavor.
- Raw sugar – has large crystals and is made from the residual syrup after the removal of molasses.
- Demerara is a dry brown sugar with coarse crystals mixed with a little molasses and traditionally used to sweeten coffee.
6. Palm Sugar
Hard dense sugar obtained from the sap of various palms. Usually sold in solid pieces in colours ranging from creamy-white to dark brown.
It is widely used in India and South-East Asian countries, usually to sweeten desserts or sweet- and sour dishes.
All sugar products are hygroscopic- that is they all absorb moisture from the atmosphere. Sugar itself will become damp and sticky.
Products cooked with sugar will also absorb moisture and in the case of crisp biscuits for example, go soft. Proper storage is essential to overcome these problems.