When it comes to baking, sugar is one of the most important ingredients we use. Of course, the sweetness it provides to things like cookies and cakes is obvious. Sugar is an integral part of the baking that we do day to day.
For most people, the first thing that comes to mind when hearing the word sugar is white, granulated sugar. It’s the type that America uses most often for baking and sweetening our morning cup of coffee; however, the more you bake, the more different types of sugar you may come across. Are you ready to talk sugar?
There are many different types of granulated sugar. Some of these are used only by the food industry and professional bakers and are not available in the supermarket. The types of granulated sugars differ in crystal size. Each crystal size provides unique functional characteristics that make the sugar appropriate for a specific food’s special need.
Confectioners or Powdered Sugar
In Canada and Great Britain (England) it is called icing sugar and in France sucre glace. This sugar is granulated sugar ground to a smooth powder and then sifted. It contains about 3% cornstarch to prevent caking. Powdered sugar is ground into three different degrees of fineness. The confectioners sugar available in supermarkets – 10X – is the finest of the three and is used in icings, confections and whipping cream. The other two types of powdered sugar are used by industrial bakers.
Also called table sugar or white sugar. This is the sugar most known to consumers, is the sugar found in every home’s sugar bowl, and most commonly used in home food preparation. It is the most common form of sugar and the type most frequently called for in recipes. Its main distinguishing characteristics are a paper-white color and fine crystals.
As you can tell from its name, coarse sugar has a much larger crystals than regular white sugar. The larger size of the crystals (about the size of pretzel salt) makes the sugar stronger and more resistant to heat. This type of sugar also helps to give baked goods or candy a little texture. It is used mainly for decorating and comes in a rainbow of colors.
Sanding sugar is another large crystal sugar. It is between white granulated and coarse sugar in size. It is another decorating sugar and comes in many colors. It also reflects light and gives of a sparkly shine. And, who doesn’t love their baked goods sparkly?
Fruit sugar is slightly finer than “regular” sugar and is used in dry mixes such as gelatin and pudding desserts, and powdered drinks. Fruit sugar has a more uniform small crystal size than “regular” sugar. The uniformity of crystal size prevents separation or settling of larger crystals to the bottom of the box, an important quality in dry mixes.
Bakers Special Sugar
The crystal size of Bakers Special is even finer than that of fruit sugar. As its name suggests, it was developed specially for the baking industry. Bakers Special is used for sugaring doughnuts and cookies, as well as in some commercial cake recipes to create a fine crumb texture.
Brown Sugar (Light & Dark):
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. If your brown sugar has hardened, you can microwave it for a few seconds, or place a piece of bread in the bag and leave it for a day.
Turbinado sugar is raw sugar that has only had the surface molasses washed off. It is light in color, usually has a large crystal, and is slightly lower in calories than white sugar due to the moisture content. Turbinado sugar is mainly used in sweetening beverages, but can also be used in baking.
Popular in England, Demerara sugar is a light brown sugar with large golden crystals, which are slightly sticky from the adhering molasses. It is often used in tea, coffee, or on top of hot cereals. In the U.S., the most comparable sugar is Turbinado – because they are both “raw”.
Muscovado or Barbados Sugar
Muscovado sugar is a type of British brown sugar. It is very dark brown in color and has more molasses than light or dark brown sugar. The sugar crystals are a little larger than regular brown sugar and the texture is stickier. It is used in sweets with rich flavors such as gingerbread, coffee cake, and fudge.
Free-flowing Brown Sugars
These sugars are specialty products produced by a co-crystallization process. The process yields fine, powder-like brown sugar that is less moist than “regular” brown sugar. Since it is less moist, it does not clump and is free-flowing like white sugar.
Now it’s time to make sure you are stocked up and ready to bake!