In this article, learn everything you need to know about what sugar is, the role of sugar in baking. Read about the purpose of sugar, what it does in various baked goodies and so much more
SUGAR - What is It?
Lets keep it simple, will not go into the properties of sugar here. To the home baker, or to anyone interested in learning the science behind baking, knowing its ingredients is important.
So here Sugar as a baking ingredient, is the most important and indispensible ingredient for sweet baking.
Sugars belong to a group of substances called carbohydrates, a group that also includes starches. Sugar or Sucrose(the chemical term) is produced by processing sugarcane or beets.
There are two basic groups of sugars: simple sugars (or monosaccharides, which means “single sugars”) and complex sugars (or di- saccharides, meaning “double sugars”).
Sugar or the table sugar. is a complex sugar or the double sugars. This is the sugar that we use in baking and food preparation in general. Other complex sugars are maltose(malt sugar) and lactose( the one we find in milk)
Simple sugars are Fructose fruit sugar and glucose
In this post here, we will learn about the different kinds of sugar that we use in baking.
Baking uses all these different types of sugar, but the most important and indispensible ingredient to traditional baking is WHITE SUGAR or the Refined Sugar
For more on the properties, history and other details >> Read this
lets understand the
FUNCTIONS & ROLE OF SUGAR IN BAKING
We may call it the role, functions or purpose of sugar in baking.
- First thing we all know is, It sweetens and adds flavour to a baked goods.
- It contributes to the golden crust colour, that we see on cakes, cookies breads and other baked item. -It happens because of something Called As the Maillard Reaction >> Read More about it here
- Sugar, creates tenderness and texturises any baked goods So in doughs and batter, it improves the tenderness by lightly weakening the gluten. Hence, giving tenderness and texture to cakes and cookies.
- The hygroscopic function helps is retaining quality and acting as a preservative and denying any bacteria to survive and grow. So. sugar acts as a preservative. and keeps baked goods fresh.
- Serves as food to the yeast. It helps in activating yeast, when dissolved in warm water, and speedens fermentation process.
- They act as creaming agents for cakes
- And as foaming agents for meringues, mousses and sponge cakes.
SO HOW IS SUGAR MADE ?
All sugar is made by first extracting sugar juice from sugar beet or sugar cane plants. and from there, many types of sugar is produced.
The colour in Sugar is based on the amount of molasses remaining in or added to the crystals. The more the molasses in sugar the moistness it has and the more
Through changes in the process of cleaning, crystallizing, drying the sugar and varying the level of molasses, different sugar varieties are possible. Sugars of various crystal sizes provide unique functional characteristics that make the sugar suitable for different baked goodies.
Some types of sugar are used only by the food industry and are not available for retail purchases
VARIETY AND TYPES OF SUGARS THAT WE USE FOR BAKING
while there are many types and varieties of sugar; the most common ones are refined sugars or sucrose. Now we are not talking what is healthy good or bad. Just what we use for traditional old school baking.
SUCROSE OR REFINED SUGARS - is what we use for baking. which means granulated white sugar and brown sugar. made from sugarcane and sugar beets.
We may use any of the refined sugars or cane sugars for baking. However for certain recipes, only fine granulated white sugar is used. Reason being to maintain colour, texture and the right moistness.
so lets see what are the different kinds of sugar in baking
The degree of refine -ness is determined by the size of the grain.
Granulated White sugar
Refined white sugar, that is easily available as table sugar is granulated white sugar. This is what we generally use for baking. Known by so many names
Caster Sugar Fine or Ultra fine Sugar
It is a very fine grain, and minute. Caster sugar or super fine sugar is what is most preferred sugar. For cake batters - this one is the best
Most Importantly, finer granules of sugar are preferred for baking. For the simple reason, it dissolves quickly and gives a uniform batter.
POWDERED /ICING SUGAR
Sugar that is ground to be superfine, is icing sugar. In other words powdered sugar sometimes, even called confectioners sugar. It is used extensively in baking for making recipes, or dusting. Most frostings, use Icing sugar.
Also called as nib sugars, made from fine white sugar and compacted into small opaque grains. These are used for sprinkling on breakfast pastries like brioche, Danish Pastries and so much more
Generally 4 times the size of normal sugar grain. It is purely used as decorative purposes, add a crunch and texture on a baked item. Sanding sugar is sprinkled before baking and are coloured as accordingly.
Brown sugar is often used as a replacement for white sugar. But however, it may not be used in white cakes and white cookies, as it will change the colour.
Brown Sugar comes in varieties of based on its colour. This sugar is no way consider healthier option than the white sugar.
THE BEST KIND OF SUGAR FOR REGULAR TRADITIONAL BAKING ?
Caster sugar or super fine grain or super refined is the best kind of sugar that you can use for traditional baking. And is the most indispensible kind of sugar for baking any kind of recipe
Using caster sugar, enables in easier emulsion and creams uniformly in cake batters
Contrastingly, coarse sugar grains dont blend well and leave undissolved grains in batters and doughs. Resulting in brown specks in a baked item.
So where to use coarser grains - these grains may be used in preparing syrups, caramels.
The commercially available brown sugar, is also sucrose and refined. But contains varied quantities of molasses. The more the molasses it contains, the more deeper in colour, more stickier and gives a more nutty caramel taste.
RAW CANE SUGARS
So what are cane sugars - cane sugars are ones obtained from sugar canes
Demerara, Turbinado and Muscavado, are all raw forms of cane sugars. They all consist of molasses soaked raw sugars which is then ready for refining.
and each of these sugar varieties go through various degree of refining. Each producing the different level of moistness, flavour depth.
- TURBINADO - It is a light golden colour, resembles white sugar and has a stronger flavour than white sugar. This sugar is the most refined of the three.
- DEMERARA - is also similar, but has a stronger flavour and a deeper colour
- MUSCAVADO - is the most non refined form of cane sugar. since its made directly from cane syrup and has the darkest colour and the most moist of all three.
Having differentiated these three sugars, they are very much used in the same way as brown sugar.
PRO NOTES & TIPS for USING SUGAR IN BAKING
In most recipes a combination of white and brown sugars are used. For the reason, that brown sugars like muscavado lends in the nutty caramel-y taste and maintains moisture in a baked item. While white sugars contribute to structure, sweetness and texture.
these Recipes: Classic Brownies
As far as brown sugars are concerned - Any variety may be used depending on the requirement and recipe involved.
Most of the recipes using white sugar may be swapped to brown sugar, it may be demerara, turbinado, muscavado or dark or light brown sugars. provided the use of sugar is not impacted on the final colour of the baked item
For Example : This White Velvet Cake Recipe uses only white sugar.
For more on brown sugars >> Read this up
WHAT SUGAR SHOULD A HOME BAKER HAVE IN THE PANTRY
Refined White Sugar - Can be caster sugar or fine grain sugar.
Brown Sugar - Can have any one variety of Demerara or Muscovado or Turbinado
Icing Sugar - If you make frostings and icings regularly. But its always good to have a packet of icing sugar.
Other forms of sugar syrups and substitutes needs a complete new post. For that its some other time.
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