Fundamentals: Types of Sugar
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. In breads and rolls, however, it feeds the yeast that makes for a beautiful rise. 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. In an effort to expand my own baking horizons, I thought we should discuss the varieties of sugar that are available for all of our baking needs. Are you ready to talk sugar?
(Regular) White Granulated Sugar
White sugar has had all of the naturally present molasses refined out. It is the sugar that is most commonly used in baking. The fine crystals in granulated sugar don’t cake together, which makes it perfect for measuring, sprinkling onto food and dissolving into drinks.
Confectioners’ Icing or Powdered Sugar
Known by a few different names, icing sugar, powdered sugar, and confectioners’ sugar are all the same thing: granulated sugar that has been finely ground and mixed with a small amount of cornstarch to prevent caking. This is the sugar that we commonly use for frostings, glazes, and for that snowy covering on doughnuts that no doubt is all over your face and hands with the first bite.
Coarse sugar or Decorating sugar
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?
Brown Sugar (light and 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.
Brown sugar is easy to make in a pinch!
- 1 pound granulated sugar
- 3 ounces molasses, by weight
Make sure everything is incorporated thoroughly in a food processor and, you can store it for up to a month!
Superfine, Ultrafine, Bar or Caster Sugar
These sugars have the smallest crystal size of white granulated sugar. It is generally used in making delicate or smooth desserts such as mousse, meringues or puddings. It also is great for sweetening cold beverages because it doesn’t need heat to dissolve.
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.
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.
This is another type of sugar that is very popular in England. In the U.S., the most comparable sugar is Turbinado – because they are both “raw”. 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 cereals or sprinkled onto baked goods.
While you might feel like you just took a sugar class, who couldn’t use a little extra knowledge about such an important ingredient? Now it’s time to make sure you are stocked up and ready to bake!